Uncorked: Bordeaux blend hitting its sweet spot

Nicolas Glumineau remembered when Chateau de Pez was famous for its wines.

When his parents were younger, it was one of the top chateaus in France’s Medoc. Today, they are in their 90s, and under Glumineau’s guidance as winemaker and general manager, the chateau on the Left Bank of Bordeaux’s Gironde River has reemerged with improved knowledge of its vineyards and additions to its cellar.

“Today, we have science,” said Glumineau in a Zoom interview. “We’ve replanted almost the whole vineyard and have invested in efficient tools. We are very conscious of our ability to improve, and we have all the cards in our hands.”

If this was poker, the cards Glumineau played were a straight flush. The Chateau de Pez Saint-Estephe 2016 ($55) was a powerful Bordeaux blend that elegantly mixed fruit flavors with silky tannins and a backbone of fresh acidity.

The best is yet to come for Chateau de Pez, as Glumineau raved about the 2020 vintage. After recent blending trials, he said the chateau has the chance to “run a fantastic trilogy of vintages – 2018, 2019 and 2020 are ones that we’ll talk about for a long time.”

“It has everything we look for,” said Glumineau about the 2020 vintage. “The balance between strength, elegance, the power and the suavity of the wine. In Bordeaux, it’s all about the blend. Ripe merlot adds the freshness to the wine. But climate change allows ripe cabernet sauvignon every year with refined tannins. There’s the strength of a very sharp tannic structure, but it’s not over-extracted. Rather, it’s obvious in your mouth but silky at the same time.”

For Glumineau, he accesses an extensive library of images when it comes to making wine. At a recent lunch, he had wine from the 1959 vintage. The lasting impression was a wine that “was complete and full of everything.”

“I like balanced wines with a silky tannic structure that is precise,” Glumineau said. “At the morning blending sessions, I always keep a few images in mind to convert them to wine. I like the image of an arrow that’s a straight shot. The arrow is the tannins, yet, all around it, there’s a cashmere scarf. That’s the merlot around an arrow of cabernet.”

Because chateaus in Bordeaux have a more extensive library than their counterparts in the New World, Glumineau can compare decades-old wines with more recent vintages. While he yearned for old vintages and their proportionality, warmer growing seasons have changed a winemaker’s approach.

But, the most important decision Glumineau said a winemaker has to make after harvest and bottling is when a wine can be accessed.

“The most important challenge a winemaker deals with is the opening of the tasting window,” Glumineau said. “Do you make a wine that can be enjoyed in five to 10 years or keep a wine for 30 to 50 years and have the pleasure of having it with your grandkids.”

For those who don’t have the cellar or patience to wait for the next generation to come of age, Chateau de Pez has offered a compromise. It’s a wine that can be thoroughly enjoyed immediately, but based on its acidity, it could be laid to rest for years before being opened.

As the vineyard’s average age approached 25 years old, its maturity – coupled with a vineyard map used to determine the chateau’s various soil plots to maximize root stocks and farming practices – has produced stellar results.

“Our vineyard’s average is 25 years old,” Glumineau said. “That’s a sweet spot, and we are pleased with the way they are producing. We are in a terrific period. Once again, we have great summers and autumns that allow us to ripen cabernet sauvignon perfectly.”


Affordable wine

Mary Taylor has had several careers.

Dishwasher for a caterer. Clerk at a cheese shop. She was a writer for a while and a retail buyer for wine auctions. But it was her experience writing for Sotheby’s Wine catalog that was transformative to her Mary Taylor Wine.

“There’s something about food and wine,” Taylor said. “It is a welcome space for misfits. When I got a job at Sotheby’s and wrote for their wine catalog, it was great but didn’t pay. Living in New York City on $20,000 a year, I’d go to the liquor store and get a bottle of something cheap. That was a big foundational moment.”

The hedge fund managers that frequented wine auctions invited her to blind tastings where her distinct palate stood out. She knew what she wanted – an authentic wine that tasted of its place.

So, she tapped into an artisan wine market in Bordeaux, where she would taste up to 100 wines in one day at a wine fair. Sellers were skeptical at first. But 13 years later, Taylor has built an extensive wine catalog with wines from France, Spain and Italy. All retail between $14 and $19. The Bordeaux Rouge ($14) is a rustic wine with dark fruit flavors and is a good introduction to a wine region where expensive prices can snuff out regular consumers.

“People are desperate to understand a little bit about wine in an affordable way,” Taylor said. “I think about selling a bottle of wine to my 24-year-old self with no money leaving Sotheby’s.”


Be mine

Here are some last-minute gift ideas for your valentine.

TableTopics Couples ($25): A cube of cards with unlimited questions that prompt funny, personal and sometimes risqué responses. While I wasn’t ready for what item of your significant other would you most like to throw away, paired with a bottle of wine, sausage and cheese, it made for an entertaining night of witty banter.

Chocolats du CaliBressan ($14.50-$92): A small business in need has closed its Santa Barbara location, yet Jean-Michel Carre still turns out decadently beautiful bonbons, truffles and chocolates from another location. The 24-piece box ($53) is ready as a gift for my valentine.

Riedel Performance Pinot Noir ($53): The wider base is a nice perk, but it’s the fuller bowl that enhances the seductive aromas of pinot.

Wine Enthusiast Stem Shine Glass Washing Liquid ($24.95): Use it to clean the newly gifted wine glasses. We’ve tried the generic brands and none have equaled the cleaning power with no residue or leftover flavor.

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.