Out of the wine recommendations on Chardonnay & Samphire, Bordeaux has been strangely absent. Why? Well, good ready-to-drink Bordeaux is expensive – the region is considered by many as the best in the world for producing fine wines. In addition to consumer demand, tradition and a complex classification system driving up prices, Bordeaux’s mild, maritime climate can be unpredictable, playing havoc with the supply side of things. Plus, the price of land in the best sites is incredibly expensive. So plenty of reasons to command high prices. Unfortunately, the area also has its fair share of mass produced, poor quality wines taking advantage of the Bordeaux prestige. In fact, much of the Bordeaux we’ve had – bar a few bottles given to us as gifts or bought en primeur before we had childcare fees and a London-sized mortgage – has been so-so. Clearly more research (into the 10,000 producers and 57 different appellation controlees within the region) needed.
My search to find a decent, reliable Bordeaux was hastened by a friend asking for a suggestion for something dinner-party worthy and under £20. Normally I would go and see my wine guru, Colin Wills at Uncorked, but my friend lives in the north of England and needed something that would be available nationwide. What a perfect excuse for a trip to Majestic!
This wine is comes from the Haut Medoc, a long, narrow region north west of the city of Bordeaux that snakes up the west bank and towards the estuary of the Gironde river. It encompasses the famous Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated communes of Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe. Chateau Coufran itself is situated towards the north of this vast area, near the town of St Seurin de Codourne just outside St Estephe. This wine is classed as a Cru Bourgeois which was created to boost good quality chateaus in the Medoc that weren’t included in the famous 1855 classification.
Chateau Coufran wines have been coined as “The Pomerol of the Medoc” due their emphasis on Merlot: Cabernet Sauvignon is normally the dominant grape in ‘left bank’ Boredeaux blends. And this was why I was drawn to this wine: Merlot tends to be more approachable – ready to drink – than the more austere, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. And this wine is far far cheaper than Merlot-based Pomerol, from the ‘right bank’ and one of the most expensive wines in the world.
On to the wine itself, then: there’s a medley of ripe, baked black and red fruit on both the nose and the palate; a lot of plum, dried fig, and a milk chocolatey richness. This wine is nicely oaked and has that typical cedar characteristic often associated with Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a bit of toasty vanilla. And then, given it’s 12 years old, there’s some nice savoury flavours coming from the bottle ageing, such as leather and earth.
At a glance
- Style? Medium to full bodied red wine
- Where is it from? Haute Medoc, Bordeaux
- What’s the grape? 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc
- Tastes of? Plums, figs, blackcurrants, cedar, tobacco, leather
- What food would complement it? Richly flavoured, savoury food, such as Aubergine & Borlotti Bean ‘Meat’ Balls