Not all Bordeaux is expensive

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WHEN YOU think about Bordeaux, which I’m sure you’ve bought because of its reputation — you’re partaking in the glory of the French Second Empire.

You see, in 1855, Napoleon III (nephew of that Napoleon) ordered a classification system for the best wines in Bordeaux, in preparation for their exhibition at the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. This classification led to the designations of premiers crus, deuxieme crus, and other crus. The French Second Empire has long been but a memory, but the classifications stay.

Now, it’s hard to imagine that one can partake of such a tradition with a mere P600, but a wine dinner last week at the Peninsula Manila’s Old Manila, called a Bordeaux Affair, showed just that. All the wines were apparently well-below or just playing at the P2,000-level.

The meal kicked off with a Smoked Duck Carpaccio, paired with a Chateau Blaignan 2014 Medoc. The wine had a smoky aroma which reminded one of the embers of a fireplace, and the pairing was one of rustic luxury — like owning a grand country house.

Next came Seared Mediterranean Sea Bass, paired with a Blason de La Tour Carnet 2011 from Medoc. The pairing led to a loving counterpoint between the bolder flavors of the wine giving gravitas to the lighter flavor of the fish, but this wine was a personal favorite: it had a strong, flamboyant opening, but softened to a whisper at the end of a sip, like a jazz singer offering a song only to you.

A Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin was paired with a Chateau Jean de Tremoulet 2013, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. This pairing, meanwhile, gave a bit of liveliness to the beef, for the wine by itself was sharp and lively like a dancer’s kick, and had a light, spicy aroma. A Margaux de Brane 2014 had a leathery, soft scent, but lost its power from the strength of the Danish Bleu for the cheese course.

Dinner ended with La Chapelle de Meyney 2011 Saint-Estephe, paired with a chocolate Millefeuille. They complimented each other through their textures, for the wine had a mild fruity flavor and a very exquisite and silky mouthfeel.

The wines were from Vintage Wine Company, and its Chief Sommelier Officer, Daniel Blais, sat with us for coffee. “When we say Bordeaux, the two magic words that come into mind are grands crus,” he said. Thinking twice, he added, “And the price.”

Skeptics might say that one wine is as good as the other. Mr. Blais says, “I would never say anything bad against the pricing of Bordeaux. They’re worth it.” Bearing in mind that most of the wines that evening cost below P2,000 however, he said, “The challenge to find an expensive, great Bordeaux is easy, actually. What is difficult is to find an affordable and very, very pleasant-to-drink Bordeaux.

“Bordeaux is not just for special occasions. You can drink Bordeaux every day,” he said. — Joseph L. Garcia