Bordeaux 2011 – let’s hear it for the little guys

by Charles Lea

Away from the drama of whether the big names will double overnight, the ‘trading’ side of the market, there remains solid value to be had in amongst the lesser names, and frankly we do rather enjoy the process of unearthing gems at the right price. I have mentioned a few already, and these can be found on our pages of recommendations in the left and right banks. Today, as mentioned earlier, there have been a couple of releases in the Médoc, Pedesclaux and Belgrave, which are worth a look, and this afternoon sees the release of one of my favourite wines in the whole room of St Emilion Grands Crus Classés, Château Corbin.

Belgrave is the property I wrote about in my harvest stories blog, which used a cover-crop technique from Brazil to help preserve moisure in the soil. It seems to have worked here.

Pedesclaux is the second property bought by the Francois and Jacky Lorenzetti in 2009, after they had bought Lilian Ladouys in 2008. 28 hectares of vines overlooking the river at the hamlet of Pouyalet just north of Pauillac, much of which has had to be replanted, and a 14 hectare plot between Lafite and Mouton on the other side of the road. Altogether there will be 36 hectares of planted vineyard. The régisseur Catarina Freitas gave us a fascinating insight into how the vineyard is slowly being consolidated through swaps and sales and purchases. This part of Pauillac, like Saint Estèphe, had a very strong co-operative movement, which encouraged (allowed) families to go on splitting little parcels of vines between their children long after there was a commercially viable area if they had to vinify the grapes themselves. Catarina is right at the cutting edge of wine-making, and no expense is spared. The grapes are picked into small cases and then stored 24 hours in a cool room at 3C (a first as far as I know), before the sorting and de-stemming. They are given as much as fifty days of pre-fermentary maceration (this really is taking things to extremes). This property is coming up very fast and is definitely one to watch – and offers great value.

Corbin has been making very appealing wines for a number of years now and the 2011 is no exception – a lovely, value for money drinker in a supple unforced style.