On the Trail

Hidden Pockets of Bordeaux Value

David Driscoll
The hills of the Côtes de Castillon

The hills of the Côtes de Castillon

While much of the time we spend in Bordeaux each year is focused on visiting the major châteaux and the classified producers of the Médoc, those merchants who overlook and underestimate the smaller and value-driven wines of the region's lesser-known pockets do themselves a disservice as well as their customers. While it's great to get an allocation of Ausone and Petrus each vintage, I know I speak for K&L when I say that getting hundreds of cases of delicious, bargain-priced, everyday Bordeaux for the bulk of our clients is always going to take priority. During one of our last visits we ventured out into the Côtes de Castillon, a hilly region that was once known as St. Emilionnais due to its proximity on the Right Bank to the great St. Emilion region (the Bordelais eventually found that name to be a bit too misleading). Having a bit of downtime during a late afternoon in the historic city center, we decided to explore a bit deeper and see what we could find outside the big names. 

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Now remember when we're out visiting Bordeaux to taste the most recent vintage (like 2016), we're taking notes for the eventual pre-order campaign that follows. When we head out to visit producers and negotiants, we're tasting available wines that are usually in bottle and ready to go. One such example is the recently-arrived 2014 Château Hyot, a property located in Saint-Magne-de-Castillon that provided us with one helluva sub-$15 option. With its forty year old vines, the concentration of the Merlot (which makes of 70% of the blend) is stunning, adding a plumy lushness to the coffee notes imparted by the oak, and bolstered by the structure from the remaining 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is made by the Aubert family, one that has been living in the region for almost three hundred years. Amélie Aubert, who took over from her parents, is a seventh generation winemaker with a special sense of how to tend the vines planted in both clay and gravel soils; she's made her mark with the 2014 expression, for sure. I've not made any secret of my affinity for 2014 with its classic, yet approachable flavors and even more attractive price points (especially when compared to the higher costs of 15/16), and personally I'm always on the hunt for the next great Tuesday night Bordeaux—for those nights when I just want to pop something delicious, warm up my leftovers, and put my feet up in front of the TV. I love how the wine evolved over time, showing more than just oak and fruit with nuances of minerality like graphite and iron once it got some air into it. We kept going back to the wine later in the day to see how it evolved and we all agreed it tasted better after it had been open a few hours, so if you can decant it you'll be doing yourself a favor. 

But just by drinking more great value wines like the 2014 Hyot in general, you'll be doing yourself and all of us a favor because you'll be helping to raise the awareness of Bordeaux as one of the top winemaking regions in general, beyond the collectable names that hog most of the attention. The Côtes de Castillion is just one such hidden pocket. I'm hoping we don't forget to keep exploring all such under-the-radar locales. 

-David Driscoll