Outstandingly good value to be found on Bordeaux's right bank.
From €13.79, £19.95, $28.99
It's been a long time since I got excited about a bordeaux. I opened this bottle idly, unconscious expectations low for a young Côtes de Bourg under £20. The alcohol on the bottle said 14% (it turned out to be 13.8%) so I was expecting heat and oak, lots of Merlot dustiness, rustic fruit and rustic tannins. Instead, my socks were knocked off by untrammelled deliciousness and unexpected energy.
'An orchestra of pure-throated, swelling-with-the-joy-of-life, swooping fruit', was what I wrote, because it was the only way I could describe the way the purity of the fruit rises up and fills the mouth, fills every nook and cranny – succulent cassis, black raspberry, wild-tannic sloe, brambly blackcurrant, dense damson. The tannins feel both rugged and plushy, like moss-covered wood, moving up the fruit in gentle support. More than anything else, I was struck by the energy of wine, which felt as if it was spiralling in the mouth, intense, purposeful but cool and meditative rather than manic.
The Hubert family, sixth-generation owners of Ch Peybonhomme-Les-Tours in Blaye, bought Ch La Grolet in 1997 with its 38 ha (94 acres) of vines and 12 ha (30 acres) of woodland. Catherine and Jean-Luc undertook the somewhat daunting task, given the challenges of the climate, of converting the entire property to biodynamics, and they have been Demeter-certified since 2000. Their son Guillaume joined them in 2007, after completing a degree in environmental science, and daughter Rachel joined the team in 2012, after qualifying as a pharmacist. They place a lot of emphasis on nurturing biodiversity on the property: preserving natural wetlands, practising minimal mowing, keeping natural hedges and planting hedges to create corridors, as well as banning hunting.
The family work together very closely, and do all their own winemaking, which is additive-free, bar minimal sulphite additions (although Guillaume and Rachel make a range of natural, no-added-sulphite wines as well).
Ch La Grolet, Tête de Cuvée 2018 Côtes de Bourg, which comes in a lightweight bottle, is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec from very low-yielding (25 hl/ha) 55-year-old vines (farmed organically and biodynamically, it goes without saying). Made with spontaneous fermentation with very low sulphite additions (a total of 50 mg/l) and aged for a year in new French oak barrels, it's vegan friendly, too. They make just 6,600 bottles.
I have never tasted a bordeaux under £20 that is this good. It punches way, way above its pay grade. You could age it, probably for at least another decade, but it's so gorgeous right now that I'd drink it for its glowing beauty of youth.
The wine is available in Belgium, France, Germany, UK and the USA (OH, WA). In the UK you can get hold of it from Vin Cognito.
Bordeaux 2018 was the focus of the annual Southwold tastings (of somewhat more expensive wines…) this year, and is a well-covered vintage on JancisRobinson.com.
The photographs are from Hubert Vignerons.