It’s always a tense moment when I crack open a case of Bordeaux bought en-primeur and try the first bottle! Is the wine going to be okay or did I make a mistake? Is it what I expected? Have I kept it too long? 

When it comes to red wine, Bordeaux has a special place for me and the first vintage I bought en-primeur was 1985 – I split a case with a friend, so just six bottles. By the time it got to 2005 and then 2010 I was up to a full case of each of 8-10 different wines! 

2010 was an exceptional year in Bordeaux and the vintage was characterised as ‘classic’ and long-lived, i.e. high in tannin! So after almost 10 years of slow and gradual maturation in storage I decided it was time to try a bottle of Château De la Grave ‘Nectar’. Why this wine? It was the cheapest of my 2010s and 100% Merlot – so on both counts likely to mature quicker than the other, mostly Cabernet-based wines. 

Château de la Grave is in the Côtes de Bourg (Bourg-sur-Gironde to be precise), an appellation on the ‘right-bank’ of Bordeaux, around 25 kilometres north-west of the city. There are lots of relatively small independent growers, and I was fortunate to visit Château de la Grave in 2007 as part of a course to become an Approved Bordeaux Tutor. The magnificent castle dates back to the 17th century and now operates as a B&B with four spacious rooms.

So how about the wine? ‘Nectar’ is the Château’s top red wine and only made in the best vintages. It’s made from their oldest vines and aged 18 months in oak barrels. Here are my tasting notes:

  • Appearance: Very dense, deep garnet core with a tawny rim.
  • Nose: Intense aromas of black fruits, mocha, balsamic and earthy notes, obvious oak.
  • Palate: Big, rich, spicy black fruit, tannins still quite firm, medium/full bodied, quite a spirity/hot finish (alcohol 14%).
  • Conclusion: Can be drunk now but needs red meat to soak up the tannins; will develop for another 2-3 years and on its drinking plateau for 5-7 years.

When I bought this wine en-primeur from The Wine Society the cost including all taxes (excise duty and VAT) worked out at £10 a bottle. You can buy it now from Seckford Wines for £150 per case in bond which works out at £17.50 per bottle.    

If you’re ever in the Côtes de Bourg area and looking for a great place to stay as well as some lovely wines, now you know where to go!

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