Medoc/Haut Medoc

Haut Medoc

 

The MEDOC is a name that refers to the entire region that stretches north of Bordeaux, on the left side of the Gironde Estuary. Margaux, Paulliac, St Julien etc are all communes of the Medoc region, but it also exists as an AC for all the Bordeaux wines in the area that don't fall under the separate commune banner. It therefore covers a vast area of land producing nearly 40 million bottles annually! Unsurprisingly, the quality of these can vary massively from the very fine to downright dreadful! I used to buy plain 'Medoc' from my supermarket and really wonder what all the fuss about Bordeaux was! Then I would occasionally find a decent one. I've now extensively tasted the region and have cherry picked a few of my favorites below. I'm looking forward to continuing my voyage of discovery!

The HAUT MEDOC is also a large AC in its own right but still part of the Medoc region as a whole. It's generally considered to be of higher quality than AC Medoc, but again it's initially worth starting with some recommendations. Some of the Left Bank wines outside the 1855 classification system (1st-5th growths, Grand cru Classe etc) are classified under the Cru Bourgeois system. There are various levels within this but the Bordelaise can't seem to agree who should be in or out of it...and it's all getting pretty complicated, though in 2009 it finally looked like an acceptable system had been formulated. Regardless of this, there are some awesome wines made in AC Haut Medoc for sure...

As well as being my favourite Chateau in the Haut Medoc, Chateau Sociando Mallet makes my top 20 for the whole Bordeaux region. There may be many finer, rarer and more distinguished (expensive!) Chateau but these guys just make wine that suits my taste and pocket!Sociando Mallet 1994 I'd have to say it's quite a robust Bordeaux that can be dense, dark, tannic, inky black and long, long, lasting. You can pick it up from between £20-£30 a bottle on release but, as it can age well, old bottles crop up in auction catalogues for much more. Fans of subtle wine may wish to look elsewhere but those who love a hearty, plump wine with volume will enjoy this. That's not to say it doesn't have refinement. It is definitely a fine wine and can display real finesse in top vintages. I often think of it as a poor mans Chateau Latour. The 1994, pictured here when it arrived at TBC (sadly sold out now!) played a big part in my devotion to Sociando. Here was a vintage that was tricky to say the least, as it rained cats and dogs in September, just when they need it to be sunny. I was therefore expecting something a little diluted and lacking in fruit. Not so sir! This smokey, black liquid with aromas of graphite was heavenly, and very much alive! These personal memories of incredible wines that surprised you become lodged in your brain!

I'm also fond of Chateau La Tour Carnet in the Haut Medoc. This is an ancient moated property owned by major player in Bordeaux, Bernard Magrez. He owns a number of properties and has the resources to get the absolute best from the terroir. La Tour Carnet 2000It's a Fourth Growth and very reasonably priced, dark and supple wine.

Perhaps not a real long termer but it will drink after 5/6 years and keep for another 10. The 2000 pictured here was a delight. I'm waiting for my 06's to come round at the moment. Chateau La Lagune is another fine Haut Medoc wine. It's close to Margaux but not in the appellation. Still, it has a lofty Third Growth classification and has 60% of it's vines to Cabernet Sav. Excellent well balanced wines come from this large estate. I've been following it since the 2004 and I've not been let down yet! It comes in around £20-£30 a bottle. I think Ch Peyrabon is worth a mention too. This is up by Pauillac and has much of the robust style of that AC. Plenty of oak is used and it's very respectable wine, owned by a Bordeaux Negociant who is ambitious to keep improving quality. It's a fair £10-£18 bottle.

There are also a few (semi) precious jewels in the AC Medoc crown too. I've recently discovered Chateau Labadie through one of my Negociant suppliers. The 2005 is classic Bordeaux for £11 a bottle. Plenty of nice tannins, creamy oak with black fruits abundant. I intend to stick with this Chateau as long as future vintages are up to it.Labadie For anyone thinking about making the jump to fine wine, a Chateau like Labadie is an excellent stepping stone. It display's some of the vital qualities of fine wine, though it will never really scale the heights. It can be drunk from 3 years and kept for 8 more I would say. (from the 05) Great with an entrecote steak!!! Chateau Rollan de By is well worth seeking out too. Loads of soft fruit (it's Merlot heavy) but it has enough weight to class it as more than nice table wine. It's been known to shock a few palates in blind tastings! Sleek stuff! £10-£20. Finally a good glugging Medoc is Chateau Tour St Bonnet. This can be aquired for less than £10 and for that you are getting the classic Bordeaux blackcurrant, cedar, pencil shaving aromas with light to medium tannins. Not a stunner but it's a great one to crack open at dinner parties, then keep it flowing...