Cleanliness is next to Godliness, or so the old saying goes. If it’s true then Bruno Borie is most certainly working alongside the saints and the angels.
The word “clean” pops up in conversation several times as the owner of Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou chats about his second-growth Bordeaux wine estate in Saint Julien. Whether it’s the rigorous cleaning of the oak barrels in which he ages his wine or the general upkeep of the chateau, Borie certainly deems cleanliness to be an important part of his work.
“Clean” also springs to mind as we taste his wines, thanks to the clarity of the primary fruit aromas and flavours on display in both his young wines and also his older bottles. Retaining the precise fruit flavours is clearly important to Borie and to the style of his wines, and his efforts have been rewarded with some very impressive bottles.
Borie – who enjoys shooting woodcock over pointers in Brittany with his four English setters, two boys and two fast little girls – opened the tasting organised by Occidental & Oriental Cellars at Edinburgh’s New Club with a bottle of the 2012 Chateau Lalande-Borie (£17.96), a property that his father added to the family’s estates. Chateau Lalande-Borie is made in the modern, fruity, approachable and easy-drinking style and is composed mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, with a dash of Cabernet Franc. The aromas and flavours are a mixture of red and black fruit, with raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant entwined with aromas of smoke and flavours of vanilla from 12 months of oak ageing, with a third of the wood being new French oak, which Borie prefers because its pores are open, allowing the wood to more easily impart its vanilla flavours to the wine. The bright flavours carry on into the long fruity finish.
If the Chateau Lalande-Borie was the wine for Saturday lunchtime then Borie’s 2010 La Croix Beaucaillou (£36.96) is the tipple for Saturday night’s dinner. The grapes come from the main Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyard, but Borie no longer thinks of this in the traditional Bordeaux sense as his “second-wine”, a cut-down version of the main second-growth offering. Instead, he sees it as having a style of its own, with 12 months of ageing in oak barrels, two-thirds of which are new French oak, which have been dried for six or seven years outdoors so all the sap is removed. There’s that word “clean” cropping up again. The aromas of blackcurrant, bramble, mint and vanilla and pronounced on the nose, with more developed meaty and forest floor notes joining in too. The wine is full-bodied with firm tannins, but both the oak and the tannins are beautifully integrated with the fruit. The label on the bottle was crafted by jewellery designer Jade Jagger, daughter of Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, which seems appropriate as the wine’s name translates as “beautiful stones”, an homage to the rocks in the vineyard.
As we moved on from wines to accompany Saturday night’s tea to bottles that can be honoured alongside Sunday lunch, Borie brought out the big guns in the form of the 2006 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (POA) and the 2003 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (POA), his flagship wine from two different vintages. Borie believes many of Bordeaux’s wines from 2006 have been overshadowed by 2005’s “miracle vintage”, with the younger year often offering better value. The wine had depth and power, but still the fruit and the acidity sparkled with freshness, with blackcurrant flavours mingling with coffee, chocolate and mint, while it was the blackcurrant and the mint that came together to give a very long finish.
Most of us will remember 2003 as the summer of the heatwave but Borie has a special reason for remembering the year – it was his first in charge of his family’s vineyards. A baptism of fire under the baking hot sun of the Medoc produced a wine with meatier aromas and notes of redcurrant and cherry to accompany Cabernet Sauvignon’s blackcurrant flavours. Aromas and flavours of roast meat, cigar smoke and cedar have developed in the wine over time, with all 100 per cent of the liquid undergoing ageing in French oak.
If this is the standard of wines that he can produce then long may Borie’s obsession with cleanliness continue.