From €16, 17.50 Swiss francs, $24.98, £21.95, NZ$39.95, CA$37.75, AU$93.17
What’s this? A classic red bordeaux! Aren’t we all supposed to be so over these tired old French fine wines? But, as I have written time and time again, the less famous Bordeaux names offer the most superb value in the last two great vintages 2009 and 2010. Why on earth we should buy younger, lesser wines from more recent vintages I cannot imagine. I shall be going to Bordeaux at the end of the month to taste the 2014s that are currently being hyped by the Bordelais and will of course report on such samples as are presented to us to taste. And today I am tasting a wide range of 2007 red bordeaux from bottle to see which are showing particularly well. Of course I will be publishing all these tasting notes.
But here is what I think is a real bargain. I was seriously impressed by Ch Charmail 2010 Haut-Médoc when I retasted it alongside some other 2010 petits châteaux recently. I looked back at my notes from our big assessment of 2010 Crus Bourgeois in September 2012 and see that I gave it a generous 17 points out of 20 then. It hasn’t got any worse, folks.
What I love about it is that it is wonderfully supple and seductive for most of the tasting experience, but that the ripeness of its fruit actually almost disguises a very decent charge of tannins that should nicely see it through for the next eight years or so, thereby offering a very alluring combination of present and future pleasure.
It may be that the generous proportion (47%) of Merlot in the assemblage has helped make it so very much more charming and accessible than many of its peers. The rest of the blend is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It is absolutely classic claret – no tarted up oak here and no spurious sweetness – but is not at all austere.
In 2010 it was only two years after this property just north of St-Estèphe, next door to Ch Sociando-Mallet in the sleepy village of St-Seurin-de-Cadourne, had been bought by Lille businessman Bernard d’Halluin, who, surely wisely, retained the services of the old owner, the accomplished Olivier Sèze. In 2010 he managed to acquire six hectares of vineyard that had been part of the original estate and has replanted them so that it now totals 30 ha of clay with some gravels. At Ch Charmail they are particularly proud of the fact that the vineyard is a single parcel that is high enough and close enough to be within sight of the Gironde.
As Stephen Brook points out in his useful book The Complete Bordeaux, Sèze, born in Fronsac on the right bank, has been a particularly assiduous steward of this property. He was a pioneer of the pre-fermentation cold soak and also claims to have pioneered green harvesting and deleafing (although the latter operation is of course useful only in cooler vintages). The grapes were picked by machine in the Sèze era but d’Halluin has restored hand picking, while retaining the practice of ageing the wine in about one-third new barriques each year. There has also been a move towards more sustainable viticulture with fewer pesticides and so on.
You can see how widely distributed this wine is from the number of currencies at the top of this article. It’s particularly easy to find in France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, according to wine-searcher.com, but can also be found reasonably easily in the US as well as in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. The sterling price I cite above is Lea & Sandeman’s single-bottle price but they charge less than £20 a bottle as part of a mixed case – and The Wine Society are planning to offer this wine relatively soon at just £16 though I know not exactly when.