Château Belair-Coubet Côtes de Bourg Malbec 2020
To my mind Bordeaux is a region still waiting to be discovered. While more words are written about this wine region than perhaps any other, vast swathes of its vineyards still go unseen, their wines untasted and undocumented.
While rampant hoards of writers, critics, merchants and cavistes descend upon this region each year, just about everybody who does so – and I am as guilty of this as the next person – retastes, again and again, the same few hundred wines from the same famous châteaux in the same mainstream appellations. Wines from more peripheral appellations usually only get a look-in if they work with a big-name consultant, who will then introduce the wine to critics and buyers alike at one of their tastings. Meanwhile, hundreds if not thousands of wines from the Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux Côtes and the Côtes de Bourg appellations go ignored.
As a result no writer really knows Bordeaux; the best one can do is dip in and hope you get a representative sample. But in truth we are all just scratching the surface.
There is a nagging voice in my head which seeks to remind me that this Bordeaux merry-go-round almost certainly results in worthy estates and interesting wines going overlooked. Today’s Weekend Wine is good evidence of this.
Vignobles Faure is a family-run business which has had a presence in the Côtes de Bourg appellation for at least six generations. When Alain Faure began shouldering the responsibility for the domaine during the 1970s he took on just 17 hectares. Subsequently joined by his daughter, Delphine Faure, the vineyard has grown to cover more than 100 hectares in the Côtes de Bourg, Côtes de Blaye and generic Bordeaux appellations.
The principal Vignobles Faure property is Château Belair-Coubet, accounting for 45 of those 100 hectares, where Delphine produces a fairly familiar portfolio of wines, featuring Tradition, Premier and Prestige cuvées. There is something distinctive about the vineyard and domaine, however, and that is alongside the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc there are generous plantings of Malbec here, and taking advantage of this Delphine decided to produce this cuvée of pure Malbec. Or Côt, if your sang is more Ligérian than Bordelais.
The fruit for the 2020 Côtes de Bourg Malbec from Château Belair-Coubet was treated to a cold pre-fermentation maceration, followed by fermentation in thermoregulated cuves and three further weeks of maceration. The élevage included some time in wood, one-third in new oak barrels, one-third in used barrels, and it was then bottled under traditional cork. In the glass it displays a dark and lightly glossy hue. The aromatics combine sweet fruit, blackberry and raspberry, with some vanilla and toasted oak notes, all smoky and caramelised, as well as vibrant floral veins suggestive of violets, sweetpeas and verbena. The nose combines all this sweet floral fruit and toasted oak in a surprisingly taut frame; there is nothing corpulent or fat here, this feels tense and acid bright, with floral cranberry fruits lightly grained with oak and dry tannins. Given some time in bottle, necessary for it to soak up some of those toasted barrel notes, this could drink very well indeed. Give it three or four years, then let’s take another look. The alcohol on the label is 14%. 91/100 (1/8/22)
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