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Top Undiscovered Wines of Croatia

25 May 2018

A flute of Tomac Brut overlooking Dubrovnik

What a difference two decades can make. The first time I visited Croatia, I found drinkable but boring wines. The years of socialism — when quantity was emphasized over quality — had taken their toll. The violent break-up of Yugoslavia also delayed progress. Italy-bordering Slovenia emerged first, and wines from that gorgeous little country became fashionable years ago. But the name “Croatia” still lacks caché, even today. I suspect that’s going to change, and soon.

On my recent driving tour from Šibenik down to Dubrovnik along the Adriatic coast, I discovered dozens of delicious wines, and a handful that absolutely dazzled. It makes perfect sense that Croatia can achieve vinous greatness. Look at a map of the country, and you’ll see that its coast has an ideal southwest aspect, and a latitude that’s well-nigh perfect, ranging between Bordeaux and Tuscany. Look closer at the coast, and you’ll find steep, ancient terraces that must be worked by hand, where vines grow in the sort of stony soil high-quality wines love. The terroir is hard to beat.

Plus, my heavens, it’s gorgeous to look at. My jaw kept dropping to the floor of my tiny rental car as I drove along sensationally scenic narrow roads lined with weathered limestone mountains, hill towns, olive groves and sea-side vineyards. How many times did I almost drive right off a cliff while gaping at the view?

Some Croatian wineries work with international grape varieties like Syrah and Chardonnay and so forth, but most work with the country’s numerous unique indigenous varieties. Like Portugal, Greece, Georgia and Turkey, Croatia grows all sorts of wonderful vinifera grapes that grow nowhere else. Although one Croatian grape, at least, does indeed grow elsewhere: Crljenak. You might know it by its more familiar name, Zinfandel.

Krajančić Rosé

In spite of these unique grapes grown in gorgeously ideal terroirs, few Croatian wines make it to American store shelves or wine lists, and few American tourists book wine-themed tours to Croatia the way they do to Napa, Bordeaux, Mendoza, Tuscany and the Douro Valley. Why?

Croatia has a number of problems. First and foremost, Croatia’s language has a distinct lack of vowels and an overabundance of unusual diacritical marks. What are you more likely to pick from a wine list? A Rebula from Slovenia, or a Grk from Croatia? Or perhaps I could interest you in a Krajančić Pošip from the island of Korčula? A little refreshing Kujundžuša, perhaps? No. No one is ordering any of that. Mostly because no one can pronounce any of that.

(It’s easier than it seems — if you see a diacritical mark on a consonant, just add an “h” to it: š becomes sh, ć or č becomes ch, and ž becomes like the s in pleasure.)

Next is the issue of quantity that I mentioned earlier. There simply isn’t all that much Croatian wine to go around, and much of what is produced is consumed locally. Those astonishingly beautiful terraced vineyards plunging towards the sea can’t be worked with machinery; everything must be done by hand. The inhospitably stony soil on the coast makes life difficult for the vines, resulting in less, more-concentrated fruit. And Croatia, as countries go, just isn’t very large.

More and more American tourists do go to Croatia, but for ages, all the ads, guidebooks and travel magazines marketing the country have trumpeted its scenic beauty — archipelagoes filled with pristine beaches! — and the historical riches of cities like Split and Dubrovnik. When Americans go, it’s likely as a shore excursion off a cruise ship or, if they’re lucky, they’ve chartered a yacht for a week to sail down the coast. Few travelers, my friends at Exotic Wine Travel excepted, go for the wine.

Every now and then it pays to be a wine blogger.

Also, many Americans don’t seem to know where Croatia actually is. When I told people I was headed there, I got all sorts of interesting questions about its location. One of my acquaintances asked if it was once part of the Soviet Union, and another asked if it would be cold, because isn’t it near Ukraine? It is neither of those things. Coastal Croatia feels far more like Greece than it does Central or Eastern Europe.

I’ll be writing more about a few particular kinds of Croatian wines that delighted me time and time again, but in the meantime, here are a few of the all-around stars I discovered on my trip down the Dalmatian Coast:

NV Degarra Vinarija “Perla”

Kristina, the sommelier of Diocletian’s Wine House in Split, introduced me to this sparkling rosé of Plavina. It was just the beginning of a three-hour tasting extravaganza she organized. The wines ranged from delicious to unforgettable, and the setting was just as memorable: The wine bar incorporates three ancient Roman arches. If you’re in Split, don’t miss the chance to taste wine at Diocletian’s Wine House. But to the Degarra. This wine comes from near Zadar on the coast, as opposed to the inland Plešivica region, Croatia’s sparkling wine capital. I loved its aroma of fresh berries, elegantly small bubbles, sharply focused acids and minerally finish.

