À côté de nos voyages-dégustations à une vingtaine de participants, nous faisons aussi de petites virées à 4 ou 5, une seule voiture et nuits en gîte, pour aller découvrir un coin, la Loire bien sûr, notre seconde patrie — les côteaux du Layon, Savennières, Jasnières, Saumur ou Chinon —, ou bien l’Alsace.
En janvier 2007, c’était le Médoc, pour y dénicher un 2005 au meilleur prix.
Dans le nord du Médoc en effet, les vignerons ne se contentent plus d’un goût brut, rustique, terrien. En cherchant, on trouve les nuances et l’élégance à des prix abordables. Le vin de ce coin est encore le secret le mieux gardé de la péninsule, du bordelais avec les Graves, et de bien des régions sur la planète. Bordeaux, valeur sure.
Après deux jours sur place les 26 et 27 janvier 2007 et une vingtaine de vins dégustés (*), nous avons fait élaborer à notre idée un assemblage 50% cabernet sauvignon – 50% merlot par la coopérative de Gaillan-en-Médoc (300 propriétaires), devenu une cuvée 2005 spéciale Mmmm… ton vin! à… 5,60 €.
Vous avez été plus de 30 à passer commande et nous avons en commandé 1 800 b.
Récit de notre enquête-dégustation, en anglais…
(*) par Claudine Crassard-Petit, Daniel Berger, Jean-Jacques Lobel, Lincoln Siliakus.
DRIVING FOR A BARGAIN
By LINCOLN SILIAKUS
Which 2005? Bordeaux winemakers have pitched the vintage as the best since the Roman invasion, and are charging accordingly. Fine wine has become an investment, not a beverage, so those humans among us who like the occasional drink are left with our tongues hanging out.
But if only top winemakers can make good wine in difficult years, then lesser mortals should still make fine quaff in easy ones. And while the owners of estates in the core of Bordeaux are forever running off to Switzerland with full briefcases, their brethren on the periphery can hear the wolves panting at the door, and are willing sellers…
I was roped into the Mmmm… ton vin! tasting team that sped down the A10 on a clear morning in late January 2007. Winter had just arrived; the police were turning trucks around at Tours so they wouldn’t slip on the snow and block the freeway. We made it to the seaside resort of Royan by the skin of our teeth for the ferry across to the tip of the Médoc.
Let’s put ourselves on the map. Médoc, meaning « in the middle of waters », is a triangular peninsula with the city of Bordeaux at its bottom right, the Atlantic along its left side, and the wide and muddy Gironde along its right. Going north from Bordeaux along the Gironde bank, you hit Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint- Estèphe. Yum.
Further north you come to the Médoc appellation, which is only a part of the geographic Médoc and is higher on the map than Haut (High) Médoc. As we drove off the ferry, we were in Médoc heading for Médoc. This sort of logic comes naturally once you’ve lived in France for a while.
It’s a great drive. Swampy northern Médoc, with its immense sky and tall, fawn-coloured reeds waving in the constant breeze, is far lovelier than the south which would see few visitors were it not for those awesome wines.
We packed in four chateaus during the late afternoon, as the temperature dropped from zero to minus ten.
At Valeyrac Le Temple 2005 was a very deep purple, typical of the vintage and just right for its age, but a few cents out of our price range. At Château Bellevue, in Valeyrac also, we tasted the 2005 in separate lots – from wooden vats, old barrels, new barrels, and finally a mix (delightful) of the lot that “should be similar” to the final mix. The young and vigorous couple at Béjac-Romelys in Saint-Yzans offered us their final choice: robust, cabernet-driven, and in for the long term. Château Saint-Christophe (a « cru bourgeois ») outside the village of Saint-Christoly, with higher merlot, was already soft enough to enjoy…
De gauche à droite : Daniel J. Berger, Claudine Crassard-Petit, Jean-Jacques Lobel.
The sun shining deep red into our gîte, our second day started perfectly and only got better.
At Château Laujac near Bégadan we crunched across the wide lawns, and hurried into the old kitchen where Alban Drion had lit a large fire. I noted the 2005 as “lovely, lovely, lovely”.
On the deserted back road to Château Le Pey outside Bégadan, the sun still flashing low through bare trees, the Laujac lingering delightfully, I slipped “Water Babies” into the CD player. In a minute, Wayne Shorter took over from Miles and pulled sax tones, rich as cabernet, out of the pale sky, then passed to Herbie Hancock, who dappled us with soft, merlot-like notes from his piano – the musical equivalent of, say, a 1990 Montrose. Can life get any better?
Most of us knew Le Pey already; it was more than “correct”, as were the Lassus at and Vieux Robin, both Bégadan.
Our last visit, though, was the revelation of the trip: at Uni-Médoc, which groups five co-ops in Gaillan-en-Médoc, we started with the 2005 cabernet sauvignon and merlot separately, before the home winemaker Laurent Vaché (right) carefully measured out a 60/40 and a 50/50. Both were surprisingly excellent. They could do a good deal. Laujac had competition.
Back on the freeway well after dark, munching on gourmet sandwiches from Royan, we folded the front middle seat down to make a small desk to continue our work with other samples.
Our discussion, which lasted most of the way home, was robust and agreeable. We first emptied given samples of Sigognac, Lamonjean (a « cru artisan »), Conques (2nd of Ormes Sorbet) and L’Inclassable (ex-Lafon). We all wanted the Laujac first, the Co-op came second, with Béjac-Romelys third.
The story is not over because, back in Paris, Daniel had the brilliant idea of asking the Gaillan Co-op to bottle up a 50/50 cabernet sauvignon – merlot special cuvée for us with our own Mmmm… ton vin! label.
That is our story of a real bargain of €5,60 a bottle. Not to be drunk before 2010.
Update January 29, 2013