Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 19

19 12 2017

By Raymond Lamontagne

There had to be a Bordeaux in here somewhere! Due to all kinds of understandable economic, availability, and supplier-based reasons, and maybe just garden-variety sanity, you knew that a 375 mL bottle of Bordeaux in an Advent Calendar was not going to be something prestigious and expensive. Indeed, the best Bordeaux has been priced right out of everyday grasp (for most of us). I have two special bottles (a 2014 Margaux and a 2012 Mouton Rothschild) that together cost about half of what I paid for one of my Magnum Cellars over/under wine coolers, and rest assured they will not be consumed anytime soon. I occasionally have nightmares where one turns out to be corked, or where I take one out to gaze longingly at the label, fantasizing about the glorious bouquet within, only to have it slip out of my clumsy grasp and go full shard all over my hardwood floor. Bordeaux bottles are robust, but still. I’d lick first and get my tongue stitched up later. I also have one 1986 second growth bottle that I purchased on sale (a Ducru-Beaucaillou) and this should be enjoyed soon. Probably now, as I write this. Logically I know it is time to drink up, but emotionally I still succumb to that treacherous wine geek logic of “But should I wait just a weeee bit longer??” … Cheaper options might be less titillating, but they are far simpler to navigate from a drinking perspective. I am a Burgundy lover who nevertheless visits the world of Bordeaux often, and although the chateau model of classification is easier to learn than Burgundy’s tortuous terroir-based system, there are still a galaxy of options to master. In this case, fear not: the Bricks team did their research (of course!). Good value Bordeaux from the lowest ranked Bordeaux Rouge AOC and Bordeaux Superieur Rouge appellations can be found, and Chateau Recougne might just be one of the best of the Bordeaux Superieur wines.IMG_0523

Bordeaux Superieur covers the same huge geographic area as Bordeaux AOC, namely the entire region. However, Superieur must hail from vineyards that are more densely planted than garden variety Bordeaux. Crowded vines are more stressed and yield fewer but better quality grapes. Superieur grapes are also riper at harvest, resulting in higher alcohol levels. Many Superieur are “Right Bank” wines from the areas north and west of St. Emilon and Pomerol. If one wishes to strike a balance between quality and price point (quality as defined within the rubric of “everyday drinking pleasure”), this strikes me as a wonderful option. It turns out I am not alone: one analysis concludes that thirteen bottles of Bordeaux Rouge or Superieur are consumed every SECOND somewhere on the planet.IMG_0525

According to legend, Henry IV visited Chateau Recougne and was extremely impressed by the quality of the wine made there. He declared the land “Terra Recognita” or “recognized land”. Today winemakers Xavier and Agnes teach their children the wine-making art, producing reds, whites, and roses. Recougne falls within Fronsac, an area highly regarded in the 18th century and now sometimes panned for producing Merlot-dominant wines that taste hard and crudely earthy in contrast to the plush offerings of St. Emilon. Fronsac has made a comeback, however, and I’ve recently had a 2004 Chateau Villars that aged marvelously and was top-heavy with notes of “sous bois” (forest floor), plum, spice, and sundry caffeinated beverages, punching well above its weight class. Recougne itself seems to be in good hands, with the family managing several parcels of old vines of 50+ years, using environmentally friendly viticultural techniques including minimal spraying, and working to reduce yields through green harvesting and careful canopy management.

According to most sources I checked, Merlot is best suited to the land and is the majority planting (75%), supplemented by both Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). However, the Recougne website states that Carmenere is the estate’s fourth variety. This vine is now almost extinct in Bordeaux despite having a meteoric career in Chile, although it barely hangs on as one of the six permitted red varieties. The Recougne website states that their Bordeaux Superieur does include Carmenere, and they also produce a unique varietal Cuvee, almost unheard of in this region famous for blends. Alas, every other source I could locate says the present sip is Merlot and the two Cabs. The Carmenere emphasis is a rather recent development, with the Chateau rescuing some errant vines from St. Emilon in the ’90s, and any amount used in the flagship wine is likely miniscule. Lastly, these guys have wines from 1952 in the cellar, and apparently they are still drinkable …IMG_0526

The 2015 vintage Chateau Recougne greets the drinker with aromas of pomegranate, black plums and cherries, bay leaf or perhaps eucalyptus, wilted violets, instant coffee crystals. There’s fruit but also potent savoury dried leaf, spice, and fallen branch notes. Old but still aromatic bay leaves from Grandma’s pantry. The immediate impression on the palate is red currant and perhaps blueberry, followed by the smooth pie cherry and plum fruit of a Merlot-heavy blend, but also some Cabernet bell pepper shining through. Is it rather too medicinal? Not for me. Moderate to long finish of flat cola, pepper, and cedar wood pencil, with a pinch of cacao or carob. More complexity than expected. Brisk acid and fuzzy, plush tannins. I am left wanting more force from the latter, perhaps … Its also thin-bodied, there’s an bit of an odd red apple off-note in the fruit matrix, and some of the flavors jut out rather than provide a loving caress. But hey … No one is expecting this to be a juggernaut, and maybe setting a low bar allows one to be pleasantly surprised. I’d gladly add this to my everyday wine list.


Cork Rating: 7.5/10 … No chateau name … Come on, this is recognized land after all! Props for the chateau logo though.

88 points




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