Producer: Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou
Country Hierarchy: Medoc, Bordeaux, France
Grape/Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot
Food Suggestion: Beef and Venison
Wine Style: Red – Savory and Classic
Alcohol Content: 13%
Notes: Second label of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou from separate and distinct vineyard just to the west of the Château. Jade Jagger designed a new label in 2009.
Saint-Julien is a small but important red wine appellation of the Haut-Médoc district on the Left Bank of Bordeaux in south-western France. Its reputation is based on its status as a reliable source of consistently elegant, age-worthy wines.
Sandwiched between the more famous appellations of Pauillac and Margaux, Saint-Julien is sometimes unfairly overlooked because it does not have a first growth chateau in the 1855 Bordeaux classification. Pauillac has three of the five Médoc first growths and Margaux has one.
Saint-Julien makes up for this by being home to 11 classed growths, which generate three-quarters of the appellation’s output. Five of these are highly rated second growths: Châteaux Léoville-Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré, Léoville Barton, Gruaud-Larose and Ducru-Beaucaillou. The first three were once a single estate, which would have been extremely large for its time. The third growths are Langoa-Barton and Lagrange; the fourth growths are Châteaux Beychevelle, Branaire-Ducru, Talbot and Saint-Pierre. All but the latter property are likely to be familiar to most collectors; Château Saint-Pierre is relatively small with 17 hectares (42 acres) of vineyard which supply a wine made at the unclassified Château Gloria.
St. Julien, and the Gironde beyond (©CIVB)
Almost every acre of the Saint-Julien commune is covered with vines, except for a strip about 500 meters (1600ft) wide on the silted banks of the Gironde estuary to the west. The châteaux which own them can be split into two neat groups: those around the village of Saint-Julien-Beychevelle and those around the village of Beychevelle. These two similarly named villages are only 2 kilometers (1.5 miles) apart, which illustrates the smallness of scale that operates in the Médoc. In fact, the vineyards in the north of Saint-Julien back directly onto the vineyards of Château Latour in Pauillac, yet the wines they produce are different in both status and style.
The appellation laws for Saint-Julien – established in 1936 with many other regulations in Bordeaux – state that its wines must be made from grapes grown in the commune of Saint-Julien Beychevelle, or very specific parts of the communes of Cussac and Saint-Laurent. The document lists the plots (parcelles) eligible for the title.
The grapes permitted for use here are Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenère, Petit Verdot and Malbec. They must come from vineyards planted to a minimum density of 6500 plants per hectare (2631 per acre), with specified vine-management techniques.
Saint-Julien is bordered to the west by the Saint-Laurent commune, whose wines are eligible only for the wider Haut-Médoc appellation. An example of the effect of this can be found in Saint-Laurent’s Chateau Belgrave. It lies just a few hundred meters from Château Lagrange, which can claim the valuable Saint-Julien name, yet Chateau Belgrave cannot.
As is the case with many other prestigious Bordeaux appellations, national and foreign investment is common in Saint-Julien. Châteaux here are owned by a combination of wealthy individuals and international companies.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot wines are made from two of the world’s most famous and most widely grown wine grapes. The pair form the foundation of many of the great wines of Bordeaux, where this classic blend (often dubbed “Bordeaux Blend”) is thought to have originated. For centuries, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have been the quintessential Bordeaux wine grapes, but their fame and popularity have now taken them far beyond the banks of the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde, to the furthest reaches of the wine world.
In California the blend is often labeled as Meritage – providing the producer meets the requirements of the Meritage Alliance. The Australian regions of Coonawarra, Margaret River and Yarra Valley are highly regarded for their unique expressions of the blend. South Africa’s Stellenbosch region also produces some earthy and savory examples that defy many of the commonly held perceptions about New World wine. In other New World countries the blend is often abbreviated to Cabernet Merlot, although this mix could include Cabernet Franc as well.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot blends
The Cabernet – Merlot partnership has proved itself in almost every major winegrowing country on Earth, most obviously France, Italy, Australia, Chile and the US, but also such far-flung nations as Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and Israel. The exact proportions of each variety used varies by region, winemaker and style.
Cabernet Sauvignon typically provides the blend’s structure, in terms of both tannins and acids. It also brings dark-fruit flavors of blackcurrant and bell pepper. Merlot is generally considered the juicer, “fatter” variety; it has less structure, but is generous with its palate weight and fruit flavors. This is visibly reflected in the vineyard, by Merlot’s larger, plumper berries, whose thinner skins give a lower skin to juice ratio. Cabernet’s robust structure is fattened out with Merlot’s juicy fruit – a marriage with excellent long-term potential when assembled with care.
Cabernet – Merlot blends have an excellent affinity for oak, and the vast majority are barrel-aged. From their time in barrel they take on notes of cedar, smoke and spice (from French oak) as well as sweeter aromas of vanilla and coconut (from American oak).
Other varieties sometimes added to the basic Cabernet – Merlot blend, in many regions around the world, include the other classic Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. These are all members of the Bordeaux Blend.
Wines bearing the Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot label can be lean or generous, austere or fruity and short- or long-lived. They occupy every price bracket imaginable, from inexpensive table wines right through to some of the most expensive wines on the market.
Food matches for Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot wines include:
- Sautéed shiitake mushrooms
- Slow-cooked beef roast
- Seared venison rump with red wine and rosemary butter
(sources : wine-searcher)