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Exploring traditional, untraditional blends

Worth searching for: Chateau Bernadotte is from an area known as Haut Medoc

Out of the thousands of properties in Bordeaux, I would have difficulty in naming one that produces a red wine that is not a blend of grape varieties — even their whites.

Once you get past the celebrated 61 that made the great classification of 1855, it is not an easy task to know exactly what you might be buying.

For me, the year is of extreme importance — enough rain but not enough to water down the fruit; dry enough for moulds and other diseases not to cause major problems; an even breeze to dry the leaves; quite hot days to form the sugars; cool nights to encourage acid formation and balance. 2009 was such a vintage.

Chateau Bernadotte is from an area known as Haut Medoc that is not quite as exalted as Margaux, Pauillac, St Julien and so on, but often the values are found there. In 2009, Bernadotte probably made their best wine and Robert Parker gave it a 90-92 point score and called it an undeniable sleeper of the vintage. This is his way of saying that it is well worth searching for and, fortunately, you need to go no further than one of our stores.

This wine that is composed of 47 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 47 per cent merlot and 6 per cent petit verdot shares with us black cherries, black currants, spices, and even a touch of smoke and chocolate. With a drinking window between 2013 and 2018 it should be peaking right now. Chateau Bernadotte 2009 sells for $39.

You may know that the law in California states that a wine must be at least 75 per cent of one grape variety if it is to be labelled with the grape’s name. Let me share with you an atypical example of a Napa Valley Bordeaux-style blend that consists of 79 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 12 per cent merlot, 6 per cent petit verdot and 3 per cent Malbec. The law says that it could be labelled cabernet sauvignon, but the Franciscan Winery calls it ‘Magnificat’. They do this to give themselves the leeway to blend each year as they chose; for instance, if the merlot excels one year they may wish to increase the percentage of this grape and therefore not be able to label it as cabernet sauvignon.

Franciscan Magnificat 2011 opens up with a black raspberry bouquet with hints of cranberry, oak, cassis, plum and mocha. The flavour profile is of mild, mineral-infused black cherry, blueberry, crème de cassis and black truffle. It is deliciously round with a seamless finish. $62.25.

I would venture that you would not often find a wine consisting of 46 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 46 per cent tempranillo and 8 per cent syrah, but we have one called Six Sigma Ranch Diamond Mine Vineyard Cuvée 2012. In 2000, Kaj and Else Ahlmann bought a 4,300-acre cattle ranch in Lake County which was a thriving wine area north of Napa Valley more than 100 years ago. It suffered from the 1906 earthquake that was followed by prohibition. Now it is enjoying a rebirth and is a place to watch. The Ahlmann family has planted small sections of their land to vineyards that cover about 1 per cent of their property. One is known as Diamond Mine Vineyard as small volcanic quartz crystals on the ground sparkle in the sunlight. No pesticides or herbicides taint their land.

To say that Kaj is a frequent visitor to our Island is an understatement, as I believe that he has been here three times in the past two months. Let’s just say that there are connections between him and the world of insurance and international business. During a lunch with him in November he was telling me of their grass-fed beef and sheep as well as pigs that eat acorns, which are the fashion in Spain when raising pigs.

The winery tasting notes say: “Awesome aromas of cherry, blackberry and toasted coconut mingle with spices and volcanic terroir. The wine is full-bodied with graphite, leather and baked plums.” Six Sigma Ranch Diamond Mine Vineyard Cuvée 2012 sells for $23.05. Try it with a curry dish and you will be happy. For those wondering about the significance of Six Sigma, it is a “disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service”. Now you know the basics of the system that Kaj has been involved with during his life (reminds me of my old days with IBM).

This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm.