Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bastille Day Bordeaux

As July 14 is Bastille Day, yesterday seemed like a good occasion to dive into something French. So, I decided it was time to check again on how my mixed case of '95 Bordeaux is doing.

I picked out a '95 Chateau Pavie Macquin, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. This was a very well rated but nonetheless affordable Bordeaux from a great vintage -- so Pavie Macquin helped me round out a case of '95s back in the day when I was working in a wine store and used to get a deep discount.

I've tried others from this case in the past several years, and have generally found them delicious but still shy of peak. The Pavie Macquin, however, is drinking splendidly now and should not be held much longer. It's definitely got a silky texture and a fairly long, smooth finish. It's simply a real treat to drink right now.

It reminds me, in a way, of why I enjoy these wines with meals. It's certainly no blockbuster, with loads of extracted fruit or a muscular physique. It's simply a well-integrated, elegant wine with lovely, complex aromas of blackberries, vanilla and even a bit of mushroomy, truffly earth. It was a gracious, harmonious partner to our filets.

Those who know their Bordeaux wines know the region of Saint Emilion produces merlot-based wines of great grace and distinction. The prevelance of merlot may help explain why right bank wines from Saint Emilion mature a little faster than most left bank wines. Pavie Macquin typically uses 70 percent merlot, some cabernet franc and just a wee bit of cabernet sauvignon. But if you think you know what a Saint Emilion wine tastes like on the basis of New World merlots, you couldn't be farther from reality if you tried. In fact, a side-by-side tasting would be very instructive.

As my friend Tony noted in the comments to my last post, it's hard these days to feel like Bordeaux is a good buy. But every vintage has a few bargains, and if you can find one, you definitely should go for it. These wines not only are enjoyable, they're a good reminder of how refreshing subtlety and balance can be.


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