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Château de Parenchère Bordeaux Cuvée Raphaël 2009

Well, what might seem like three long and tedious weeks without a hint of a Bordeaux or Loire profile, update or tasting note (or, as an alternative, three glorious update-free weeks, depending on your opinion of Winedoctor) hasn’t entirely been three weeks of rest for me. But it has been fun and informative; over the past few weeks I have at times found myself tasting wines with which I’m already familiar, and at other times making new and occasionally exciting discoveries.

I spent the last three weeks based on the very peripheries of Bordeaux; the location, not far from Sainte-Foy-la-Grande (as in the appellation of Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux, if you’re looking for a Bordeaux reference point) and very close to Monbazillac and Saussignac (if you’re prepared to accept that wine and life exists beyond Bordeaux’s boundaries). Indeed, these latter appellations gave me some of the new discoveries of the trip. My location was chosen for quick and easy access to the major right bank appellations (St Emilion was just a half-hour drive alongside the Dordogne, Pomerol ten minutes more) and also its proximity to Sauternes (a little over an hour away, cross-country). But for daily drinking, it was the very local wines of Bergerac that I often turned. I was, after all, surrounded by them! And some of the wines from Saussignac and Monbazillac were delicious, and available for an absolute song. We hear a lot about the Sauternais, and how they don’t obtain the prices they deserve for their wines, especially when contrasted against the exorbitant price tags worn by the red wines of Bordeaux today. Well, spar a thought for the vignerons of Bergerac, Duras, Monbazillac and Saussignac, who sell their wines for a quarter of the price their cousins in Sauternes obtain. They are not, in many cases, one quarter the quality!

Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Cuvee Raphael 2009

And for when something less sweet was called for, there were also many good values. I was determined to uncover some values during this trip – hence two afternoons exploring the vineyards of Castillon – but even closer to home was an old favourite Château de Parenchère. I remember drinking the good-value wines from this estate fifteen-or-so years ago, long before Winedoctor was born. And so rediscovering the wines – having driven past the estate by chance – was something of a trip down memory lane. And although I enjoyed the bright and lightly perfumed character of the domaine cuvée, it was the special Cuvée Raphael that really impressed me.

This is Parenchère's flagship cuvée, named for Raphaël Gazaniol, a previous significant owner of the estate. The 2009 is typical of the vintage, concentrated and fruit-rich. In the glass it has a deep, red-black hue. There are some very evocative fruit aromas on the nose, dark and grainy, all plum and damson, with a firm, slightly brawny weight to them. The palate follows on with a similarly robust display of confidence, and some of this grip and structure comes from the oak without a doubt. There is plenty of tannic grip, somewhat drying in character to be fair, but underneath this there is a supple substance, gentle acids in keeping with the warmth of the vintage, and confident fruit flavour. There are certainly criticisms here; this doesn’t necessarily have the classical restraint some might look for in Bordeaux, generic or otherwise, and it needs a some time to smooth down that evident oak. But the overall effect is worthwhile, and there is appeal enough to drink this now, although a couple of years in the cellar would surely pay dividends. An impressive wine for the generic appellation it holds. 15.5/20

As for Monbazillac and Saussignac, more on those wines in the next few weeks. As well as a many months of new Bordeaux profiles, updates and tastings, of course. Ahhh... it's good to be back! (6/8/12)

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