The Côtes de Bordeaux may be the youngest AOC in Bordeaux but, with over 950 producers, it is one of the largest and most diverse in the region – offering great value on a wide range of enjoyable, unfussy wines. The Buyer’s drinks editor, Peter Dean, tastes a selection of wines from this union of appellations, that includes Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and Sainte-Foy and rates their potential in the UK on-trade.
Peter Dean tastes 10 wines from five different Bordeaux appellations from the 2015 to 2019 vintage.
Nestled up against some of the more famous appellations in Bordeaux, the Côtes de Bordeaux is a union of five appellations on the Right Bank that is known for making fruit-forward red wines, crisp refreshing whites and delicious sweet wines. What they all share is good value and an unfussy, crowd-pleasing approach to winemaking.
Created as recently as 2009, the Côtes de Bordeaux includes wines made from the five separate appellations of Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and (most recently) Sainte-Foy as well the general Côtes de Bordeaux brand that allows winemakers to blend wines from different terroirs.
All of the appellations lie on the Right Bank of Bordeaux along the Dordogne and Garonne rivers and their 950 wine producers account for half a million hectolitres of wine every year – that’s one in 10 of every bottle made in Bordeaux, making Côtes de Bordeaux the fourth largest red AOC in the whole of France.
These wine estates tend to be family-run, small properties that average around 10 hectares each. What this means is that as the younger generation takes over, they are bringing with them an enthusiasm and an attitude that sits well with contemporary tastes – and with an increasing amount of certified sustainable viticulture.
That’s not to say these wine producers are new, far from it, the Côtes de Bordeaux has some of the oldest viticultural terroir in Bordeaux, with many châteaux dating back to the 12th century and earlier. There are Roman remains to be found around the city of Blaye, along with an UNESCO World Heritage citadel overlooking the Gironde estuary. Cadillac and Francs are full of historic châteaux and ancient churches that date back to the Middle Ages.
As for the style of the wines, like Bordeaux as a whole, the Côtes is largely a red wine-producing area with 97% of the wines produced here being red with Merlot the dominant grape, which can be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The whites tend to be Sauvignon Blanc blended with Sémillon and Muscadelle. Generally speaking, the red wines being made predominantly with Merlot allows them to be more approachable at an earlier stage than if Cabernet Sauvignon was the dominant grape.
The wines we have selected range in age from the 2015 vintage through to the 2019 vintage; but one of the beauties of the blending model favoured by Bordeaux appellations is that as vintages vary so a consistent style and level of quality can be achieved by varying the components of the blend and the winemaking process.
BLAYE CÔTES DE BORDEAUX
Chateau des Tourtes, Cuvée classique, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, 2016
From its aromas of raspberry and blackcurrant through to its rounded, juicy mouthfeel this is a classy, well-made Blaye red with summer pudding flavours and a lick of cream. A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon that is unoaked and aged in steel, allowing the fresh fruit flavours to dominate. 13.5% abv
Buy from Jeromes Wine Bar
CADILLAC CÔTES DE BORDEAUX
Château du Cros, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, 2016
Elegant nose of red cherries and plums with fresh flowers a hint of spice. The palate is rich and with a good deal of concentration but nicely balanced by the smooth tannins and acidity that comes from the largely limestone soils on the property. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% abv
Buy from Fareham Wine Cellar
Château Saint Nicolas, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, 2015
Dry, medium-full bodied Cadillac blend of 60% Merlot, and 20% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vinified in steel with staves. You find blackcurrant, vanilla and smoky notes; the palate is structured with fruits of the forest flavours, mocha and vanilla. 14% abv.
Buy from Made in Little France
CASTILLON CÔTES DE BORDEAUX
Clos Vieux Rochers, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, 2016
From the top 2016 vintage this attractive Castillon has fruits of the forest on the nose with vanilla and nutshell coming through from the 18 months ageing in two-year-old French oak barrels, with a touch of mint and bell pepper. On the palate the wine is delightfully light on its feet, clean, precise and detailed with red and black fruits, a wash of citrus and fine-grained ripe tannins that will suit drinking with food. A blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. 13% abv
Buy from Clos Vieux Rochers direct
CÔTES DE BORDEAUX
Château La Cheze, Côtes de Bordeaux, 2017
An elegant nose with mulberry and wild mint; the medium weight mouthfeel has real purity and elegance. A small percentage of barrel ageing gives this wine texture to allow for more cellar ageing, although it’s an excellent choice for food-pairing as it is. A blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. 14% abv
Buy from Wadebridge Wines
Château Haut Peyrat, Côtes de Bordeaux, 2017
A complex bouquet of black fruits with toasty notes and spice – cardamon, black pepper and liquorice – entice you in; the medium-to-full-weight palate is juicy, fresh and pure with bags of blackberry, blackcurrant and cherries, with ripe, dense tannins. Oak ageing makes this excellent drinking now or for keeping for the long haul. A blend of 70% Merlot, and 15% apiece of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% abv.
Buy from Red Fox Wines
Château La Peyruche L’enclos, Côtes de Bordeaux, 2017
Such an elegant expression of Bordeaux. Pure, clean, fruity 100% Merlot with a bouquet that boasts red berry fruit (strawberries, raspberries), red cherries with a touch of cinnamon spice. The palate is delightfully smooth, supple and rounded, ripe, integrated tannins and a long, dry finish, all helped along by the steel ageing that allows the fresh fruit to sing. 13.5% abv
Buy from Absolute Organic Wine
SAINTE-FOY – CÔTES DE BORDEAUX
Château de Claribès, “Marpeau”, Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux, 2017
What no Merlot?! From the intense, ripe cassis nose of this fascinating blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% each of Cabernet Franc and Carménère, you know that something different is going on here. The palate is structured, well balanced with ripe dense tannins and bags of juicy black berry fruit. 14% abv
Buy from Château de Claribès direct
Château Pré la Lande Cuvée TerraCotta, Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux, 2016
Ageing in a mix of Italian amphorae and French barrels gives this biodynamic, modern claret a twist and a good deal of complexity both on the nose and the palate where it has a fine-grained texture that makes it superb for food pairing. A rich blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc you pick up red and black fruits, and an intense, dry Morello cherry finish that balances it perfectly. 13.5% abv.
Buy from Majestic
Château Carbonneau, Cuvée Classique, Sainte-Foy – Côtes de Bordeaux, 2019
Restored to its original splendour in 1996 this reliable estate consistently produces value-driven everyday wines like this hugely enjoyable blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. You find bramble fruit, candied fruit with a dusting of cocoa. Nice register on the palate which will make it a winner with food, light on its feet too – you don’t feel the 14.5% abv alcohol.
Buy from The General Wine Company