Château Brulescaille Côtes de Bourg 2010
This week I return once again to the Côtes de Bourg appellation; indeed, I am beginning to wonder if this often-overlooked region of Bordeaux has me hooked. I think many wine critics and wine merchants fail to look beyond Roc de Cambes, and the only reason we taste that is because there is usually an opened bottle waiting for us when we visit François Mitjavile at Château Tertre-Roteboeuf. That’s not a criticism of anyone else, by the way, because I am just as guilty as the next person. It is a collective failing for us all to reflect on.
The Mitjavile talent is clearly transferable, because there is an undeniable family resemblance between the wines of his two domaines. That slightly degraded, dark-fruit character, that inky-black complexity, all black olive and juniper, and that wall-to-wall savoury flavour that characterises Château Tertre-Roteboeuf can also be found, all turned down a notch naturally, in the wines of Roc de Cambes. Until a year or two ago I assumed that his success was purely down to his own talent, a backwater appellation turned good by the attentions of an extremely skilled winemaking hand. During the past couple of years, however, I have seen some other examples that suggest there is more to this appellation than one interesting domaine, and it is perhaps worth exploring in more detail. First there was the 2010 Les Trois Petiotes, which was at the very least interesting, and it certainly hinted that I should investigate further. And there was Château de Falfas too, the top cuvée Le Chevalier de Falfas particularly memorable in both the 2009 and 2010 vintages (it’s good to know that vintage generalisation obviously work in these more peripheral appellations). And now here is another piece of evidence; the 2010 Côtes de Bourg from Château Brulescaille.
So what is it that distinguishes the Côtes de Bourg appellation from all the other peripheral vineyards in Bordeaux? It is an appellation of cool, hard limestone scarps cut with sediment-filled valleys which sits on the right bank of the Gironde, opposite Margaux, near the union of the Garonne and the Dordogne. This places it some way downstream of the likes of St Emilion and Pomerol. The sweeping limestone slopes and valleys afford the vines good exposure, and thus there are more opportunities for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc here than there is in in some other right bank appellations. Even so, Merlot still dominates the 4,000 hectares of vineyard, accounting for about 65% of the plantings, the two aforementioned Cabernets accounting for 20% and 5% respectively. That leaves 10% which is planted to Malbec, the largest percentage of Malbec in any of the Bordeaux appellations. And although clearly very niche, we shouldn’t overlook the 25 hectares (yes, about 0.6% of the appellation) planted to white varieties, not only Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon but also Colombard, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris.
There are no white varieties planted at Château Brulescaille, but plenty of red. Brulescaille is an old Gascon name, and the château has been here since at least the mid-19th century, having been mentioned in the 1868 edition of Cocks et Féret. Today it is in the hands of Jacques and Martine Rodet, who inherited it from Pierre Récapet, Martine’s father. There are 26 hectares of vines in a single parcel around the château, planted on very typical clay over limestone soils, with the occasional streak of gravel. Many of the vines are old, in excess of seventy years of age, and the plantings mirror to some extent the broader picture in the appellation, with 59% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cabernet Franc, although Malbec plays a relatively minor role at just 2% of the total. The 2010 Château Brulescaille has plenty of good colour here, dark at its core, with a fresh raspberry-tinged rim. The nose sings of blackcurrants, damsons, black pepper and black olives, with touches of aromatic rosemary, as well as a greener streak of mint and green pepper. It has a lovely texture on the palate, certainly savoury, with some ripe, medium-grained tannins, a touch drying, with a slightly warm middle and finish where there are plenty of lightly drying and chalky tannins. This is a really interesting wine, with some enticing notes of dark fruit and black olives, with a real limestone lift, and I don’t mind confessing it does remind me a little of Roc de Cambes. This is clearly a domaine, and appellation, worthy of further exploration. 16/20 (16/5/16)