Home is where the claret is: Richard Esling October 20
In a world increasingly full of worry and anxiety, there is comfort to be found in the things which you know and trust.
This is just as true when choosing a close-to-home holiday, short-break destination, or well-known hospitality venue, as it is for choosing a wine for a family meal or Sunday lunch. There are a million wines to choose from, both in the supermarkets and wine merchants and increasingly from on-line sellers. Outstanding Pinot Noir from Chile, fabulous Californian Cabernets, delicious Malbec from Argentina, but for pure red wine enjoyment, there is nothing quite like a good red Bordeaux, or claret in its more traditional terminology.
In our household, we tend to either consume or taste an extensive range of wines from across the globe as part of the industry in which I work. But whenever I open a nicely matured bottle of red Bordeaux, my wife takes a sniff and then, after a pre-emptory sip, exclaims, “Aah, this is like coming home!” Admittedly, she was born about ten minutes from Chateau Pape Clement, one of the top wines from the Bordeaux region, but even so, her expression seems to fit perfectly with my own feelings of comfort.
Perhaps some of the attraction of Bordeaux wines for the English stems from the fact that Aquitaine, a very large swathe of south-west France, belonged to the English crown for some 300 years, unfortunately lost in 1453 when some English general made the grave mistake of losing the Battle of Castillon and henceforth the entire region. During those three centuries, a substantial trade in wine to England was established which endures to this day.
With autumn now upon us and the clocks about to change, leading to those long, dark evenings, out come the casserole recipes, game dishes and comfort food, which naturally require comfort wine. For a truly great selection of red Bordeaux wines, look no further than The Wine Society. Bordeaux is the largest fine wine region in the world and Tim Sykes, the Society’s buyer for Bordeaux does a first-class job in selecting over 70 different wines – just the current selection – from the thousands produced.
Ranging from an extraordinarily reasonable £6.95 per bottle up to £595 per bottle, there is a wine for every budget and for everyone to come home to. The Wine Society is also great at offering wines with some maturity, often difficult to find even in France, at the right price. Chateau Charmail 2012 is a Cru Bourgeois from the Haut Medoc sub-region, priced at £17. Un-fined and un-filtered, it needs decanting, giving a full-bodied, rich, rounded claret with good depth of flavour.
Showing considerable pedigree and inherent class, is the Baron de Brane Margaux 2010 at £33 per bottle and worth every penny. Velvety smooth, with deep bramble fruit flavours and satisfyingly long, elegant finish. The second wine of Chateau Brane Cantenac and now 10 years old, it is at its enjoyable peak. Great value for this quality of wine.
These previous two wines are drinking superbly now, but for a bargain fine wine which will repay laying down for five plus years, try the Pauillac Ulysse 2015 or 2016 at £23. A closely guarded secret, it is sourced from a world-famous chateau and is outstanding quality. Both vintages were excellent, the 2016 having great power and structure with full blackcurrant fruit and hints of liquorice and leather. The full, ripe tannins and acidity will soften and create a wine which you will want to cuddle-up to in a few years’ time. Meanwhile, for instant pleasure and comfort, choose the more mature wines for your autumn meals at home.