Friday, April 13, 2012

Bordeaux: The Wines of the Bourg and Blaye Regions – An Introduction

Picture: The Ferry Boat from Blaye to the Left Bank

When you follow Robert Parker and other Wine Gurus, you rarely hear about the Bourg and Blaye regions. This is a region where – in the north east of Bordeaux, on the Right Bank - you find lots of Petite Bordeaux wines at reasonable prices, but not any famous Grand Cru. I like to drink wines from this part of Bordeaux as they offer good quality at budget prices.

AOC Cotes de Bourg

The port town of Bourg lies on a steep slope at the point where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers combine to form the estuary of the Gironde. It is a large village with many fine buildings and narrow stairways descending to the Gironde. Bourg is crowned by the Château de la Citadelle, originally a fortification constructed by the English in 1153, and later the summer palace of the Archbishops of Bordeaux.

The vineyards of the AOC Côtes de Bourg stretch out over some 3,850 hectares in 15 communes. Merlot dominates and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are used to add complexity and structure. Malbec is also sometimes used. A little bit of Sauvignon Blanc-based white wine is also produced.

AOC Cotes de Bourg was originally intended to be part of the new Cotes de Bordeaux appellation created in 2009, but this did not go ahead.

AOC Blaye, AOC Cotes de Blaye and AOC Cote de Bordeaux Blaye

Historically, the region around Blaye has been home to three appellations: AOC Blaye, AOC Cotes de Blaye and AOC Premieres Cotes de Blaye. They were all created in 1936, then revised in the 1990s and again in 2009, when various changes were made to the Bordeaux appellation system. Importantly, since 2009, the AOC Premieres Cotes de Blaye has been renamed AOC Cote de Bordeaux Blaye and the AOC Blaye wines have been exclusively red, while the white wines have been released as AOC Cote de Bordeaux Blaye.

AOC Blaye

The  AOC Blaye wines - exclusively red are blended predominantly from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with smaller quantities of Malbec, Petit Verdot and even Carmenere.

Picture: Blaye

AOC Cotes de Blaye

The AOC Cotes de Blaye is the appellation for dry white wines from about 40 communes around the town of Blaye. Only a small vineyard area is currently used to produce AOC Cotes de Blaye; its future size will depend on the continued success of the wines produced here.

AOC Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye

The wines are both red and white once made under the AOC Premieres Cotes de Blaye as well as previous white AOC Blaye wines. The reds are made predominantly from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, while the whites are produced from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.

Combined, AOC Blaye, AOC Côtes-de-Blaye and AOC Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye consist of 5,000 hectares.

AOC Cotes de Bordeaux 

The Cotes de Bordeaux appellation was created in 2009 to bring together several 'cotes' of Bordeaux under a single banner – the idea being to improve their marketability. Combined, they represent 1/6th of the Bordeaux production.

Here are all name changes:

The 1ères Côtes de Blaye → Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, 

The 1ères Côtes de Bordeaux → Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux,
The Côtes de Castillon → Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux,
The Côtes de Francs → Francs Côtes de Bordeaux.

Chateau Roc de Cambes

Chateau Roc de Cambes is a Côtes de Bourg estate and one of the finest producer in the appellation today. It was bought in 1988 by François Mitjavile, owner of Château Le Tertre-Rôtebouef in St-Emilion. He was attracted by the ideal locations of the 10 hectares of vineyards, which are situated close to the Gironde on a south-facing slope in a natural amphitheater.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with François Mitjavile, owner of  Château Le Tertre-Rôtebouef in St. Emilion and Roc de Cambes in Côtes de Bourg

The average vine age is over 35 years. The grapes (65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc) are harvested as late as possible, and are then vinified in temperature controlled cement vats. The wines are massive and dense, spending two years in 100 per cent new oak.

The second wine labelled as Domaine de Combes comes under the basic Bordeaux appellation.

In September, the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim will have a chance to taste the  Chateau Roc de Cambes wines at the visit of  Château Le Tertre-Rôtebouef in St. Emilion.

Château Bel-Air la Royère 

Another fine producer is Château Bel-Air la Royère. Unusually for Bordeaux, 25% of Bel-Air’s blend is Malbec. And they even produce a 100% Malbec - Malbec Fig. 10. This is only 100% Malbec Bordeaux I am aware of. I have only seen it being sold in the German market.

Château Bel-Air la Royère is an AOC Blaye. It is managed and owned by Corinne Chevrier-Loriaud and her husband. Christian Vevry is a conseiller technicque.

In September, Château Bel-Air la Royère in Cars will be the first stop in the Bordeaux region.

In Blaye

Blaye was in February our base, but will not be in September, when the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim will stay in Pauillac and St. Emilion.

Picture: On the Ferry Boat from Blaye to the Left Bank

Blaye has an impressive citadel built by Vauban on a rock beside the river between 1685 and 1689, and embracing in its ancient ruins of an old Gothic château.  Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban and later Marquis de Vauban (1633 – 1707), commonly referred to as Vauban, was a Marshal of France and the foremost military engineer of his age, famed for his skill in both designing fortifications and breaking through them. He also advised Louis XIV on how to consolidate France's borders, to make them more defensible. The citadel of Blaye was listed in 2008 as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as part of the "Fortifications of Vauban" group.

We stayed at the Hotel La Citadelle, which is located within the huge defensive fortification. For the exploration of Bordeaux, we either took the ferry boat over to the Medoc or stayed on the right bank and went south.

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1 comment:

  1. Corinne Chevrier-LoriaudApril 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Bonjour Monsieur,

    Merci beaucoup pour votre article des régions de bourg et de Blaye et tout particulièrement pour Cht Bel Air La Royère .

    Merci infiniment

    Au plaisir de vous rencontrer prochainement,


    Corinne Chevrier-Loriaud ,


    Château Bel-Air La Royère
    1 Les Ricards
    33390 CARS