|Vineyards in Blaye. Credit: Côtes de Bordeaux|
But, over the past few years, I’ve found Côtes de Bordeaux wines can fill an interesting niche. They offer entry-level accessibility to consumers who want to explore Bordeaux without spending a lot of money, and they can offer something delicious and distinctive enough to make Bordeaux fans happy.
Côtes de Bordeaux is composed of five appellations: Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and Sainte-Foy. Four of them joined together in 2009 to form the Union des Côtes de Bordeaux, while Sainte-Foy joined in 2016. These largely noncontiguous areas are spread out along the right banks of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Blaye, the largest, stretches east from the banks of the Gironde river; Cadillac follows the east bank of the Garonne; Francs and Castillon produce wines from vineyards northeast of Saint-Emilion.
Most of these vineyards are planted on rolling hills with lots of clay and some limestone soils. The wines are almost all red, almost all Merlot-dominated, with some other Bordeaux varieties sprinkled in. Collectively, the five appellations produce about 5.3 million cases of wine, which is about 10% of Bordeaux’s total production.
I’ve written about these wines a few times before, and found a lot of good quality and value. So, knowing the hype about the 2015 vintage in Bordeaux, I figured a few Côtes de Bordeaux wines from this vintage would have a lot to offer. I was able to gather up 10 sample bottles, nine from 2015, with one 2014 ringer, and I blind-tasted them.
Aross the board, these wines really deliver in the 2015, generally showing plenty of ripe fruit, with some velvety tannins and moderating acidity. A few wines really stood out.
And it sort of amazes me that these wines cost between $12 and $25. They can be fun to enjoy young, but some of these have the structure to improve with years in the cellar.
My notes on the wines I tasted are below.
2015 Château Suau - France, Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
Bright purple color. Nose boasts black cherries, blackberries, roasted figs, along with scorched earth, graphite, mint and dark chocolate. Plush texture on the palate with velvety tannins and medium acidity, this shows juicy red and black currants and cherries but stays vibrant throughout. Notes of violets, clove, leather and mushroom play well with the cedar and coffee notes. Very accessible now but could hold for a few years. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. Located on the highest part of Cadillac (which is only 330 feet), aged 12 months in French oak. (89 points)
2014 Château Lamothe de Haux Première Cuvée - France, Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
Light purple color. Nose shows tart red and black currants and plums, along with tar, forest floor, coffee and clove. Vibrant acidity, strong tannic backbone, but the edges aren’t too harsh, this seems young but also lively. Tart red and black currants mix with lots of tobacco, clove, cedar, coffee. Concentrated and a bit tight, but impressive depth. This stood out from the 2015s as it doesn’t seem as velvety or silky, rather seems a bit tighter and more reserved, but still very nice. (88 points)
2015 Château Lamothe de Haux Première Cuvée- France, Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
Pretty aromas of juicy red and black cherries, saucy plums, lots of roses, violets, rhubarb, with some pepper, leather and coffee grounds. Velvety on the palate but nice grip, fresh acidity, lovely balance herein. Cherries, currants, suave but tangy fruit, and I get a complex mix of grilled herbs, roses, violets, tar, pepper, black tea. So vibrant yet structured and age-worthy, too. Exactly what I was hoping to find in this tasting: insane 2015 vintage value from the Côtes de Bordeaux. 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. (90 points)
2015 Château Puygueraud - France, Bordeaux, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Gorgeous nose of chilled black cherries, red and black currants, lots of violets, black tea, dark chocolate, anise and clove. Lovely balance on the palate with dusty tannins, crisp acidity and plenty of red and black cherries and currants. Complex nots of violets, clove, black tea, along with leather, forest floor. Clove, anise, cedar and coffee notes woven in well. Packed with fruit but also fresh and vibrant, this will age nicely over the next four to five years or so. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec from clay and limestone soils, aged 12-16 months in about 40% new French oak. (91 points)
2015 Château de Pitray - France, Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Nose shows tart black currants and dark plums, with coffee, dark chocolate, roasted chestnut and violets. Structured tannins, vibrant acidity, the balance is really nice with the tart black currants and black cherry fruit. Notes of clove, cedar, roasted chestnut, library dusty, with some mineral and graphite elements. Plush and ripe fruit, but it’s crisp and quite complex already. Should be more so in a few years. 75% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. The Merlot sees 12 months in French oak, while the other wine is aged in stainless steel. (90 points)
2015 Château Hyot - France, Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Nose shows fresh red cherries, currants and plums, along with rose petals, oregano, pine forest, mushroom. On the palate this shows strong tannins, tart acidity, and some concentrated, tangy red fruits (cherries, currants). Notes of pine, forest floor, mushroom add complexity. The tannins here need a few years to mellow out, and then this should turn into a smooth, tangy, super earthy and savory wine. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from sandy clay soils, aged 20 months in oak. (87 points)
2015 Château Le Grand Moulin Grande Reserve - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
Tart cherries and currants on the nose, lots of tobacco, mint, black tea and earthy, charcoal notes. Velvety on the palate, medium acidity helps balance out the medium-strength tannins. Tangy plums and black cherries, juicy and ripe fruit, a little less focus on the secondary notes here, but some subtle violets, loam and earth. Accessible stuff right now, but this could age for a few years at least. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec from sandy gravel soils, aged 12 months in cement. (87 points)
2015 Château Gigault Cuvée Viva - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
Nose of tart red currants, deep black cherries, a nice mix of cedar, loam, coffee, tobacco, mint and leather. Nicely balanced on the palate with velvety tannins and fresh acidity. Juicy cherries and plums yet the fruit has a tangy edge, accented with violets, cedar, coffee grounds. A really cool earthy/mineral quality here, and the wine is lip-smacking and accessible, yet built to improve in the cellar for a while. Delicious, impressive blend of 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. (90 points)
2015 Château Cailleteau Bergeron - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
Waves of dark plums, currants and cherries on the nose, backed up with mint, coffee, clove, cedar, a warm and inviting aromatic display. Vibrant acidity on the palate, solid tannic backbone, combines with suave fruit with a tart edge (black cherries, red currants). Notes of violets, earth, charcoal, graphite, blended nicely with some cedar and vanilla. Vibrant and expressive but should age nicely. 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. (90 points)
2015 Château Couronneau Bordeaux Supérieur - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
Nose shows juicy black cherries, sweet raspberries, with clove and vanilla. The palate is where things go off the rails a bit. High acid, astringent tannins with some green edges, some nice tart cranberry fruit and black cherries, but there’s a bitter, fruit pit element. Notes of pencil lead and graphite. Not faulty, and air helped smooth it out a bit, but it was still disjointed, even 24 hours later. Perhaps a few years might help but I’m skeptical. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.
This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.