Tasting wine at Diocletian’s Wine House (sommelier Kristina at right)

2016 Bire Grk

The rare white Grk grape grows almost exclusively in one corner of the picturesque island of Korčula, one of the loveliest islands in all of Europe. I learned that Grk has only female flowers, so growers of the variety often plant Plavac Mali as well, to ensure that the Grk gets pollinated. Bire receives lots of praise for its Grk, and I can see why. When I took a sip, the wine felt as if it should be heavy in the mouth, what with its rich white fruit and creamy, buttery goodness. But any weightiness evaporated almost immediately — the wine felt like a cloud on my tongue. Quiet acids kept everything in balance and worked well with food, and I also enjoyed the note of bitter orange in the back of my throat at the end. Fascinating!

2016 Rak Maraština

Maraština, also known as Rukatac, doesn’t seem to rank among the most sought-after white grapes in Croatia, but Rak makes a superlative version. Winemaker Ante Rak explained that the highest-quality Maraština comes from around Šibenik and Primošten, because “the land is deeper here, and Maraština works best in deep land.” It had a complex aroma, with melon, cream, spice and something savory underneath. The wine tasted full bodied and rich with stone fruit, balanced by refined, driving acids and focused white-pepper spice.

Winemaker Ante Rak

2012 Rak Babić Barrique

“Babić can be a standard wine or something very special,” Ante told me, and this Babić, aged three years in new oak, is something very special indeed. It smelled wonderfully expensive, with lush raspberry jam and oak notes. “Girl, bring it to me!” was what I wrote in my notebook after giving the wine a sniff. The rich flavor was full of currants and oak, leavened with bright sour-cherry acids and a finish of fine-grained tannins. This is the kind of wine I expect to have in a high-end steakhouse. Big and beautiful.

2015 Rizman Tribidrag

Tribidrag is the original name of Crljenak, or Zinfandel. I tried a number of Zinfandels in Croatia, many of which had jammy fruit and punchy oak, similar to what one might find in Zinfandel from California. The Rizman Tribidrag, however, “is more of a gentleman of a wine,” as Kristina of Diocletian’s Wine House noted. The aroma was of ripe — but not jammy — cherry fruit, with a lift of herbaceous freshness underneath. The wine tasted full and powerful but carefully controlled, as opposed to brash and bold. This was one classy Zin.

Those familiar with Croatian wine might be wondering about two glaring omissions from the list above: Pošip and Plavac Mali. I did taste some stupendous versions of each. Indeed, I tasted so many wonderful Pošips and Plavac Malis, I decided that each grape deserved its own blog post. Stay tuned to learn about two of the most exciting wine grapes in Croatia, or for that matter, anywhere in the world.

Is Older Better? Top Bordeaux From The 80s

15 April 2018

Like a fine wine, I get better with age.” This cliché appears on countless birthday cards and sparkly t-shirts in the more commercial winery tasting rooms. It’s a nice turn of phrase, but it’s a lie. At least for wine — even the very best, even the stoutest of Madeiras — there inevitably comes a period when it peaks, followed by decline.

I wrote about this at least once before, but it’s a fact easily forgotten, even by me. I still have two of those bottles of 1975 Inglenook Charbono that I wrote about in that post five years ago. What on earth am I waiting for? They’re not getting any better! Like most wines, that Charbono was surely meant to be consumed on release, or shortly thereafter.

Certain wines, however, do benefit from a few years in the cellar. Great Bordeaux, for example, can improve for some time, especially if stored in optimal conditions. The tannins integrate better, and additional aromas and flavors reveal themselves. And so I felt absolutely thrilled when Liz Barrett, my cohost on Name That Wine, called me up and alerted me that her friend had four bottles from tip-top Bordeaux producers, ranging in age from 30-34 years, and had finally decided to open them up.

Would we like to shoot an episode of Name That Wine around them? Hell yes we would! It’s a blind tasting show, but screw it — how often do we have the chance to try a Mouton Rothschild, young or old?

