A bounty of wine treasures, the Médoc and Haut Médoc represent some of the best in Bordeaux wines. One could say they represent the best in French wines, the best in global wine. We examine what’s behind the label and discover why we are drinking Médoc now.
The photo above is of Château de Retout, the estate that produced the bottle of wine that sits next to my computer. I bought this wine from a local merchant and brought it home. When I got home I did some research, looked it up online. This is nothing new, I do it all the time. But this was a unique search session because this bottle is something called a Cru Bourgeois. The label provided me with some valuable information summarized in the form of an alpha-numeric identifier that allowed me to look up the estate and the wine, verification that what I have here on my desk is indeed made by a particular set of producers.
What does Cru Bourgeois mean?
According to Bordeaux Wines: “This classification, first established in 1932, recognizes the quality and value of red wines produced in the eight appellations of the Médoc region. This classification is subject to revisions.
The use of the term “Cru Bourgeois” dates back to the period during which Bordeaux’s prosperous bourgeois class acquired the Médoc’s best land parcels. These were therefore subsequently referred to as “Cru Bourgeois.”
Over 250 estates, most of which family-owned and operated, currently belong to the Crus Bourgeois Alliance and represent over 40% of the Médoc’s total production.”
And Cru Bourgeois defines it’s group of member estates: “The Crus Bourgeois form a big family that brings together vineyards with widely differing profiles, and very different terroirs (eight prestigious AOCs : Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis en Médoc, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe), led by a variety of producers, many of whom have their origins in the Médoc, but who also come from other countries and regions, bringing dynamism and new ideas.
Château de Retout
My bottle, what a beauty, appears above. Note the red arrow indicating the Cru Bourgeois identifier. Here’s where things get fun, because I have a bit of history, a taste-it-touch-it story. I’m pleased, of course, that I have a quality bottle of wine here, but I’m more excited that I’m one step closer to knowing more about my wine, the wine I’ll share with my husband, the wine we’ll cook for, the wine I’ve chosen to write about.
Through the Cru Bourgeois designation, I’ve learned about Château de Retout. My wine came from 30-year old vines situated near the village of Cussac-Fort-Medoc. I was directed to the estate’s website where I uncovered some history. The vines were, like many neighbors, hit by phylloxera in the late 19th century. While this would have been trouble enough, WWI brought further damage and instability. The vineyards lay unused and overgrown until the 1950s when the Kopp family bought them and applied patience to the replanting process. Today it remains family-owned, cared for by the Kopps who grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Verdot on 34 hectares of vines.
The estate’s philosophy on sustainability: “Grass is left to grow between the vine rows and weeding underneath the vines is alternately mechanical and chemical. 100% natural fertilisers (horse manure and compost), certifiably organic crop protection products, and sustainable vineyard treatments are all part of this winegrowing philosophy.”
The estate does all their own bottling and employs cellars that have been rebuilt and updated over the past century. In fact, the past 15 years have been integral, with the building of a second cellar in 2003 and inclusion into Cru Bourgeois in 2009.
I learned that my bottle, a 2012, was harvested on October 5th, a late and swift harvest. What was I doing on that day? It was two days after my birthday. I had a new baby, born earlier that year, and a two year old. Do I remember that day? Not exactly, but I recall the essence of it. And I have the essence of my wine’s story, the story of Hélène and Fréderic Soual (Kopp family members) working through their harvest that day…hands and machines carefully gathering the grapes that would make my wine, a wine that would sit on my table on July 15, 2016.
Why we are drinking now
Why are we drinking this bottle now? How did it become the feature of this story? It did have a shelf-talker (88 points from Wine Enthusiast). It was imported by Monsieur Touton and distributed to my midwestern wine shop. I did pay the $20 to bring it home. But why? Why this bottle?
I know it’s because of the story, because I was meant to get to know this estate, this wine, this region and the Cru Bourgeois system. It’s because I was meant to be inspired, to share the details, to make this wine real for many more people. It’s because this wine was meant to be loved, to be treasured, to transfer from one family to the next.
That is my why.
The French Winophiles
Excuse us, while we drink and write and eat… each month we feature a winegrowing area of France and take a mini trip there. We travel via bottles, via glasses, via ingredients and especially via words. Here’s the itinerary this month, should you choose to join us:
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares Diving Into Bordeaux Wine with Winophiles: Medoc
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla brings us To the Médoc with Herbed Lamb Chops
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm presents The Ozarks meet Haut Medoc??
Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva goes for Banking on Bordeaux
Jeff from Food Wine Click offers us Left Bank and Lentils
Here on L’occasion, my husband and I will share Why We are Drinking Now: A Médoc Beauty
INTERESTED IN A TRIP? PUT 10 AM CDT ON YOUR CALENDAR AND POP INTO TWITTER. HUNT DOWN THE HASHTAG #WINOPHILES. SHARE, ASK, ENJOY.
We aren’t done in Bordeaux…coming up next: August 20th – St. Emilion/St. Emilion Satellites and September 17th – Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers.