Typically, we review wines that merit consumer consideration and are available to purchase locally. This is not one of those wines. Not that it doesn’t merit your consideration (it does), simply that it’s not available for purchase. Don’t get the wrong idea, it isn’t terribly exclusive or expensive, it’s just old.
Resident Cork Dork Elton Nichols is the Wine Director at the Pacific Club. One of his primary duties as Wine Director is managing the wine list. He recently updated the list and asked his wife Kristin, The Spirits Gypsy, to proofread the changes and make sure he didn’t mistakenly list a bottle of Screaming Eagle for $25.00 instead of $2500. (On that note, if you’re a member of the Pacific Club with $2500 to blow, I’ll let you star in a video review of Screaming Eagle for Drink with Aloha if you let me have a glass. Ok, a sip. Heck, I’d do it for a sniff.)
While scanning the list, Kris noticed an inconsistency: 1996 Chateau la Cardonne Medoc, a 14 year-old bottle of Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux, for $28! For those of you who aren’t studying for your Advanced Sommelier degree, here’s how Elton described Cru Bourgeois. In 1885, Napoleon III requested a classification system for premier French wine for the World’s Fair. The Burgundy producers couldn’t get their act together in time, so the list only included the top Bordeaux producing estates ranked by quality in a 5-tier system called the Grands Crus Classés. The list was intended to change over time… but it never did. In other words, if you weren’t a kick ass Bordeaux producer in 1885, then screw you.
In order for newer estates and estates that improved their wine making techniques in the subsequent 47 years to gain recognition, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Agriculture created the Cru Bourgeois classification in 1932. It’s not as exclusive (and the wines aren’t as jaw-droppingly expensive) as Grands Crus Classés, but it’s a way for the “other” French Bordeaux producers to say, “Hey, this wine doesn’t suck!”
Needless to say, Tori and I jumped at the chance to drink an aged, bargain priced bottle of French wine. To be fair, we jump at the chance to drink young, bargain priced boxed wine, but we jumped extra high in this case.
The wine had a delicate nose, with light French oak, black cherry, shoe polish and a hint of rose petals. The body of the wine was a bit tight at first, but eventually opened up with a nice balance between the cherry, shoe polish, aged oak, some earthiness and tobacco. It had an incredibly long finish, that lingered for minutes after the sip. It wasn’t an earth shattering wine and the fruit wasn’t as present as I expected for a wine with 50% Merlot, but it was an incredibly enjoyable experience and well worth the $28.
Bottom line: You probably won’t find 1996 Chateau la Cardonne Medoc on the shelf anywhere, but if you do, it’s a lovely well-rounded Bordeaux for a decent price.