By Christopher Matthews
Mention Bordeaux to someone, and chances are that Blaye does not come to mind. Perhaps it will in the future, as this large district within the greater Bordeaux wine region, a.k.a. Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, is a source of good value wines.
A case in point: the 2015 Chateau La Croix St. Pierre.
Blaye might be obscure to Americans, but it has been under vine since Roman times, centuries before its more famous neighbor across the Gironde estuary, the Medoc, even had vineyards. And with good reason: with its heterogeneous soils, including hills (“côtes”) of limestone and clay, Blaye is well suited for viticulture, and especially for Merlot, the dominant grape of the appellation. Cabernet Sauvignon plays the major supporting role, but unlike most other Bordeaux districts, the little-used Malbec is a significant character actor, owing it its affinity for limestone and clay soils as well, and adding deep color and spice to the Blaye blends.
I came across Chateau La Croix St. Pierre recently in Sipperley’s in Red Hook Village, one of the shops I frequent upstate. The owners’ son, Kevin, who is involved in the shop’s selection, pointed it out to me (in the 2014 vintage), knowing my penchant for good value Bordeaux. At $13.00, it was a no-risk proposition! Elegant, silky and highly drinkable, with some nice grip, I went back for more, but it had already moved to the 2015 vintage. Given the price — and that 2015 was an excellent vintage in Bordeaux — I ponied up again. I was not disappointed.
Formerly Côtes de Blaye, St. Pierre’s appellation has been part of the Côtes de Bordeaux designation since 2009. The “côtes” basically surround the Bordeaux wine-making region — the limestone slopes being the common factor — and they can be further identified by their local district, e.g. Blaye, Francs, Castillon and Cadillac.
The 2015 St. Pierre reflects a stellar vintage and textbook Blaye excellence. It is a blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec (classic!) from the 79-acre property, comprised largely clay and limestone vineyards. The nose, with its floral and mineral hints and dark plum and berry notes, shouts “Bordeaux”. On the palate, it has nice, medium body, bright acidity, dark berry fruit and smooth, silky tannins, on a clean, slightly mineral finish. Elegant and highly drinkable, with some complexity, adding flavor interest. Quite a package at $13.00, and a versatile food companion, too; it paired beautifully with roasted chicken with sweet potato and Poblano hash.
This is a case-buy.