These four bottles — a 1984 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, a 1985 Château Beychevelle, a 1986 Château Pavie and a 1988 Château Mouton Rothschild — had spent some of their time in good basement conditions, but many of their years at room temperature as well. A couple of them bore their original price tags. Wow, you could get good deals on great Bordeaux in the 1980s!

Some of the bottles, alas, did not make it. Flavors and aromas in these ranged from “funk” to “fecal.” Some of them did, however, and wow. Which bottles made it and which tasted like stinky French socks?

This was a tasting I won’t soon forget.

If you liked that video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel! Recent episodes include a gefilte fish pairing, French versus Argentine Malbec, and an Irish Cream taste test.

Malagousia And Other Greek Wine (Re)Discoveries

1 April 2018

At a recent tasting of Greek wines, I had expected the bottlings from Santorini to be some of the biggest stars. I’ve long loved the sunny whites from this volcanic Aegean Island, where most vines are trained into unusual basket shapes to protect them from the wind. Accompanied by Liz Barrett, who cohosts Name That Wine with me, I made a beeline for the Santorini table.

Indeed, I quite liked some of the Santorini wines — I’m always up for a good Assyrtiko, which often has ripe fruit, brightly lemony acids and a minerally finish. But the biggest surprise came at a table on the opposite side of the room, where winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou was pouring.

Gerovassiliou’s winery stands near the coast south of Thessaloniki, in the north of mainland Greece. My World Atlas of Wine considers this general region to be “red wine country,” but Gerovassiliou is famous for rescuing what is now one of Greece’s best-known white grape varieties: Malagousia. As he poured us tastes of his 2016 Single-Vineyard Malagousia, he told us how in the 1970s, he had been working with a University of Thessaloniki ampelographer, Professor Vassilis Logothetis. Logothetis found some Malagousia vines, planted them in his experimental vineyard and showed them to Gerovassiliou, who was working at a nearby winery as an oenologist.

Evangelos Gerovassiliou

Gerovassiliou recognized the vines’ potential, and his success with the nearly extinct grape drew the attention of other winemakers. Now numerous wineries in Greece work with Malagousia, which “yields full-bodied, perfumed wines in many Greek regions,” according to The Oxford Companion to Wine. Gerovassiliou’s Malagousia certainly fit that description, with notes of ripe stone fruit, honey, orange flower and mango in the aroma. Yet it tasted spicy, clean and fresh, enhanced by zesty acids. A delight.

But Gerovassiliou is no one-trick pony. Each of the wines he poured us proved delicious:

2016 Gerovassiliou Fumé Sauvignon Blanc: Some New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs slap you in the face with grass and grapefruit. Those notes were in this wine too, but it had a lighter, subtler touch. Well-integrated and well-balanced. Retsina this is not! ~$30

2016 Gerovassiliou Viognier: Viogniers can sometimes feel ponderous, but this version had a bright, almost soapy aroma with a hint of cream, and a mouthfeel that seemed almost ethereal. A hint of butter kept the exotic fruit flavors and light spice grounded. ~$21

2015 Gerovassiliou Chardonnay: I loved the aroma of fresh butter and light wood. The fruit felt rich and lush but not heavy, lifted up by focused acids and spice. And whenever there’s a note of buttered popcorn in a Chardonnay, as in this one, I end up thoroughly seduced. ~$32

2015 Gerovassiliou Estate Red: This blend of 70% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 15% Limnio smelled of currants and vanilla. Rich, ripe fruit was blasted aside by an explosion of spice, followed by some cleansing (and not unpleasant) bitterness on the finish. Bracing and lively. ~$20

2013 Gerovassiliou “Avaton”: Here’s a blend I suspect you haven’t tried before: 50% Limnio, 25% Mavrotragano and 20% Mavroudi. Limnio, Gerovassiliou told us, is the oldest documented Greek grape variety, mentioned by Aristophanes in the 5th century B.C. Mavrotragano is an “increasingly appreciated” red grape indigenous to Santorini, according to an unusually brief description in the Oxford Companion to Wine. The book is even more laconic about Mavroudi: “generic name for several Greek grape varieties,” is the entirety of the entry. (You can read more about Mavrotragano here and Maroudi here.) I wrote in my notes that this blend “smells expensive,” with rich red fruit and some oak. Full of sumptuously ripe fruit, the wine was so graceful and delicate, it felt as if it hovered just above my palate, like some sort of wine ghost (quite surprising, considering the 14% alcohol content). I rather loved it. ~$40

