Curious Case March 2024, Bordeaux and the Blends Beyond


For centuries red Bordeaux, or claret, has been the benchmark for elegance and complexity when it comes to red wine.

And, not surprisingly, it’s been a style that New World winemakers have taken inspiration from to create interpretations of their own to rival the Bordelais. For this month’s Curious Case we’re doing a ‘compare and contrast’ exercise and lining up three quintessential styles of claret against three southern hemisphere blends that bring a new dimension to the table.

Timeless Bordeaux: A Balance of Power and a Tale of Terroir
Red Bordeaux is all about balance. The main grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, known for its structure and blackcurrant notes, and Merlot which brings softness and juicy, pluminess Cabernet Franc is the third in line and adds a herbal quality and crunchiness in the mouth. The big stylistic divide in Bordeaux is governed by the Gironde River. On the Left Bank, the gravelly soils of the Médoc and Graves produce wines where Cabernet Sauvignon leads the way making wines known for their firm tannins and ageing potential. While on the Right Bank, where Pomerol and St Émilion are found, the clay and limestone soils favour Merlot, making wines with softer tannins and early drinking appeal. To illustrate these, we’ve put in a lovely, traditional Haut-Médoc Cabernet Sauvignon led blend, a soft and ripe St-Émilion and one of our under-rated gems, which is an intriguing Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend.

Rise of the New World Challengers
For the New World wine regions, from the Americas to Australasia and South Africa, it didn’t take long for them to try and emulate the great wines of Bordeaux. And over the years the term ‘Bordeaux Blend’ has taken on a significance all of its own. These are wines made using the same grapes varieties and similar winemaking techniques but with their own distinctive slant down to the variation in terroir and climate of differing parts of the world. Possibly the one thing about Bordeaux Blends is that they’re typically bolder and more fruit-forward than their French counterparts. And to give a good feel for these we’ve included excellent examples from each of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Structure & Elegance, or Fruit-Forwardness and Approachability
Conventional wisdom has it that Claret will tend towards restraint and understatement while their New World cousins will be more fruit-laden in-your-face. The wines we’ve picked for this month’s Curious Case are aimed to show how they match up in reality. And we reckon it’s not so clear cut as you might think. What we will say is that they’re all delightful examples of their style and to see for yourself we’d thoroughly recommend you pick up a case to see what you think.

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What's in it?
As usual the contents of The Curious Case remain a mystery until the end of the month. Nonetheless, we would like to offer some tantalizing hints to whet your appetite and ignite your inquisitive spirit. Are you curious?

#1 A classic and savoury Haut-Médoc that’s matured quite elegantly.

#2 A ripe, soft and approachable St-Émilion that’s rounded and silky.

#3 This might look light a modest little Bordeaux, but it’s quite full and structured.

#4 A dark and brambly South African red with bags of character.

#5 Bright, ripe and fresh, this a Kiwi blend that’s savoury and refined.

#6 A complex Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon from a highly regarded producer.

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