2005 Château Tour St Bonnet Medoc Cru Bourgeois

Whilst I can grasp the basics of the leviathan that’s the Bordeaux wine business, the sheer volume of options and some scary pricing often steers the buying choices elsewhere. If I knew enough to regularly buy something this good, I’d be a lot more willing to explore. Of the last two experiences, one was too leafy, underripe and a bit feral, the other leaden with over ripe deadened fruit and oak. Neither escapade worth sharing. Research suggests this is from 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and the rest a bit of Malbec and Petit Verdot. The cork was in good nick. Once opened, scents of iodine and old wood sweetened by some raisined bottle age. Once the air got to it, some solid cherry and mulberry fruit plumped up the middle with a whiff of cassis to follow. All clean and nicely extracted. The ending marked by a glorious almond and hazelnut paste savour. The ending of the ending controlled by mature fine tannin and still fresh and clean acidity. If I drank enough of the stuff, I’d be bold enough to say proper claret. Simply delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. 536 gms of glass. $31 at auction.

92 points but a big plus for sheer class.

2016 Grand Bateau Bordeaux

In such times, alcohol in the form of good wine taken internally must be the perfect sanitiser. The big boat is a connection to the big 4th growth St. Julien, Chateau Beychevelle which is almost ten times the price these days. This opened a little oddly with some dank off putting drain smells. Twenty four hours later, another tentative sniff and sip showed all was in fact well. Mulberry, something bramble, earth and gravel with a fleeting top note of red plum and raspberry Merlot, a bit of a tease like those basic Bourgognes that can only hint at the real pleasures of the crus. Nonetheless, there’s some fine sandpaper tannin and, well yes you have to say it, refreshing mineral acidity. 80/20 Merlot and Cabernet they say on the back label, the Bordeaux self regard implicit on the front.

13% alcohol. Cork. $20 at auction, think it normally retails for $25 to $30?

89 proper Claret points.

2012 Château Batailley Pauillac

Fifth growth, 70% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc and reputed value if that’s possible with an address in Pauillac. Opens cleanly with a svelte cultured perfume of bright red berries, a waft of cassis, crushed gravelly rock and candid, straight ahead vanilla oak. Gained some toned muscle and flesh over two days. The acidity and tannin as beautifully sculpted as the limestone that clads so much of Bordeaux. Bourgeois poise without flamboyance and probably the last upwardly mobile dalliance in the light of cru Beaujolais at half the price.

13% alcohol. Cork. 40 euros.

94 points.

2010 Château Cantemerle Haut Medoc

Most commentaries suggest this fifth growth is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Well, it certainly presents with Cabernet’s serious austerity. Dark savoury berries, menthol, pencil boxes and an ironstone firmness. As it opens there’s some real power in the middle and a touch of not quite clean old oak. The chomp of Cabernet skin tannin and bright acidity make for an unequivocal statement of Bordeaux made for age and no frippery. Just a hint of sweet cassis softens the rigour of a Bodelais frown at the notion of hedonism. Serious business and a serious price for an entrée in the world of proper Bordeaux.

13% alcohol. Cork. 45 euros from Badie, one of those implacable Bordeaux cavistes.

94 points just coping with a scintilla of mucky oak.

2014 Château Sigalas Rabaud La Semillante à Sigalas

Dry Semillon from a Sauternes producer. Opens with sweet citrus, mainly lemon, sort of lemon curd in fact and well mannered oak suggesting vanilla, spice and toast. Tingling acidity really crashes through the ending. Over two or three days, the texture fattens to a creamy luscious cushion for that acidity and the flavours mellow towards honey and more yellow fruit, even something tropical. At this point the thought occurs there may be a touch of noble rot or dried fruit or perhaps that’s just rot on my part. Anyway it’s lush and full. This makes a great stop on the road in the search for good dry semi trailer.

13.70% alcohol. Cork. 17 euros.

94 points.

2017 L’Atypic de Peybonhomme

First ever night in Bordeaux and something apparently not typically Bordelais to celebrate. 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Franc from Château Peybonhomme les Tours in the Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Two favourite varieties from the Cabernet family and perhaps the hardest to find amongst the good and great of grand Bordeaux. Opened with a plume of just ripe red fruit and gravel smells. Satisfying drag of understated feathery tannin and acidity carrying flavours that start with those sparkling red berries and pull on through to more savoury and stoney things. Almost pretty. Clean and refreshing without being simple. Maybe it’s just imagination but is it brighter, finer and more pristine because of biodynamics? All that extra work, you’d like to think so.

13% alcohol. Cork. 27 euros on a great pizzeria wine list. Atypically Bordeaux.

92 points.