I meet every month or two with a group of women who work in and around the Bordeaux Wine Trade (yes they do exist in this male dominated domain) for a convivial wine tasting. Round at someone’s house, a few bites to eat and a tasting that runs along the lines of; each person brings a bottle according to a theme and we taste the wines blind, and then the wine is presented with background information by the ‘owner’.
The theme for this evening was ‘Second Wines’. A quick history and on how the concept of second wines developed from a special guest for the evening, Veronique Sanders, Director of Ch Haut Bailly, Grand Cru Classe Pessac Leognan. The earliest second wine recorded was in 1874 and was that of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (not sure of the name). The next was in 1908 and that was Pavillon of Ch Margaux. In 1967 the second wine of Haut Bailly was produced for the first time some 20 years before second wines became a common phenomena in Bordeaux (mid to late eighties). Veronique explained the concept of producing Haut Bailly’s second wind, La Parde;
La Parde de Haut Bailly; the second wine of Haut Bailly
This is made up predominantly from the wine from the young vines from four years to ten to 15 years of age. In fact the wine from the first three year’s of production goes in the Grand Vin – Ch Haut Bailly. During this time the balance between the amount of leaves and fruit produced is perfect. The resulting wine is fresh, fruity and concentrated. After this period the wine becomes a little diluted as the vine matures moving closer to full production.
The second wine is aged for a shorter time in oak and the percentage of the powerful new oak is reduced too. 16 to 18 months for the Grand Vin and only 12 months for the second wine. It is a lighter wine so need to be treated as such. Since 1987 a third wine has been produced (generic Pessac Leognan).
Second wines represent good value for money but are also according to Veronique a very good window of the vintage providing a good idea of how the vintage is developing and its characteristics.
The Tasting Second Wines at Gerda Beziade’s
Note that second wines do not have the right to be called ‘chateau’
2006 Fief de la Grange (second wine of Chateau Lagrange, GCC St Julien)
Little green no the nose with cherry notes. Supple and fresh in the mouth. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. All made from young vines. Better known today then its first wine. Lot of replanting with the vineyard area going from 70 to 115 ha recently – hence the dominance of Fief!
2004 La Closerie de Fourtet (Second wine of Clos Fourtet St Emilion Premier Cru Classe)
One of the favorites of the evening. 85% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Created in 1999 wen the Cuvelier family bought the property. Stephane Derenoncourt is the wine consultant. I seule tenance (one vineyard area in one block). Little closed with slight undergrowth notes but opened up into a wine of silky elegance and length.
2005 Sirene de Giscours (Second Wine of Ch Giscours GCC Margaux)
Deep in colour and big and masculine on th plate. Very powerful and proud to be! Did not taste like a second wine at all. We thought perhaps from Pauillac or St Estephe. Big structure and sweet ripe fruit. Very surprised when it was revealed to be a margaux and made by the husband of Veronique! Excellent value for money. Well worth searching out. About 20 euro per bottle.
2002 Clos du Marquis (Second Wine? not really of Ch Leoville Lascases GCC, St Julien)
30 years average age. 8000 planting density. Yield 42-50 hl/ha. 12 to 20 days of fermentaion and maceration in wood, concrete and stainless steel. 12 to 24 months ageing in 50 to 100% new oak. No fining or filtration. Production of 240,000 bottles
This older wine had an older nose of mineral, stones, a little ‘menthole’/mintiness, nice balance between alcohol and acidity remainin. ‘Croquante’. Still fresh. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 13 cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. Interesting to taste an older second wine. Not generally for keeping.
2001 La Bahans de Haut Brion (Second Wine of Ch Haut Brion, First Growth Pessac Leognan)
I loved this wine
2005 Les Aromes de Pavie (Second Wine of Ch Pavie Premier Grand Cru Classe St Emilion)
2005 La Gravelte de Certan (Second Wine of Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol)
2000 Carruaudes de Lafite (Second wine of Ch Lafite, PremierCru Classe Pauillac)
2004 Franc Phelan (Second wine of Ch Phelan Segur St Estephe, Cru Bourgeois)
Verdict: These wines really do stand on their own two feet and in a good year are really superlative and represent excellent value for money. If you see any 2005 second wines, don’t hesitate to buy!