A quick recap on some Bordeaux basics – two banks of the Gironde, the predominantly clay and limestone right bank favouring Merlot, and the left’s gravel for Cabernet Sauvignon. Variability of climate leads to variability of vintage (this year a wet June led to mildew that reduced volumes by 10-30% but fruit quality was good). And a bit of historical context. As Waddesdon’s Georgie and Sarah explained, Mayer Anschel Rothschild started it all in the mid 18th century in the Frankfurt ghetto trading coins and bonds. His five sons (symbolised by the five arrows you see on Rothschild branding) spread across Europe as bankers and began acquiring vineyards. Today, family members are still at the helm; quality and investment continues to be the guiding principle.
On to the tasting. First, four Médocs.
Designed to be approachable, our opener was the Domaines Barons de Rothschild Légende, Pauillac, 2017
– £39.99. Its alluring blackberry nose and sweet spicy top notes lead on to a medium-bodied palate with soft but present tannins and mouthwatering acidity – although I’ve gone mostly plant-based I found myself thinking about a grilled, well-marbled steak.
Next, Moulin de Duhart, Pauillac Domaines Barons de Rothschild, 2018
– £44.99. Flipping the norm for Pauillac, this is predominantly Merlot (60%). More intense on the nose, super ripe, lush and velvety – certainly black fruits – even a hint of strawberry? – also cedar. Total pleasure in a glass – if it were in the kitchen while I was cooking I’m afraid the bottle would be significantly depleted before it reached the table.
Now the Château Malmaison, Baronne Nadine de Rothschild, Moulis-en-Medoc, 2015
– £31.00. Grapes have been cultivated continuously here since the Middle Ages. Tertiary characteristics are already evident here as one would expect for a six-year-old wine. Compared with the previous offering, this is all restrained fruit (80% Merlot) – crunchy cranberry and sour cherry. Plenty of acidic and tannic structure so another ten years of life in this bottle (to 2030 recommended). Again, crying out for something fatty and grilled or fried. Perhaps halloumi. With roast autumn squash.
Our final Medoc wine, Château Clarke, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Listrac-Medoc 2014
– £37.00. Georgie described this as ‘a grown-up wine’ and I have to agree. 70% Merlot. So lively and juicy, wonderful red and black fruit, green pepper, graphite, savoury notes, hints of leather. Just lovely. Discipline would be needed to keep this in the cellar, though one could.
To finish, we crossed the Gironde to St.Émilion and Château des Laurets Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Puisseguin St.Émilion, 2016
– £59.95. 100% Merlot from, on average, 70-year-old vines (and couldn’t you taste the concentration that old vines are said to give!) with 100% new oak barrels too. Deep, ripe black fruit, menthol, marmite, cedar, coffee, sweet pipe tobacco, that hint of bonfire that lingers on your clothes. Well-balanced acidity and softening tannins. I was fancying venison with blackberry sauce for this one. Drinking now, it would improve for another 15+years.