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Event round-up: London Wine Fair

During the 38th edition of the London Wine Fair, an exhibition showcasing over 14,000 wines from 40 countries, Inside Drinks heard from three French wine companies – Château Montlabert, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion and Château Beychevelle – explaining why Bordeaux is back.

Where did Bordeaux go?

Bordeaux wine is red wine produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. Château Montlabert, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion and Château Beychevelle hosted a tasting of two of their wines each in order to allow drinkers to think about Bordeaux differently.

Inside Drinks tasted a 2014 and 2015 Château Montlabert, 2015 Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion and 2015 Château Beychevelle.

Reports suggesting the falling demand of Bordeaux wine arose a few years ago, declaring the wine as “overpriced” and “out of fashion”. These wine manufacturers are attempting to transform Bordeaux to “be more open and more trendy”.

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion sales and PR manager Stephanie Libreau said: “Everybody was criticising Bordeaux wines, they didn’t want to buy it anymore because it was expensive or too much. That’s what they call Bordeaux bashing, just saying systemically that Bordeaux is not good anymore.”

What does Bordeaux is back mean?

Libreau breaks down the term and wine. She said: “Bordeaux wine used to be a wine that you had to wait 20 or 30 years to drink, and not everybody can wait 30 years to drink wine. Most of the new consumers just want to buy a bottle and open it and drink it now.

“With Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion 2014 vintage, you have 54% of Cabernet Franc. It is important because it has very specific aromas, lots of mineral[s], freshness and floral aromas like violet.

“It comes with the idea of making the Bordeaux wines more approachable and more drinkable for the customer. We added, since 2010, new methods of wine making, especially with the arrival of our new winemaker.

“He arrived with brand new wine making methods, including winemaking with whole bunches, including part of stems and whole berries to extract more tannins from the skins and not tannins from the pips.

“So our wine methods include more infusion, less distraction from the wine working more with rubber rings that will maintain the skins in contact with the juice, just like tea and not coffee. We do that to try and make the wine in a more natural way, to extract less, make it less powerful and work more on the aromatic of the wine because this is our signature.”

Re-defining Bordeaux: rebranding a vintage taste

Bordeaux’s climate plays a key part in the vintage quality and is expected to improve with age. However, these three château’s wish to re-define the traditional Bordeaux, while keeping the vintage taste.

Château Montlabert business development manager Ninon Lecru-Chalon said: “The Castel family bought this estate in 2008, so ten years of work, of improvement and also ten years of listening to the market.

“We try to be simpler to avoid too much hook flavour due to the wooden tanks during the fermentation, and we try to have more fruit finally. We try to have the first aromas that are given by the grapes, so when you are tasting Château Montlabert 2014, obviously it’s vintage but it’s drinkable. It’s fruity and you don’t have a lot of oaky notes, it’s well-balanced. This is the idea of Bordeaux is back.”

Bordeaux is back focuses on more “accessible and approachable” wine, with softer tannins. Libreau explains what happened to Bordeaux wine and why a re-brand is essential. She said: “I think what happened with Bordeaux is that for a long time, Bordeaux was a star, [with] the best wines of the world and then something like ten years ago, some other wines from other countries came forward.

“[They were] very good wines from Australia, Chile, California and so on, and they were harsh competitors. Maybe Bordeaux had a hard time at that moment because it was an old image and not so adapted to this new type of consumer that prefer more fresh wines."

In terms of pricing, Château Montlabert ranges between €16 and €30, Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion’s market price is €60 for the 2014 and €100 for 2015, while Château Beychevelle’s wines are between €74 and €80.

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