Les Trois Petiotes Côtes de Bourg 2010
I need to redress the balance, in more ways than one. In the Loire Valley, I have never shied away from investigating the quirky and unusual. And in the Loire there are plenty of opportunities to do so. We have distant overlooked appellations, as I discussed last week over a bottle of the Verdier-Logel Côtes du Forez Cuvée des Gourmets 2014. We also have esoteric varieties such as Fié Gris, Romorantin or even a drop of François-Saint-Meslier should it take your fancy. And of course there are all the different viticultural and oenological philosophies, conventional, organic, biodynamic and of course ‘natural’. By contrast, Bordeaux rarely crops up as a Weekend Wine; I taste (and drink!) a lot of wine from this region, but I often channel my tasting notes into vintage mini-reports, such as my recent look at 2002 Bordeaux, or add them to other updates, such as the Château Climens vertical I wrote up a year or two ago, which ran from the 2011 vintage back to 1979.
The other notable feature of my Bordeaux drinking is that it tends to focus heavily on the cru classé and equivalent wines, and not much on more distant regions. And yet of course we all know that the cru classé châteaux, while undoubtedly being the benchmarks for the region, and defining what Bordeaux is on the global wine market, are in fact just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of other vineyards, often worked in a very traditional style turning out the best wine they can in the image of their cru classé counterparts, some of which must surely be worthy of our attention. And, akin to my curious explorations in the Loire, there are surely vignerons working with unusual varieties, or working to the beat of a different viticultural drum than their neighbours. After all, this is a region where conventional viticulture rules; I have seen more than one or two cru classé vineyards blasted orange by herbicides during my visits to the region. Although I am obliged to point out that this is hardly a finding unique to Bordeaux.
This week’s wine is step two in redressing the balance. Step one, by the way, was the 2006 Château Lassègue, a wine from a St Emilion estate with an interesting story to tell, about which I wrote two weeks ago. The aim is to cast the net a little wider, not to focus on only vignerons with a dogmatic viticultural or oenological evangelism, because I have never felt constrained by any need to do so, but to look at all eligible styles, whether from the cru classé tip of the iceberg or from below the waterline, whether from a conventional domaine making wines in the image of the grand châteaux, or from tiny biodynamic vineyards turning out curious cuvées. In my opinion the critics who only report on ‘natural’ wines can be as dogmatic as the people making them in their opinions, and equally all those critics who eschew all such wines on the basis they are all faulty are no less blinkered. Both see no more than half the picture when it comes to understanding a region. I’ve always tried to look on both sides of the fence.
This weekend’s wine ticks a lot of boxes mentioned above – it comes from a peripheral appellation, from an organically managed vineyard, and it features a minor Bordeaux variety. It hails from the Côtes de Bourg, an under-appreciated region on the right bank in Bordeaux opposite Margaux, some way downstream of the likes of St Emilion and Pomerol. This is an interesting appellation of cool, hard limestone scarps cut with sediment-filled valleys. The sweeping limestone slopes give 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. This perhaps comes through in the 2010 Les Trois Petiotes Côtes de Bourg, made by Valérie Godelu. This 3-hectare vineyard is farmed using only organic methods (with Ecocert certification). The vines are 35-years old, and although they feature a chunk of Merlot there are also very large areas of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Malbec planted here. The 2010 yields were just 15 hl/ha, and the wine is neither filtered nor fined, and it has already thrown a heavy sediment in the bottle. In the glass it has a nice depth of colour, with a fresh, cherry-plum hue. It has a fascinating nose, full of perfumed blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, not the rich sweetness of fully ripe berries but a more tense style, reminiscent of blackberries at the crunchy, just-ripe, purple-black stage. It is far from the typical right-bank aromatic profile, and that no doubt reflects the distinctive assemblage, which is 45% Malbec, 35% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The latter variety certainly comes in though, with an appealing violet perfume. On the palate it is nicely textured, albeit full of tense fruit character as per the nose, yet strangely this crunchy edge is contrasted against a sweet, ripe, blackcurrant-pastille flavour. Does this reflect differing ripeness of the various components of the blend, perhaps? Overall this is a fascinating wine, certainly fresh, with good bright acidity, and a very taut finish. I can’t help feeling I have caught it in a rather primary phase, and that it would be interesting to reassess in five or even ten years. 15.5/20 (16/3/15)