Fall is one of my favorite seasons both for the colors of the leaves, the foods that are seasonal or traditional, and the wines that I feel like drinking. Some years ago when I discovered the Cru Bourgeois du Médoc wines from France, I realized that wines from Bordeaux could and should be ones I turned to in this season. Historically these châteaux were a group of the finest properties in the Médoc that were listed in a classification.
Throughout the years, as you can see from this timeline, the Cru Bourgeois became a more evolved and rigorous qualification. The most recent group is now a group of 250 châteaux from the Médoc region in Bordeaux. The Cru Bourgeois are further separated into three levels: the first level with 180 of the châteaux, the superior level with 56 châteaux, and the exceptionnel level with 14 châteaux. The classification lasts for five years. The next one will be in 2025 and covers five vintages so the 2020 covers the vintages from 2018 – 2022.
I have now tried a wide number of these wines both at professional tastings, in restaurants, and at home. For the recent induction reception for the new members of Les Dames d’Escoffier New York chapter, these wines were on offer from the classification.
The wines are a great way to approach wines from Bordeaux, probably the best known wine region in the world but one that has always seemed slightly out of reach for many. The 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines is the first one anyone studying wine learns about. Those wines however are both out of reach for most people financially speaking and have such a cult about them that they can be intimidating. The Cru Bourgeois, also from amazing historic properties and ancient families with long traditions are both less expensive and more approachable. Many of them seem to be led by women which is interesting since Bordeaux always seemed such an old boy’s club and thus perfect for the induction ceremony at an all female organization such as Les Dames d’Escoffier. The New York Chapter is the largest of the 40+ chapters spanning five countries.
In terms of appellations, there are two regional ones for the Cru Bourgeois du Médoc wines: Médoc and Haut-Médoc, and then six communal appellations: Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, and Saint-Estèphe.
I love the way they paired with a wide range of foods for fall ranging from cheese boards with charcuterie such as I had at the induction at Al Coro, a hip restaurant in New York City to stews and hearty soups.
But my favorite pairings are the ones at home with fall foods like a great turkey, a dish with pumpkins, or one with freshly picked apples.
There are 28 million bottles of these wines made on an annual basis. I have only been to Bordeaux once at the beginning of my professional life in wine. I had been seriously studying wine since 1997 but my first and only trip to Bordeaux was in 2007 when I went to an edition of VinExpo with the importer I worked with at the time. We were there for a short time but I fell in-love with the area. I had not expected the warm, temperate climate I found. The word Médoc comes from the Latin medio aquae which means “in the middle of the water.” In fact, the Médoc is between the Atlantic ocean and the Gironde estuary. The area is on the 45th parallel. The gravelly, clay- limestone rich soils provide a wonderful home to the grape varieties that grow there such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
In addition to the affordable prices, the familiar grapes, and the amazing history of these châteaux, something else I like about this classification is their attention to the environment. It’s one of the criteria in the selections made every five years of classified châteaux. For the two higher levels, superior and exceptionnel, the environmental standards are even more stringent.
If like me, you aren’t traveling to France in the next few months, a bottle of the Cru Bourgeois this fall can bring it to your table. Perfect for Thanksgiving, or a Friday night dinner, consider these wines as a go-to for a Bordeaux trip from home.
Last night I sipped on this beauty from Château Picard. This estate has been a Cru Bourgeois since 1932. It was bought in 1997 by the negociant Mähler-Besse. It is located in Saint-Estèphe and has eight hectares. The soils which have a lot of clay also have the calcified remains of seashells. Traditionally their wines have 85-90% cabernet sauvignon with 10-15% Merlot making up the blend. The vines are around 30 years old. The wine I tried had aged for about 12 to 18 months in a mix of old and new oak.
On the nose it had spice, smoky, black fruit aromas of plum and blueberry while on the palate it had cedar, some tar and leather notes, forest floor, and dried cranberry. Long and enveloping, it’s beautiful in the glass this morning as well. I had it with turkey and I can image it would be perfect with cranberry relish and other sides that are on my Thanksgiving table.
My 8-year old played with his knights at the table while we finished eating. When researching the winery, I discovered a whole world I know nothing about that has to do with Star Trek. I am not today nor have I ever been a Trekkie. My only connection is that one of my uncles loves Star Trek. Apparently there is a Chateau Picard that is part of the Star Trek lore. Today, the real Château Picard that I am writing about apparently makes a wine that is part of a Star Trek wine collection. To learn more about this part of its history. click on this article from Food & Wine.
Follow my fellow French Winophiles we “Celebrate the Fall in France”, read about what they have to say, share, and taste:
- Jeff of Food Wine Click! takes us to “Backroads Bourgogne in Autumn: Bistro des Falaises”
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is Celebrating Fall French Style
- Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Europe by Milk Run, Coquilles Saint-Jacques, and L’un Des Sens Orange Wine
- Gwendolyn of Wine Predator is Falling for Fall with Four French Wines Paired with Beef Bourguignonne Pot Pie #Winophiles
- Susannah of Avvinare shares “Cru Bourgeois, perfect for Fall Fare”