2013 Gerovassiliou “Evangelo”: A Rhône-style blend of 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier, this dark beauty had a dusky, plummy aroma with notes of raisins and chocolate. I tasted it, and wow. It felt lithe and elegant, moving with slow power from prune-like fruit to focused spice to fine-grained tannins. Absolutely gorgeous. ~$65

2012 Gerovassiliou Late-Harvest Malagousia: Gerovassiliou makes this wine only in vintages when the conditions are right. I really loved it. It smelled enticingly of peach crumble and honeysuckle, and though it had sweet honey notes, the wine was quite light on its feet, leavened by green peppercorn spice, cardamom and lively acids. What a joy. ~$30

Too often in wine shops, Greek wines are shunted off in a corner along with various Eastern European oddities (and many of those deserve better as well). Yet Greece’s winemaking traditions go back thousands of years, and contemporary winemakers are making world-class wines that any sommelier should be proud to pour. Ask your wineshop for a recommendation. And if you happen to find a bottle by Ktima Gerovassiliou, don’t hesitate to snap it up. Anything by that winery is sure to be a pleasure.

Return To The Rhône #Winophiles

17 March 2018

Photo copyright M. Chapoutier

The Rhône Valley in southern France contains some of the world’s greatest and most beautiful wine appellations. And it’s a region I’ve managed to almost completely ignore for a good 15 years. Rhône shmône.

The problem is that I encountered the Rhône too early in my wine-drinking days. When I was about 21, my parents and I toured Provence — still one of my favorite vacations — and we visited the stone-built town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. After climbing the hill to the ruined papal castle at the top, we descended into one of the town’s cellars for a tasting. There, I did not drink one of the wines that changed my life. This isn’t one of those stories in which I taste a wine and it opened my eyes to flavor and the joy of living. The wines didn’t dazzle me. But what did I know? I was barely an adult. They were, however, delicious enough to warrant my father buying a bottle or two to bring home.

In my mid-20s, I regularly bought wine from the Côtes du Rhône AOC, the catch-all appellation for wines from the entire region, because they were popular but not too expensive. Eventually, I realized I didn’t care for the earthy note in the light-bodied reds I’d been purchasing.

That was that, until I revisited Provence with a colleague in 2004. Our itinerary didn’t allow for a single winery visit, alas, and when we sped past the turn-offs to Hermitage and Condrieu — by then the names actually meant something to me — I cried a little bit. Well, on the inside.

Unfortunately, I can’t afford Hermitage (perhaps the world’s best Syrah) or Condrieu (the world’s best Viognier) here at home. I can afford some Châteauneuf-du-Papes, when they’re on sale, but they have those fusty coats of arms on the bottles. And so the old Rhône lost its luster, and I turned my attention to shinier somm darlings like Jura. I’m not impervious to fashion.

After recently tasting some Rhônes by M. Chapoutier, I feel rather foolish for having ignored a giant swath of the world’s loveliest wines for so long. Chapoutier really came into its own in the 1990s, when Michel Chapoutier took over the merchant-grower company. In many vineyards he implemented organic and even biodynamic viticulture, which is sort of like organic viticulture combined with astrology and magic potions. In both cases, the goal is to increase the health of the vines by fostering a thriving ecosystem of bacteria and other beneficial organisms in the soil. Some studies show that biodynamic agriculture is more successful than organic, but it’s unclear exactly why.

Whether you believe in biodynamics or not, the jump in the quality of the Chapoutier’s wine since Michel took the reins is undeniable. When I see the Chapoutier name on a bottle, I know there’s a very good chance I’m going to really enjoy the wine. Many others must agree — Chapoutier has long since expanded out of its Tain-l’Hermitage base, with vineyards in the Alsace, Australia and Portugal, among other regions.

As a member of the #Winophiles wine-writing group, I received free samples of three Chapoutier wines from the Rhône. I took them to one of my favorite BYOB restaurants in Chicago, HB Home Bistro, and invited one of my zestiest wine-loving friends, Rebecca.

2016 M. Chapoutier “La Ciboise” Luberon Blanc

In Rhône Valley’s southeast, the Luberon ranks among my favorite parts of France, with its stupendously scenic combination of vineyards, lavender fields, olive groves and hill towns. Unfortunately, this organic wine ranked as my least-favorite of the three wine samples. I liked its clean, melony aroma, marked by a “minty-flinty” note, as Rebecca remarked, but its loosey-goosey fruit didn’t integrate well with the taut, grapefruity acids or the savory notes. I liked it better with food — it rounded out more with some mussels — but I can’t unreservedly recommend this wine, even with its relatively modest $16 price tag.

