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Ten-year-old Bordeaux reds

I would venture to say that 90 percent or more of the wines purchased are ready to drink, but if you are buying red and if you are paying $30 or more for a bottle, there is a good chance that improvement will come with age.

There are those that say that New World reds do not age well, but a recent tasting of our Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 from Napa Valley was remarkable. We have 11 old vintages of this wine in stock and the 1992 sells for $141.40.

Bordeaux is really the gold standard for age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines and I feel that just about all of them become really ready to enjoy once ten years have passed. Fortunately almost 300,000 acres of vineyards produce about 900 million bottles a year and so it is relatively easy to get older wines on the market. There are only 35,000 acres planted in Napa Valley.

One vintage chart that I have rates the Bordeaux vintages back to 1970 and they vary from 72/100 to 98/100. 2009 is classic at 98/100 and so is 2010, but fortunately 2005 is also at that almost perfect level and it has reached the magic age of ten years. I would like to tell you about three that we have good supplies of.

To give you an idea of volume, Chateau Maucaillou in the commune of Moulis produced 29,165 cases in 2005 and the total output of the Shafer Winery in Napa Valley (two Cabernet Sauvignons, one Merlot, Chardonnay and a Syrah/Petite Syrah blend) is 32,000 cases. Most critics feel that Maucaillou is of a quality level that would easily have included it in the Great Classification of 1855 when 61 out of many, many thousands were chosen to be the best. The rather reasonable excuse that the Maucaillou folks have is that they did not build their Chateau until 1875!

Chateau Maucaillou 2005 should be at its peak now with tannins that have softened and exhibiting a certain “friendliness” that I first learned to appreciate during a visit in the late 1970s. Experience cedar, blackcurrants and cherries, all gentle with age and in particular it is the cedar that I find so beguiling in older Cabernet Sauvignon. $41.55.

In 2005 Chateau Bernadotte in the Haut (upper) Medoc belonged to Madame de Lencquesaing, owner of the great, classified Pichon Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac and the quality was elevated during her ownership. She sold in 2012 to an enormous investment group. Bernadotte 2005 is certainly ready to drink and it offers a chance to taste the production of a world-class team at a fraction of their normal cost. $36.45.

Chateau Senejac, also in the Haut Medoc, has made a 2005 that should drink well until 2020. In the 1800s its production of 100,000 bottles was quite similar to that of today. In the 1980s high quality blossomed and in 1999 it was purchased by the owners of well respected, and classified, Chateau Talbot who have recently sold. These properties are “hot” and many do change hands as interest in fine wine booms. Chateau Senejac 2005 shows perfumed, soft black fruit and lots of very ripe tannins that are not at all invasive. $46.70.

Last year when tasting old Cabernet Sauvignon with a friend I commented that I knew perfectly well what I loved in an older wine and found it easy to recognise, but had difficulty in describing it. I was quite comforted when he suggested that maybe words did not exist to do so. Maybe he was right or maybe you will try any or all of these wines and you will find the right vocabulary. I wish you well in this endeavour.

This column is a paid advertorial for Burrows, Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows, Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or on 295-0176. Burrows, Lightbourn have 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 are available online at www.wineonline.bm.

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Published May 30, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 30, 2014 at 9:26 am)

Ten-year-old Bordeaux reds

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