[singlepic id=26 w=320 h=240 float=left]On offer was (and is) the Réserve de Léoville Barton 2008 from St-Julien in Bordeaux and the Domaine Christophe Bonnefond ‘Côte Rozier’ 2007 from Côte Rôtie in the Rhône, both for €59 a bottle or, even more attractively, €15 per glass.
Yes I know what you’re thinking: for €15 you could get an entire bottle of very decent wine in an off-licence, so why in God’s name would you opt for only a glass – i.e. a quarter of a bottle – for the same outlay?
Consider, then, that both the Reserve de Léoville Barton and Côte Rozier are normally €40 from the excellent wine merchants Tindals and Tyrrels respectively. This is the off-trade pricing though, so using the rule of thumb of at least doubling that cost to get the on-trade price then this wine should cost at least €80, but more likely €90-€100, in a wine bar. So instead of paying €20-€25 for a glass of each I was paying €15, so this was like a Brown Thomas sale in terms of pricing: sure it’s still expensive, but given the quality, the rarity and the price relative to what it should be then it’s a bargain.
Luckily I had my eternally patient fiancée with me so I could get to try both wines in one sitting. First up for me was the Réserve de Léoville Barton 2008, which is the ‘second wine’ of the famed Léoville Barton, a Second Growth Bordeaux in St-Julien.
Estates in Bordeaux bottle their flagship wines, or ‘grand vin’ under the name of their estate or château, but oftentimes quality control is so stringent that there can be enough grapes left over to make what they call a ‘second wine’ which, though not as good as the grand vin, is nevertheless still of very high quality.
Remember that the painstakingly pedantic work that goes into managing the entire vineyard over the course of the year applies to all the grapes, and so really the ‘second wine’ is only established at the final stages; as such you get something quite similar to the top wine but for a fraction of the cost, and it’s a perfect introduction to the top-level estate offering. If the wine world had its own version of the Kildare Outlet Centre then you’d be sure that’s where the ‘second wines’ would hang out.
[singlepic id=24 w=320 h=240 float=right]So back to Léoville Barton. You might guess that the name isn’t fully French, and you’d be right. The Barton family have their roots in Straffan, Co Kildare, and still maintain an estate there to this day. In 1826 Hugh Barton, then owner of Château Langoa Barton in St-Julien, bought a part of the large Léoville estate next door and created Château Léoville Barton there. Since then it has become a Second Growth, one of only fifteen properties that sit just below the top tier of Bordeaux wines, which itself only has five properties in total. So the Irish done good, you could say.
And so what about the Réserve de Léoville Barton 2008? I could smell it as soon as the waiter began placing it on the table. An intoxicating, complex scent of cedar, oak, blackcurrant, some spice – I could have nosed it for hours. The palate was delicious and lighter than expected, gorgeous but perhaps not as long as I’d imagined. It was then that I realised that this was my first taste of ‘real’ Bordeaux, and I have to say I’m hooked. I’ll be back for more for definite.
[singlepic id=25 w=320 h=240 float=left]What then about the Domaine Christophe Bonnefond ‘Côte Rozier’ 2007? Again, Côte Rôtie is one of those fabled regions that is renowned for its fine wines, and never comes cheap. They only grow Syrah, which is Shiraz under a different name. But whereas the Shiraz we’re more familiar with – the Australian version – can be big, hot and spicy, Syrah from the Northern Rhône is a much more complex and subtle affair. And so it was with the Côte Rozier, which surprised me by being showing some aged Burgundy characteristics: leather, tobacco, white pepper; and again the palate wasn’t as heavy as I imagined.
Ely have to be commended for continually giving the general public the opportunity to try some genuinely fine and rare wines. In terms of wine in Dublin they set the bar years back and continue to be the benchmark today; not everyone has the guts to offer €59 wines as ‘specials’, but they can because they know what they’re doing and they do it well. Congrats all round.