Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chateau D'Arche, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux Superieur

Alot of names for a little bottle of wine, and I can easily remember the days when this would have been daunting. Let me try and help you understand the label of this lovely (and relatively inexpensive) little way to enter the fiscally intimidating region of Bordeaux.

Chateau D'Arche in Ludon, Medoc
   Firstly, Chateau D'Arche is a very well established chateau; it was classified as a "Cru Bourgeois" in 1932 (explanation to follow) and for almost 20 years has been owned and managed by the owners of the prestigious Chateau Palmer ( Chateau Palmer, a Grand Cru Classe, is exorbitantly expensive. To wit: a 1945 Chateau Palmer will auction for over $15,000 USD and it's only a 91-point wine.

 I cannot afford Chateau Palmer. But that being said, I am more then willing to enjoy the work of Mähler-Besse (the owners) and their winemaker at a fraction of the cost.

 Now as to the Cru Bourgeois: back in 1855 Emperor Napoleon mandated a classification of the chateau of Bordeaux for the Paris Exposition. The chateau were classified mostly according to the price of the wines and were not intended (we are taught) to be a judgement on quality. This list was divided into Premier Cru (First Class), Deuxiemes Cru (Second Class) and so on through Fifth Class.

   Well very little has changed since that time with the exception that the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture created a "Cru Bourgeois" in 1932. This list included 444 wineries that were thought to be of "high quality" and was divided into several tiers as well. This multi-tier system has since been annulled (as of 2008) and there is only one tier: Cru Bourgeois. This is supposed to indicate a high quality wine that was not on the official classification of 1855. Enough history?

   Time for some geography~! What is the Haut-Medoc?? Please refer to my article . Suffice it to say that the Medoc region is Left Bank Bordeaux (which in general means the wine will have a significant proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon) and the Haut-Medoc has the highest ratio of Grand Cru chateau.

1999 Chateau D'Arche, Haut-Medoc
Cru Bourgeois Superieur 

commune:   Ludon-Medoc
blend:         45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Carmenere
age of vines: minimum 35 years
soil type:    rich gravel
cultivation: completely manual without the use of any chemicals
vinification: traditional saignee method with 21 day maceration
aging:         12 months in 35% new French barriques
awards:      15.5/20 Vinum Wine Magazine
                   2 stars Le Guide Hachette des Vins
  • visual:   clear; medium garnet core with light cherry-brick rim and slight sediment
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed bouquet of red and black berries; cherries, black raspberries, blackberries, crisp red currant and cassis, intoxicating summer floral notes of roses, green peppers from the Carmenere and rich savory woodsy and earthy background
  • palate: clean; dry, moderate+ (still crisp red currant) acids, moderate (well integrated and chalky) tannins, medium body, moderate+ alcohol (12.5%), moderate intensity and developed flavors similar to the nose with emphasis on the red berry flavors with a strong woodsy/oaky/earthy presence mid-palate. Good balance, very good structure, good length
  • conclusion:   drinking well now, I have heard people say that this vintage will cellar to 2020... perhaps, but there will be no further development of flavors and one is in danger of losing the last of these zippy acids
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   as with any great Cab-Sauv blend, my natural inclination is to steak. As this is French, why not a classic Steak Frites with peppercorn demi-cream or even with Steak Tartare and roast elephant garlic jam as an appetizer?

   Chateau D'Arche is not a Grand Cru wine, but it most certainly is Grand Cru skill utilized to it's fullest. The reward is in the glass!

As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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