As the weather has gotten cooler, I have slowly gravitated from rosé to red wine, and for the first time in years, I am drawn to the Bordeaux varietals and Bordeaux-style red blends. There is something about their boldness and their power that can warm the cockles of your heart. Chill, be gone!
What is Bordeaux-Style Red Blends?
I say Bordeaux-style because Bordeaux is a wine region in France known for growing specific grape varietals. Thus Bordeaux-style wines use the same varieties of those produced in Bordeaux.
A Bordeaux red blend usually combines two or more of these classic varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec. Typically, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc are the “main players” with the remaining three added in smaller amounts, if at all. I have never seen any Bordeaux-style red blends that have included all six varieties.
Why I like Bordeaux-Style Red Blends
In my wine youth, I drank primarily Argentinian Malbec or an occasional California Zinfandel. As I grew, I then found my way to California Pinot Noir and remained there for years, if not decades. And then I decided I needed greater variety in my wine choices. Gary was working at The Wine Shop and bringing home all kinds of wine to try, and my palate exploded. I kick myself for not being more adventurous as a young wine drinker.
As I began tasting the Bordeaux varietals, I found there were typical characteristics in single varietal bottles, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, that I was not initially enjoying. So, when I had the opportunity to taste “approachable” French Bordeaux, I jump at the chance. And I liked it, a lot! Not every bottle, of course, but that is true regardless of the wine. Over the years with a more open mind, I also found many New World single varietal Bordeaux wines that I also love.
So this began my foray into Bordeaux-style red blends from around the world. As the weather has cooled, it became time to start drinking these bigger and bolder wines that warm your insides with each and every sip.
What’s In My Glass
Below are three wines I want to share with you. Two of them are from our trip to Napa. And the third is a Croatian red blend that I purchased through an online wine shop.
Let’s get started…
Gamble Family Vineyards 2014 Paramount Red Wine, Napa Valley, California
This wine was part of a tasting at Gamble Family Vineyards last Spring. An in-depth post about this tasting experience is coming later this winter.
This blend is 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. These four varieties are all harvested, fermented and aged separately. The aging in French Oak barrels lasts for 20 months. It is after this period that the separate lots are tasted and Paramount is blended and bottled.
The color is a deep purple-black. The aromas are intense and concentrated and full of black fruits like stewed plums, blackberry jam, and dried bing cherry. There are secondary earthy notes that round out the nose.
The bold flavors and medium-plus acid are captured inside this medium bodied sip. There is a zing of alcohol on the palate along with black fruits, tobacco, and dark chocolate. The tannins are smooth and settled.
This is an excellent bottle of wine that is drinkable now but will age nicely for 10-15 years. I am not sure I am willing to wait that long, but we have another bottle that I may hide from myself.
Gamble Family Wines can be tasted at the Napa Valley winery by appointment only. Due to the limited production of their wines, they are available exclusively through our membership or by reaching out to our team. At 805 cases, Paramount is considered a “broad-release” wine and is also available through limited distribution to a small number of restaurants and select retail shops nationwide. You can reach Gamble Family Vineyards at 707-944-2999.
Josić 2013 Ciconia Nigra Cuvée (Red Blend), Croatian Danube Region, Croatia
I found this bottle on Topochines.com, an online wine retailer. I was drawn to them because of their selection of wines from Croatia. The shop also carries smaller offerings of wines from Italy, Spain, France, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the USA. In 2019 they are adding 8-9 wines from Portugal. The offerings are unique no matter the country of origin, so I’m sure I will be sampling many others as well.
But it was this wine that I most wanted to try. All of the others are from indigenous grapes to Croatia but this one is a blend of recognizable, international grape varieties and I thought that would be a good place to start. The few wines from indigenous grapes are waiting for me in the cooler.
This wine is more accurately an International Red Blend with 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Syrah, 30% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the use of Syrah that is not considered a Bordeaux varietal that makes this more of an international blend. Regardless of who’s blend it is, it is flipping delicious.
The color is deep purple. The wine is bone dry with medium-plus acid. The tannins are soft and lingering. The nose is an explosion of aromas. Never have I smelled so much in a wine before. Dried figs predominate followed by bing cherries. Next is the burn of alcohol and a bit of caramel. After a second swirl came sandalwood, sawdust and chocolate covered cherries. And finally, some cooked black fruits. This was such an exceptional smelling experience. I could have kept my nose in the glass for hours.
The flavors on the palate were a bit closed off but enjoyable all the same. Mostly was stewed black fruits like prunes and figs; followed by mild licorice and dark chocolate. The finish was lingering with the soft tannins reasserting themselves.
I am thrilled with this wine and am so glad I chose to make the purchase. I look forward to the wines from Croatia’s indigenous grapes later this winter.
This wine sells for $31.00 on Topochines.com.
UPDATE: The great folks at Topochine has offered a 10% discount to all Strong Coffee to Red Wine readers. That includes this wine or any other wine in their store. Go to www.topochines.com. Enter discount code- Wine10 – for a 10% discount on the Josić Ciconia Nigra Cuvee or any of our other wines.
Havens Winery 2014 Merlot Napa Valley California
This little gem was one that Gary found while tasting room hopping with David from Wine Travel Eats last spring while Amber and I attended the Wine Writer’s Conference. They planned to do a Tasting Room crawl around downtown Napa. Funny how they landed at this first tasting room and never crawled to the next. While there they tasted several from the Havens Winery lineup as well as Stonehedge Winery. Several bottles ended up in our suitcase. I was so pleased that Gary had such a great wine tasting experience.
This wine is 100% Merlot (one of the main Bordeaux varieties).
Side Note: I am so glad that Merlot is making a comeback. Winemakers got sloppy and were not producing their best wines in the late 1990s and 2000s. Then the movie Sideways came out in 2004 and believe it or not assisted in the crash of California Merlot production. But winemakers are making Merlot again, and the results have been stellar. I, for one, am pleased to see it return into favor.
The wine is inky black with a ruby rim. It’s big and juicy with mouthwatering acidity, and tannins that grip you at first sip then integrate well. The nose is full of dried figs, prunes, blackberry and a secondary note of eucalyptus.
The palate is not as expressive but you will find flavors of fresh plums, the earthy taste of fresh figs and a tad of licorice.
This wine may be purchased online for $45.00 a bottle as well as in the Havens Winery showroom, and the Stonehedge Tasting Room.
That is all for now.
Rick – what a great write up! I was thrilled to see the Josic wine that we sell included, but also learning about the Gamble and Havens wines.