2015 M. Chapoutier “La Bernardine” Châteauneuf-du-Pape

I have no such reservations about this Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which I absolutely adored. It had an immensely appealing aroma of cranberry and herbs like bay leaf and thyme, and a very satisfying texture in the mouth. It felt ripe and a bit chewy, but focused, zesty acids and white-pepper spice kept the wine admirably balanced, as did an herbaceous lift at the end. “Complex and gorgeous,” I wrote in my notebook. When Rebecca tasted it, she exclaimed, “Talk about a punch of fruit and spice!”

Chapoutier does something rather different with this wine, in that it’s 90% Grenache (the “Châteauneuf-du-Pape grape par excellence,” according to The Oxford Companion to Wine) and 10% Syrah, which “has been planted by producers who admire its tannins and structure, although, unlike Grenache and Mourvèdre, it needs care to avoid overripeness and is falling from favor in some quarters,” the Companion goes on to say. The use of Syrah is unusual, but even more so is the wine’s lack of other grapes. Most Châteauneuf-du-Papes are blends, which can be composed of up to 18 different grape varieties, though very few wines use them all.

According to the information sheet from Terlato that I received with the wine, “minimizing grape varieties allows for true expression of the terroir, which appeals to consumers for the authenticity and sense of place.” The wine no doubt expresses its terroir, but it strikes me that “authentic” Châteauneuf-du-Papes have more traditional blends. Authenticity, however, is overrated, and this wine is sheer delight, both with and without food. I particularly loved it with some bacon-wrapped dates. It’s expensive at about $60, but you’re getting what you pay for.

2015 M. Chapoutier “Les Meysonniers” Crozes-Hermitage

Tiny Hermitage produces some of the world’s greatest wines, with impressive price tags to match. Mere mortals should opt instead for a Crozes-Hermitage, a wine from the vineyards surrounding the more august Hermitage appellation. Both appellations focus mostly on Syrah. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “The best reds are softer and fruitier than Hermitage because the soils are richer (and because it’s more difficult to justify barrel aging at Crozes prices), but they tend to share more of Hermitage’s solidity than St-Joseph,” an appellation on the opposite riverbank.

This 100% Syrah is made with biodynamically farmed grapes, and the technique seems to have paid off. I loved the aroma of ripe plum, blueberry jam and leather, as well as the big, beautiful flavor. The wine moved from deep, rich fruit to elegant acids, refined spice, that note of leather again and finally some fine-grained, well-integrated tannins. I relished this wine on its own, but with the bacon-wrapped dates, it dried out and evaporated. It also failed to pair well with my too-spicy main course of beef bulgogi with kimchi and spaetzle. I suspect it would have fared better with a simple steak. It’s not inexpensive at $44, but again, this is a wine with some real stuffing.

I’m so glad to have received these samples. They reminded me of what a joy the wines of the Rhône can be. I’m going to keep my eye out for Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Crozes-Hermitage the next time I need a special-occasion wine. Neither is at the forefront of wine fashion at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious.

For more about the Rhône and M. Chapoutier, check out these articles by fellow #winophiles:

–Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator tells us about “Duck à l’Orange with M. Chapoutier’s Biodynamic, Organic Rhone Wines”

–Jill Barth of L’Occasion writes about “Braille on the Label and Other Pioneering Moments of Chapoutier”

–J.R. Boynton of Great Big Reds writes about “The Dark Side of Syrah, with Domaine Fondreche Persia 2012 (Ventoux)”

–Jeff Burrows of Food Wine Click shares “Northern Rhone Wines and My Steak Tartare Disaster”

–David Crowley of Cooking Chat at tells us about “London Broil Steak with Châteauneuf-du-Pape”

–Susannah Gold of Avvinare writes about “Rhône Gems from Chapoutier in Châteauneuf, du Pape, Crozes-Hermitage, and Luberon”

–Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table tells her story of “Cooking to the Wine: Les Vins de Vienne Gigondas with Gratinéed Shepherd’s Pie”

–Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares a post on “Sober Clams + a French Syrah”

–Jane Niemeyer of Always Ravenous shares “Bison Burger Paired with Northern Rhône Syrah”

