Every morning I bring two of my three children to school and after nearly three weeks, the routine is well and truly back. The porridge is back, the singing son and the cranky daughter at the 7am call is back, as well as the baby who’s mood you can never really gauge, at any time of the day. Red Nose Wine is finally getting into a routine in its new home at The Regal Centre.
The parents at the school gate are in their routine and the summer is well and truly gone and don’t we all know it. The coats came out this week and while we had a wonderful summer, it’s a long road to the springtime. All very sobering thoughts, and sobering thoughts are not my business. I should also state that drunken thoughts are also not my business. Moderation and happy people enjoying each other’s company is my business.
Reading back over that last line, if you take out the moderation part, my business might be interpreted as some form of an escort service. We sell wine and aspirational happiness only. Anyway, half way through the 3rd paragraph and I need to mention wine. So why not mention a good one. Let me introduce you to my favourite region in Bordeaux – St. Julien.
For the purposes of this article we will pretend that we don’t have a little recession and that €10 Pinot Grigio is not the most popular wine in Red Nose Wine and in Ireland. My first wine was Bordeaux; a basic Saint Emilion served at a Chinese restaurant sometime in the 1970s.
That’s a lie. I was born in 1974 ( yes, that means I am 40 next year – insert mid life crisis here ). My first wine was probably around 1991 or 1992 – I more or less kept my pledge. When a bishop makes a 12-year promise something it, it kind of sticks, or at least it used to. I hope the youth appreciate good Old Catholic guilt.
Anyway, for a long time this was my benchmark for wine - A heavily dominated Merlot blend made in large quantities but not particularly exciting. As a previous incarnation of employment dragged me around the world on expenses I tasted more and more wines, all of which demeaned that original bulk style Saint Emilion.
Then, I moved to Paris and got in with bad company. The type of company that doesn’t order the house wine and that looks at vintages and smells the cork. You know the type - we all know the type. Anyway, I was bluffing my way through a conversation about wine in an Irish bar and was left in no doubt by a Frenchman that Saint Julien was the very best Bordeaux had to offer.
For those of you who know your Bordeaux from your claret, this is a bold statement. Many would argue that the very best of Bordeaux comes from Pauillac or maybe Margaux. After all, this is where the superstars of the 1er Cru Grand Cru Classe wines from the 1855 classification come from. But what is little known is that the majority of the 2nd Cru wines come from St Julien.
So having received this nugget of information I decided to buy a bottle and went up to a suitably contrary Parisian wine merchant and asked him in my best French to astound me with a bottle of St Julien. He produced a bottle of Château Léoville-Las Cases 1990.I noted the price and felt my legs go from under me but held tight and casually asked for a more suitable wine. Those wine merchants – you really have to set the price before you ask for the dream. All dreams are equal, but some cost a lot more. He brought out another ‘normal’ bottle from a good year and I brought it home and out it came for Sunday lunch. I was suitably astounded and have been a fan since.
As we have previously discussed, Bordeaux is split between the left and right bank, and roughly speaking the left bank ( the Medoc ) is Cabernet Sauvignon dominated while the right ( St Emilion and Pomerol ) is Merlot dominated. The left often needs more time to mature while the Merlot tends to open up a little earlier.
St Julien wines proximity to the Gironde River provides exceptional drainage for the soil. The wines of Saint-Julien are beautifully balanced, with a great richness, depth of color, and elegance. The vineyards consist of extremely fine gravel, especially for the great vineyards adjacent to the river. All good news for making great wine.
The region has great links to Tipperary – one of the original wine geese had links to the three great chateau in St Julien – the Léoville estates of Las Cases, Poyferre and Barton . Originally they were all the one estate and the original Barton, Thomas came from Galway. His grandson Hugh spent some time in Grove House in Fethard before taking over the French estate. William Barton, his successor actually founded the Tipperary Foxhounds in 1821. The current owner, Anthony Barton was born in Straffon House in Kildare, now more commonly known as the K Club. He is now one of the most respected owners in Bordeaux as he keeps his prices fairly low in comparison to his neighbours. The estates are also still in the same family which is becoming more rare in modern Bordeaux. How long it will remain in ‘Irish’ hands is anybody’s guess. In the meantime we can dream within touching distance of our means, perhaps.