If you travel to any of the right-bank properties featured in this sampler, hoping to see grand estates or castles, you will be disappointed. “Château” features in the names of most Bordelais domaines, but, except for a few properties, it is meaningless, the vestige of a historical naming system. The more agrarian, less aristocratic “domaine” would be more helpful in understanding the work and lifestyles of the vignerons at Gombaude-Guillot, Bellevue, and Moulin Pey-Labrie, who for years have been on the vanguard of progressive, organic agriculture, which is still uncommon in this renowned region. Their buildings are modest, and the families who work in and outside of them are focused, above all else, on agriculture and making Merlot-based reds that speak to their specific terroirs. This sampler features one older and one newer vintage from each of the three families behind these domaines, and the three different appellations they represent. Although all lie within a mere twenty-mile radius, each bottling diverges from the next. They range from Gombaude-Guillot’s classic, mineral, and generous Pomerol, with notes of black currant, truffle, and cocoa, to Château de Bellevue’s chiseled, restrained, age-worthy Lussac Saint-Emilion, which evokes bright, red berries and might be the value of the decade. Even the two Canon Fronsacs from markedly different plots owned by the Hubau family are entirely distinct from each other—the 2015 giving a lithe, juicy rouge and the 2010 a dense, savory wine, a meal unto itself! With this sampler, you will realize that vibrant, terroir-driven wines from small family domaines are just as essential—if not more—to Bordeaux’s identity as those imposing, picture-book châteaux.
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