One way of identifying the best Bordeaux wines is to rely on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. This classification was ordered by Napoléon III to identify which Bordeaux wines would be displayed at the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. Although arguably outdated since it was last changed in 1973 when Chateau Mouton Rothschild was promoted to first “growth” (the classification consists of 5 categories), one can still expect a very high quality wine when opening a Grand cru classé. Be prepared to pay a high price though, as some of the first growth can be worth more than a thousand pounds, certainly for wines from the best years.
I had the opportunity to try a fifth growth from 1988 last night: a Chateau Cantemerle. This wine was only recognised as a Grand cru classé in 1856 after the owner of the chateau had lobbied hard to have her wine be acknowledged as such. It’s the only wine that was ever added to the list and, if you ask me, this late addition was well deserved. It is one of the best wines which I have ever tried.
Region: Haut-Médoc, Grand cru classée (5th growth)
Wine: Chateau Cantemerle
Producer: Chateau Cantemerle
Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc
Appearance: pomegranate red with a brown rim
Nose: leather, viola, coffee, tomato, red berry, lavender, brimstone, black cherries, thyme and oregano
Taste: dry and gentle intro, leathery arome de bouche, sweetness in the middle with very round tannin, meaty structure; medium intense, but very long finish
Winose rating: ★★★★★