From 19.80 Swiss francs, €19, $21.84, £22, CA$29.45
First off, look at those prices above. The Swiss franc and the euro are almost at parity nowadays, and you should expect to see the sterling price at a considerably higher level if Borough Wines, the UK importer of this deliciously mature red bordeaux, has to go back and re-stock with our much weaker pound. (On Monday we plan to publish a view of Brexit from the Italian wine industry.)
This is by no means the first time I have recommended a 2009 red bordeaux as a wine of the week (see Ch Labadie 2009 Médoc for a recent example) but that’s because the 2009 vintage was so very generous. Médocs can be pretty austere and skinny but in really warm vintages such as 2009 the wines are particularly ripe and the tannins nicely softened at cru bourgeois level. Even grander red bordeaux are pretty delicious already but most should continue to develop more subtlety.
Ch Castera is an unusual Bordeaux estate in that it sells direct to wine importers rather than through the Bordeaux place via a network of négociants. The consignment of 2009 currently available has been aged at the property and has only fairly recently been released on to the market. This approach allows consumers to feel really confident about how the wine has been stored for the majority of its life, so I would encourage you to support it. The UK importer is Borough Wines but it is also available in Switzerland and France, from a wide range of American retailers and from the monopolies in Quebec and Finland.
My tasting note, cribbed from our Bordeaux assemblage of more than 100 wines to be published next week, reads: ‘Useful back label of this Cru Bourgeois tells us it's a blend of 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Dark, nuanced ruby. Very opulent and ripe. This is surely at its peak with no more tannin to give and lots of velvet texture and ripe fruit. It has its moment now. Very gorgeous.’ But I would think it would drink well over the next three or four years too. It is 14% alcohol, according to the label.
This estate, which celebrates 400 years of producing and selling wine this year, is only two or three kilometres north of the limit of St-Estèphe in St-Germain d’Esteuil and was bought by German wine enthusiasts Dieter Tondera and Carl E Press in 1986. It is now owned by Press’s son Thomas who is advised by the estimable Eric Boissenot. I see from Castera's website that an exhibition of the work of artists Yourek and Yolande Palubitzki opens today – and they say they anyway welcome visitors, a Médoc rarity! All next week Yourek will be creating a sculpture at the château. A week on Sunday they are having an open day and you can book picnic lunch in advance at €17 a person.
The percentage of Merlot on the estate’s 63 ha of clay-limestone with gravelly topsoil is a relatively high 60%. Vine density is 7,500 plants per hectare and the great majority of the grapes, as is common in this northern reach of the Médoc, are picked by machine. The 2009 harvest took place, after a dry summer marked by hot days but fairly cool nights, from 28 September to 15 October.
Cuvaison was about three weeks before the wine was put into barriques, of which about a quarter were new. It was aged for 12 months and racked every three months.
We are advised in notes that accompany this release that this would be ‘good with grouse and game from 12 August [the Glorious Twelfth, start of the grouse season in the UK] onwards’ with which I can only concur. It has that ripe Merlot sort of gamey/bloodiness. I hope you know what I mean and do not find this offputting.