–Martin Redmond of Enofylz shares “A Taste of The House of Chapoutier”

–Rupal Desai Shankar of Syrah Queen writes about “Chapoutier: King of the Rhône”

–Lauren Walsh of The Swirling Dervish writes about “France’s Rhône Valley: Mountains, Sea, Wind, and Wine”

–Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog writes about “Maison M. Chapoutier: Expressing Terroir Through Biodynamics”

–Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm talks about when “Ireland and France Collide”

–Liz Barrett of What’s in that Bottle invites us to “Get to know the Rhône Valley with Michel Chapoutier”

Value In The Médoc: Bordeaux’s Moulis Appellation

9 March 2018

Christophe Labenne of Château Poujeaux

The words “Bordeaux” and “value” don’t often appear in close proximity. Some of the world’s most highly prized and most expensive wines come from Bordeaux, and many of those come from the Médoc. The Left Bank of the Gironde estuary is home to great châteaux like Mouton Rothschild and Margaux, which, at hundreds of dollars a bottle, don’t really qualify as values (whether they’re worth it is another matter).

But just because Bordeaux is one of the wine world’s most famous names doesn’t mean that there aren’t values to be had. As usual, it’s in the region’s lesser-known nooks and crannies where one must look. One of the value crannies of the Médoc is Moulis, an appellation between the more august names of St. Julien and Margaux.

With just 1,500 acres of vineyards, Moulis (moo-lee) ranks as the smallest appellation in the Haut-Médoc. It has no classed growths, but that’s not to say Moulis doesn’t produce wines of quality. In a 2003 Cru Bourgeois reclassification, two of Moulis’ châteaux earned ratings of “Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels,” the highest possible distinction. This classification system has since been scrapped, but the châteaux that earned top honors remain.

According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “…the best wines [of Moulis] can offer good value, being as well-structured as any Haut-Médoc, often with some of the perfume of Margaux to the east.” And of the châteaux in Moulis, “The finest of these is usually long-lived Château Poujeaux,” according to the Companion. The World Atlas of Wine agrees, more or less, noting that Poujeaux is “showing increased polish recently”.

At the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in Chicago, I had a chance to chat with Poujeaux’s managing director, Christophe Labenne, who explained that “Moulis wines are usually well-balanced, with the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon and the suppleness of Merlot,” the varieties which form the main components of its blend. “Moulis is popular with many people,” he went on, “because it goes with lots of food, and because prices tend to be in the $25-$40 range.” That’s not inexpensive, but it’s exponentially less than one of the Médoc’s most famous wines.

I tasted the 2015 Château Poujeaux, which had an aroma of cassis (currant), vanilla and violets. Its rich dark-red fruit flavors were buoyed up by freshness, and though the tannins weren’t the finest-grained in the Médoc, they felt well-integrated. The 2016 Poujeaux futures at Binny’s currently sell for about $30 a bottle, which is a steal (older vintages sell for $40-$45).

Just to the north of Château Poujeaux is another big name in Moulis, Château Maucaillou, which “can sometimes offer exceptional value and is, unusually for this less-glamorous stretch of the Haut-Médoc, open to casual visitors,” according to the World Atlas. The 2015 Maucaillou had an enticingly dark aroma, with a savory note and again that delightful perfume of violets. The wine had “some real stuffing,” I wrote in my notes, with excellent balance and integration. On Wine Searcher, the 2015 sells for about $25-$30, a superlative value.

To the south of Poujeaux is Château Chasse-Spleen, which, together with the two châteaux above, accounts for about half of Moulis’ production. So when seeking out Moulis, Poujeaux, Maucaillou and Chasse-Spleen are the names you’ll most likely encounter. According to The World Atlas of Wine, “Chasse-Spleen can be viewed almost as an honorary St-Julien for its smoothness, its accessibility, and yet it does not lack structure.” I quite liked its aroma of plummy fruit and vanilla, and indeed, I wrote that it felt “supple; softer than the others,” with mouth-watering juiciness. Yet it had some kick from white-pepper spice, and no shortage of tannins on the finish. At Binny’s, the 2015 vintage sells for $33, which strikes me as another very good deal.

So if you’re in the mood to splurge on a bottle between $25 and $35, Bordeaux’s lesser-known Moulis appellation is a fine place to turn.

Ideally give these wines a little time to age, so that the tannins soften a bit, but even the 2015 is perfectly drinkable now, especially if you decant.

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