Chateau Tirecul La Graviere Monbazillac Cuvee Madame (500 ML) 1997
Deep golden hue. Rich, concentrated, botrytis fruit. Intense, unctuous with layers of sweet but balanced extract and long heady finish.
It was in the winter of 1992 that Claudie and Bruno Bilancini (a designer and oenologist couple by trade) had the extraordinary luck of being able to lease one of the top sites in Monbazillac, the Cru de Tirecul (one of the ancient premier cru sites in the AOC.) Even though the vineyard and small cave were in disrepair, they cared for it as if it were their own, and in 1997, realized their dream of owning the property. Now, Tirecul la Graviere is recognized as the top property of the AOC. The fame of Chateau Tirecul la Graviere has spread far and wide over the last several years. Most notably, Robert Parker has awarded the property two 100 point scores and compared it with Sauterne’s Chateau d’Yquem. With good acidity and a solid backbone, these wines can last for decades under optimal storage conditions, a rarity for wines from this area of Southwest France. These wines are magical, defining examples of the best that Monbazillac can offer and more.
One of the most important wine regions of the world, Bordeaux is a powerhouse producer of wines of all colors, sweetness levels, and price points. Separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a coastal pine forest, this relatively flat region has a mild maritime climate, marked by cool wet winters and warm summers. Annual weather differences create significant vintage variations, making Bordeaux an exciting region to follow.
The Gironde estuary, a defining feature of Bordeaux, separates most of the region into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. Farther inland, where the Gironde splits into the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, the bucolic, rolling hills of the area in between, called Entre-Deux-Mers, is a source of great quality, approachable reds and whites.
The Left Bank, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, contains the Médoc, Graves, and Sauternes, as well as the region’s most famous chateaux. Merlot is important here as the perfect blending grape for Cabernet Sauvignon adding plush fruit and softening Cabernet's sometimes hefty tannins. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec may also be used in the Left Bank blends.
Merlot is the principal variety of the Right Bank; Cabernet Franc adds structure and complexity to Merlot, creating wines that are concentrated, supple, and more imminently ready for drinking, compared with their Left Bank counterparts. Key appellations of the Right Bank include St. Emilion and Pomerol.
Dry and sweet white wines are produced throughout the region from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and sometimes Muscadelle or Sauvignon Gris. Some of the finest dry whites can be found in the the Graves sub-appellation of Pessac-Léognan, while Sauternes is undisputedly the gold standard for sweet wines. Small amounts of rosé and sparkling wine are made in Bordeaux as well.
End a great meal on a sweet note, dessert and fortified wines come in an impressive array of styles and sweetness levels. Many wines in this category—including Port, Sherry, and Madeira—are fortified with neutral spirits to increase the level of alcohol, and, depending on the final style of wine desired, often to arrest fermentation while some (or a lot of) residual sugar remains. Others, like Sauternes and Tokaji, are produced by leaving the grapes on the vine long after the rest of the harvest has been processed in order to accumulate very high sugar levels. Often, a form of “noble” rot called botrytis plays a role, desiccating the grape until only the very flavorful solids and sugars remain. These late-picked wines are, accordingly, often referred to as late-harvest wines. In colder climates, the grapes may be allowed to freeze on the vine for the production of ice wine.