Archive for Bordeaux


Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by ballymote

It’s not likely that as recently as ten years ago you would have ever heard a diner in a nice restaurant request a glass of Malbec. Ten years ago, Malbec was simply a red grape grown in the Bordeaux area of France, that was used in small quantities to blend with Cabernet or Merlot.  In fact, it wasn’t even called Malbec. The Malbec grape in Bordeaux is known as Cot. Far to the south of Bordeaux, in the town of  Cahors, Malbec was faring somewhat better. Known here as “Auxerrois”, it has been grown since the middle ages and has, almost from the beginning, been called “the black wine”. Promise yourself that some day you will seek out a bottle from Cahors even if just to compare it to the Malbec you have grown so fond of from south of our border.

Okay, so with a 1000 year head-start, why aren’t we all drinking Malbec from Cahors instead of that Argentinian stuff that has become the rage of the young wine set here in the United States? For that answer we have to look at how Malbec is grown. Cot, Auxerrois or Malbec, whatever you choose to call it, is a thin-skinned grape. It’s not hearty like Cabernet or Merlot. It’s very susceptible to frost. It ripens in mid-season. The weather in France is much more hit or miss than the naturally warm climate of Argentina.  The wine produced by Malbec in France is not as fruity, not quite as flavorful as it’s South American counterpart. There are strong tannins in the French version which disappear in the warmth of the Mendoza sun. Really good Malbec needs to stay longer on the vine and the dependable sunshine allows the Malbec from Argentina to get that “hang time”.

There is no doubt that Malbec, mostly that grown in the Mendoza region of Argentina has, for much of  America, become the new “shiraz”. How long will Malbec continue to dominate and what will be the next “merlot, shiraz, malbec?” No one knows for sure but, remember you heard this here first. Watch out for Tannat from Uruguay!!

BURGUNDY AND BORDEAUX in 500 words or less

Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2009 by ballymote

wine blog pic 39Before I became semi-serious about wines, Burgundy and Bordeaux were two words that totally confused me. Were they wines? Were they places in France? If they were wines were they white or red? I didn’t know it then but I know now the answers to each of those questions is “YES”.

Let’s start with Bordeaux, a wine region in Southwestern France known for excellent red wines. Map of Bordeaux winesThe Gironde River runs through Bordeaux and the area on either side of that river is called “The Right Bank” and “The Left Bank”. The land on the right is gravelly and suited for Cabernet Sauvignon while the land (terroir) on the right is sandy and more suited to Merlot. Both regions make some of the best wines in the world. The five First Growths are all made in the Bordeaux region as is one of the best and most expensive wines produced anywhere, Petrus. A bottle of the 2005 Petrus currently sells for about $4000.

chateau_dYquem_2001_smallIn addition, the area known as Sauternes is home to one of the great white wines of the world, a delicious dessert wine, Chateau d’Yquem. I was fortunate enough to have sampled this several years ago in Maine. It is usually sold in 375ml bottles and a very good vintage can sell for $250 to $300 a bottle.

 The Burgundy region is an area in North-Central France. It is world-renowned for both red and white wines. The red wines of Burgundy are produced from the Pinot Noir grape.Map of Burgundy wines This grape is much more delicate than both cabernet and merlot and requires constant care and attention from the wine-maker to coax it to its unique,  subtle flavors. Many wine connessieurs believe that the wines of Burgundy, both red and white, are without question the best wines the world has to offer. The most famous and desirable of all of the wines of Burgundy are those of Domaine Romanee-Conti; you may often see it simplified to DRC.  They are produced from a very small and very unique parcel of land that year after year turns out wines of magnificent finesse. They are extremely rare and expensive and I doubt I will ever experience a DRC wine.

The white wines of Burgundy are made exclusively from Chardonnay. They are sometimes referred to as Chablis but that is a town in the area famous for its chardonnay grapes. A debate rages over the quality of the white wines of Burgundy versus those of the high quality areas of Napa and Sonoma. Most wine aficionados cast their vote in favor of Burgundy.

Hopefully, this brief synopsis of Burgundy and Bordeaux will inspire you to read more on the subject. It’s an area of the world that has been producing great wines for hundreds of years and makes for a fascinating subject.


Posted in Favorite Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by ballymote

There is a hierarchy within the world of wine geeks. I’m afraid I am not in the upper echelon of wine geeks. There are probably a few reasons for that but the primary one might be that my budget does not enable me to drink the high end wines very often and precludes me from drinking the highest of the high at any time. At least, so far. One never knows when a wine miracle might take place.

If I were a member in good standing of the highest echelon of wine geeks my favorite wine might be one of the true classics like Chateau Petrus, Screaming Eagle, or a Domaine Romanee Conti. Unfortunately, none of those grape spectaculars has ever met my palate. I have had the opportunity to taste a couple of the first growth from Bordeaux at a wine tasting but they didn’t impress me all that much.

The wine that did make me go “wow”, and it has done so on more than one ocassion was the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz from McLaren Vale in Australia.IMG_2436









This beauty from the land of Oz has it all; a nose of incredible scent that simply intoxicates the senses. There is a bouquet of rose petals, soft cherries, ripe raspberries, chocolate and even cotton candy. The first sip brings a powerful taste of an array of red and black fruits mingled with that same cotton candy with a touch of licorice all balanced perfectly with tannins that are soft and warm. The finish continues for a full 60 seconds and you just know you are experiencing near perfection in a wine.

The 2002 Shirvington was equally enjoyable and was rated 99 points by Robert Parker. I believe the 2001 garnered 98 points. Both of these superb wines were crafted by the outstanding Aussie winemaker, Sparky Marquis. He no longer makes Shirvington as he was replaced by Kim Johnston in 2004. The current Shirvingtons are still excellent but none have achieved the greatness of the 01 and 02’s. Sparky Marquis and his wife Sarah are now owners and winemakers for a brand called Mollydooker and I will write at length on those excellent products in a future post. There are still a few of the 2001 and 2002 Shirvington’s available online at prices starting around $125.00. If you can afford them and want to experience a truly great wine then I would suggest you grab one or more before they are extinct.