Yesterday I had guests over for dinner. In preparation for the drinks, I checked out my wine collection and I happened to have Merlot, Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon. I decided to conduct a research about them to make for a light drinkers’ conversation piece – a talking point. I discovered these three wines originated from the Bordeaux Region with a fascinating history about them. The Cabernet Sauvignon is actually a cross between two grape varieties found in Bordeaux, the Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc, giving rise to the famous Cabernet Sauvignon while the Merlot is supposedly the most widely grown grape in Bordeaux. To my surprise, a Bordeaux red wine is actually a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. And when you order a Bordeaux red wine, the taste depends on whether the winery is on the Left Bank or the Right Bank of the Gironde estuary which cuts through the center of the Bordeaux region.
If the winery is located on the Left Bank, the blend created will have more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot. If the winery is instead located on the Right Bank of the river, the wine will have more Merlot in the blend than Cabernet Sauvignon. (ref: http://vinepair.com/wine-101/bordeaux-what-is-bordeaux-wine/ )
Now, a disclaimer. Not all my three wines are from Bordeaux, France. My Merlot is a Taylors’ 2007 from Clare Valley, Australia while my Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is from the Santa Rita winery in Chile. Only my Bordeaux 2008 is from Bordeaux, France; hailing from the Chateau De Potiron with an appropriate appellation from Bordeaux.
And the verdict?
All my guests and I thought the Cabernet Sauvignon was the best.
I have not developed my taste buds and palate to be able to describe the wines beyond the simplistic sweet/dry/tannin/smooth language. So here goes:
In terms of sweetness/dryness, the wines are ranked in the order Merlot, Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Cabernet Sauvignon the driest. The Australian Merlot was a pleasant medium sweet/medium dry wine and the French Bordeaux had a slight tannin taste. But the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon was really smooth and delightfully dry.
That made me curious about the Santa Rita winery and why do they label their wine “120: Honouring 120 Heroes”. The story I uncovered follows:
Santa Rita’s internationally popular, best-selling “120” Series of varietal wines recalls the heroes of a pivotal event in Chile’s successful 19th century struggle to overthrow Spanish rule. History relates that in the early 1800s Doña Paula Jaraquemada, then proprietor of the Santa Rita manor house and estate near the Chilean capital of Santiago, famously gave refuge in the cellars of her property to 120 Chilean patriots. When a brigade of Spanish soldiers arrived at the expansive one-story ranch house in search the band of rebels, the feisty matriarch stated she would rather see the Spanish burn the property to the ground, with her inside, then let them step foot within her family home. Thus it was that band of 120 men lived on to fight another day, and the dwelling, now site of Santa Rita’s highly acclaimed Doña Paula Restaurant, occupies a unique place in Chilean national history.
Isn’t that interesting! What was supposed to be a quiet dinner and wine among friends turned out to be a pleasant evening of discovery of some little snippets of history of the wine.
So ends my first (hopefully of many to come) wine story. Cheers!