It will come as no surprise that I love France and most of its exports. The language, the food, the countryside and the wine. This week, while unfortunately coming a not-very-close second in the Winerist writing competition, I did manage to win a tasting for two at Bordeaux Wines’ pop up bar in Finsbury Avenue Square, which seemed a pretty good substitute. After her stellar performance at our red wine extravaganza a few weeks ago, I secured the time and talents of budding wine photographer and fellow enthusiast Divya. I should probably note at the outset that my winning the tickets was a reflection of my honed ability to retweet and follow an account on Twitter, and not for publicity.
Until Friday 22 June, Liverpool Street-based Londoners can temporarily forget being surrounded by concrete, cabs and sickly sweet vape clouds and be transported to Bordeaux via that most evocative of means – wine. Tucked away behind Broadgate Circle, the Bordeaux Butterfly Bar is designed to showcase the best of Bordeaux, with wines by the glass and introductory tastings in small groups in the late afternoon and evening.
The tasting, which usually costs £10 per person, lasts around 45 minutes with wine educator, campervan adventurer and cheese lover Jimmy Smith, of Streatham Wine House. After discussing the history and geography of Bordeaux, from the English to the Dutch, and finally back to the French, we opened with a rare Crémant de Bordeaux. This wine is fairly difficult to come by in the UK, given the dominance of Prosecco and, for buyers wanting to dig further into their pockets, Champagne. I enjoyed this Crémant – not as fine a fizz as Champagne, but less sweet than Prosecco, which I often find too sugary and cloying to enjoy much of without risking a diabetic coma. The Crémant de Bordeaux appellation is only 30 years old, so still finding its way to a set expression, but this was impressive. All citrus and orange peel on the nose and Granny Smith apples when tasting, this is one to add to the aperitif list – particularly if your guests enjoy a little more backstory to their pre-dinner drinks.
For the two whites, we engaged in a little mixology after separately trying the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend (Entre-Deux-Mers, 2017) and a 100% Semillon wine. Divya wasn’t overkeen on the Entre-Deux-Mers, preferring a softer, more rounded wine rather than the high acidity of many whites. I have never knowingly had pure Semillon, but the honeyed, oaky and slightly hazelnutty smell was pretty enticing. On tasting however, it was clear there was a dimension lacking. So, we experimented by adding some of the more acidic, citric Sauvignon Blanc blend to up the acidity and refreshing quality of the wine. I don’t think Bordeaux’s vignerons need to fear much competition from me, however after discovering that Bordeaux doesn’t have it’s own official cheese, I think I’ve found my raison d’être. Time’s up, Tome de Bordeaux…
Finally, we were on to the reds. As a St Emilion fan, I was pretty excited to see a 2015 Montagnes St Emilion lined up as wine number four. Swirling in the glass, this was rich and intense, with oak and punchy black fruit. However, after a sip, it was clearly still too young to be enjoyed on its own. Even the most stuffed up hayfever sufferer would announce it as “a bit tannic”, meaning the fruity promises arising out of the glass were lost. What might have been interesting would be having a little salt on the table, to see the effect of food on such a wine and combating the tannic punch. It was a good move to put a wine such as this in the mix – while 2015 was a good year in wine terms, it illustrates the need to age a blend such as this, particularly when contrasted with the final choice.
Chateau Carignan Cadillac 2012 (Oddbins, £15) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Grenache. It’s full bodied, but the additional years of ageing have served it well, smoothing any rough edges. The black fruits have sunk into the background slightly, giving way to mushrooms and delicious Twigletty savouriness. Well rounded and enjoyable, and one to sink into an armchair with when the nights draw in again.
At £10 a head, this is great value for a very well curated and entertaining introduction to the variety of Bordeaux wines on offer today. Informative, relaxed, and fun – just how wine should be enjoyed. See you next year.
Tickets available via Eventbrite here.