From £23 and AU$110.11 a half bottle; €54, 49 Swiss francs, £39, HK$450, $68 a bottle (all prices for Gruaud)
If our members' forum is anything to go by, visitors to JancisRobinson.com are in a Bordeaux mood again. Today we are catering for that mood by publishing the first of 11 tasting articles that will result from my recent tastings of about 600 bordeaux 2015s.
Earlier this week Ch Couspade in St-Émilion came out at €34 a bottle for its 2015, a 13% increase in euros ex-négociant over 2014 that would represent an increase of 25% for someone paying today in sterling. So I thought that before many more inflated primeur prices for the 2015s are announced, I would remind you that mature and maturing wines can be so much better value.
Recently, thanks to rebranded fine-wine trader BI, I had a chance to revisit the major 2006 bordeaux and found that the lesser ones were already approachable and some of the better ones would be soon.
One of the better buys was Ch Gruaud Larose 2006 St-Julien, a wine that is so widely available that the blessed Wine-searcher.com lists more than 200 retailers around the world, including Sherry-Lehman in New York ($99.95), Lidl in Germany (€69.99) and Glengarry in New Zealand (NZ$88.30). The prices listed at the top of this article all refer to this widely distributed wine and are the keenest we could find in each currency (there are many more currencies). It is notable, however, how very variable prices can be around the world, and even within the same country.
My picture above, incidentally, is a view of the Gruaud Larose vineyards taken from the top of the extraordinary six-storey viewing tower constructed recently next to the nineteenth-century château building as a visitor attraction.
But what of the wine? Gruaud Larose is generally one of the most dependably fruity St-Juliens and the 2006 is no exception. (It may even be, I posit only half-facetiously, that Gruaud has a thing about sixes. Their 1986 was a wine of the vintage and their 1996 was particularly good.) I found a drying finish on many of these 2006s when I tasted them recently (2006 was the second-hottest vintage overall in the last 20 years after 2003) but the Gruaud was unusually rich and beefy, and was distinguished by notably sweet and alluring perfume. I suggest 2019-2030 as a particularly suitable drinking window.
If you're in more of a hurry, then head for Ch Brane-Cantenac 2006 Margaux, which is lighter but aromatic, silky and very Margaux. I suggested drinking this from now to 2024. It costs only a little more than the Gruaud in most markets.
Another relatively good buy in this vintage on the basis of this recent tasting (and another wine with form in vintages ending in a six) is the super-polished Ch Clerc Milon 2006 Pauillac, which would be very enjoyable between 2017 and 2030.
And if you are in a hurry, serve these maturing red bordeaux with chewy food such as a roast or steak. That should diminish the impact of the tannins on your palate and you can wallow in the subtlety of their tertiary aromas.