Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Bourg and Blaye – top quality at bargain prices

I was lucky enough to spend some time last week on the north bank of the Gironde, the lovely rolling hills of Bourg and Blaye. There was only time to taste a few wines, but I was struck, one again, just how good the better wines are and what superb value for money they represent. If you enjoy red Bordeaux  and can’t justify the silly prices so often asked for the top wines, this is surely the place to look.

At lunch at le Plaisance in Bourg (a terrific bistro in a delightful setting), which specialises in the wines of the area and refuses to impose a mad mark up, the recommendation of the day was the 2006 Cuvée Prestige from Chateau Gravettes-Samonac, an estate new to me. It was great stuff (aged in a mix of new and one-year oak). It had a lovely integration of spicy oak and ripe plummy fruit with a touch of licorice, balanced, with firm but silky tannins. We decided to investigate further, went to the property, were warmly welcomed  and found that their wines are consistently good. The perfumed 2007 is, perhaps, even more successful than the more robust 06 and the Cuvée Elégance, which uses older casks, was delightfully fruity in both vintages. At the chateau door the Prestige costs €7.10 and Elégance just €5.10. What value!

Anne Mallet and her brother Hugues craft splendid wines at Chateau Haut-Maco.  The unfashionable 2007 and 2008 showed beautifully, especially their top cuvée, Jean Bernard – an even better, more concentrated wine than the Gravette-Samonac Prestige. The 2007 is a superb effort and also sells for little more than €7.

One or two vignerons have raised their prices a little. Amongst them, Bruno Martin, who is a committed advocate of biodynamic viticulture, has every reason to ask more. His 2005 Sainte Luce-Bellevue, 99% Merlot, is a superb wine. I opened a bottle the next evening and wish I’d bought more than the half a dozen which I came away with when I visited him last year.

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