France’s Bordeaux region is considered the birthplace of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is also the birthplace of blending to improve Cabernet based wines. The acceptance of blending Cabernet Sauvignon with other grapes, generally other Bordelaise varieties, but frequently with something more typical of the host vineyard, is one reason for the ubiquity of Cabernet plantings.
Wines styled after Bordeaux have their own name in California, Meritage, it rhymes with heritage, though this style is common around the globe. I recently sat down and tasted through a set of Bordeaux inspired blends. While many were classic blends the inclusion of Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Shiraz signal that we have entered a new, global chapter in the story of Bordeaux styled blends.
In Spain a Newcomer makes a Difference with TempranilloI was introduced to the wines of Veleta last year, as I met with the owners and tasted through their portfolio. I recently tasted the just released 2006 Nolados and was very impressed with this blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Tempranillo. The 2005 is just as good and has the added benefit of an extra year of bottle age. It's worth seeking out.
2005 Veleta Nolados
Light and elegant in the mouth, with jewel-like fruit that is very precise and mouth cleansing. Really finely balances with polished tannins and ripe acidity that supports dark cherry fruit dusted with bitter cocoa and almond.
A Great Graves relies on Merlot and Cabernet SauvignonMany vignerons in Bordeaux have chosen to increase the role Merlot plays in their blends. The rich fruit and soft tannins that Merlot contributes to the final blend allows for the wine to be more accessible in it's youth, but sacrifices little in the way of agebility. Chateau le Bonnat produces lovely, typical wines of the Graves region, that are great right out of the gate but improve in the cellar.
2005 Chateau Le Bonnat
Very well knit in the mouth with medium body and just a touch of astringent tannin poking through the flesh. The acids are refreshing, and the flavors well balanced between the slightly woody, herbal and spice tones on the palate and the core of dried cranberry and red currant fruits.
A California Classic that Epitomizes the Meritage EthosSt. Supery has long been a producer of classic Napa Cabernet, but with Elu, their Meritage blend, they take things to a higher level. This blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec is rich, balanced, pure yet complex. A case study for the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
2004 St. Supery Elu
The fruit is red and sour on the palate, yet at the same time has a deep, sweet, liquory quality. There’s some café au lait going on in the mouth but the fruit is pure, rich and edged with a filigree of herb, spice, licorice and orange peel. This feels lovely and youthful with a fine life ahead of it. A perfect wine for Prime Rib.