For many people, when they think of French Wine regions, Bordeaux is the first to come to mind. Big, bold, age-worthy red wines driven by Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot dominate the region. These can seem like rarified, expensive wines that are slightly beyond reach. Finding Côtes de Bordeaux is an opportunity to dive into this region in a new way, with many lovely affordable wines that are perfect for weeknight dinners.
Côtes de Bordeaux AOC
The Côtes de Bordeaux AOC is made up of 5 separate regions all on the right bank of the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. The regions from North to South include:
Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
This region is the northern most of the Côtes de Bordeaux regions. Vines here were planted even before those in the well known Medoc across the Gironde river. Planted originally by the Greeks and Romans the vines thrived into the middle ages and, as the area was easily accessible via the Gironde, these wines traveled. Louis XIV built the Citadelle de Vauban here, now often known as the Citadelle de Blaye. The fortified structure is now a museum.
The vines of Blaye overlook the Gironde estuary and have varied terroir. Most are grown on the slopes, and the soils are clay limestone from ancient ocean sediment.
Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
The Cadillac region sits on hillsides overlooking the Garonne river. A region originally planted by the Romans the name travelled with the knight Lamothe-Cadillac to Louisiana where he was governor. He of course brought with him the wines of Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux. It is his name that becomes the name of the luxury car dealer.
This area, previously known as Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux, is filled with historic Castles (such as the Castle of Cadillac) as well as many Romanesque churches. There are several walking routes, where you can discover the sites and stop for a wine tasting.
The soils here from top to bottom: limestone covered in pebbly gravel, limestone, and fine gravel with silica. You will find over half the vines here are Merlot with a quarter Cabernet Sauvignon and the remainder Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
This region sits just north of the Dordogne river and just east of Saint-Emilion with whom they share the limestone plateau. The slopes here span 100 meters in elevation. Most of the estates are small, sitting at an average of 10 hectares. Soils run from sandy gravel or sandy clay to clay limestone. 70 percent of the grapes grown here are Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and the remaining is Cabernet Sauvignon. The slopes get southern exposure and the winemakers here are devoted to the environment with at least a quarter farming biodynamically.
The famous Battle of Castillon was held here in 1453 putting an end to the hundred years war and reclaiming the area from 300 years of English rule.
Cadillac & Castillon
We did a side-by-side tasting of 2 wines, one from Cadillac & one from Castillon and we paired them with a cheese and charcuterie plate and a Mediterranean twist on a stir-fry.
Rosemary Balsamic Steak stir-fry with peppers, snap peas and carrots
The steak tips were marinated in a combination of balsamic, soy, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, & black pepper. We stir fried the meat and then added thinly sliced rainbow carrots, slice red, yellow and orange peppers and snap peas. We served it on a bed of brown rice and quinoa with olive oil and garlic.
2012 Clos de La Vieille Eglise
Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
The wine from Castillon was dark and deep with brambles and dried herbs on the nose. On the palate there were peppers and spice and a hint of licorice and cherry cola. This was great with the stir fry and the charcuterrie. This wine sat at 12.9% alc.
This wine is primarily Merlot from vineyards bordering St. Emilion.
2014 Château de Paillet-Quancard
Cadillac- Côtes de Bordeaux
The Cadillac was was bright and more translucent than the Castillon. On the nose I got warm curry spices. In my mouth it was tart with light to medium tannins, like eating just barely sweetened cranberries. This wine is a great easy drinking red for summer It paired with the peppers in the stir fry and was good with the bright snap peas and goat cheese. It is 80% Merlot, 15% Cab Sav and 5% Cab Franc.
This wine is grown on slopes above the Garonne River and made by Château de Paillet-Quancard, a Château that dates back to the 16th centruy. The Paillet vineyard is clay-limestone and clay-gravel and these vines are about 25 years old.
Braised Chicken with Zucchini and Rosemary
I was searching for recipes and found this one on the Le Vins de Saint-Emilion site https://en.vins-saint-emilion.com/braised-chicken-zucchini-and-rosemary
I paired the recipe down and adjusted just a bit to make dinner for Michael and I. The recipe is simple and you can cook en papillot, in grease proof paper if you have it, or foil. The parchment I had wasn’t grease proof, so I made 2 individual foil packets. This worked perfectly as Michael was running late, so I could wait and put his packet in the oven when he left work.
The chicken breast lays on a bed of thinly sliced small zucchinis, you top with salt, pepper, chopped garlic and thyme add 2 medallions of goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil and top with a sprig of rosemary, seal the packet and bake.
2015 Château la Valade
Blaye – Côtes de Bordeaux
85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon
Part of the Alfio Moriconi Selection, there were not many details to be found on this wine. We found it for $13.99 at Total Wine.
I will admit that I was a little concerned that with the goat cheese and chicken, I had chosen a recipe that was more in line with the regions white wine (sauvignon blanc), but it paired surprisingly well. The nose on this wine was bright with undertones of exotic spices and was tart but light on the palate, making it work well with the chicken and not overpower it.
Then I returned to the Saint-Emilion site for a vegetable or another side or appetizer and I found an Italian Melon Salad. I again riffed on the recipe with a bed of rocket (arugula) mixed with roasted pine nuts, chunks of gorgonzola, thin slices of parmesean, olive oil, lemon juice and salt a pepper all topped with cantaloupe, thin slices of prosciutto and basil.
2011 Château Moya
Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
93% Merlot 7% Cabernet Sauvignon
This is an organic wine from Cotes de Castillon. This region is known for is sustainable practices, with a large portion of the growers using biodynamic and organic farming practices.
This wine immediately dried my teeth. It had warm savory notes on the nose with bright cranberry fruit and it continued to evolve in the glass. It paired nicely with everything.
I will admit to being most enchanted by the wines from Castillon. These wines were great food wines, but were also really intriguing on their own. This is a region I will use as a go to for wines and I will continue to search out wines from all over the Côtes de Bordeaux.
Return to Castillon
Duck Breast with black berries and leeks, baked macaroni and cheese and an Italian melon salad
This was my “all in” pairing. Duck breast are not easy to find here in Vegas, and what I picked up from the local butcher shop was the larger Moulard Duck Magret Breast. I was dipping into the recipes again on the Le Vins de Saint-Emilion site and found a recipe for Duck Breasts with figs that I riffed on, rendering the duck breasts then adding sliced leeks and black berries when deglazing the pan with a little balsamic and some of the wine.
I did individual servings of baked mac and cheese, an idea gained from Fiona Beckett, who suggests cheddar cheese or macaroni and cheese with “full-bodied Merlot dominated bordeaux”
In addition to pairing with food, wine is great to pair with music. I paired the Chateau Moya with some Nina Simone and if you head to the Vins de Bordeux https://www.bordeaux.com/us/
site they have some great wine pairing playlists for you! Try this Mindful Wine tasting playlist https://www.bordeaux.com/us/Wine-Tunes/Moods/Mindful-winetasting
Join us as we explore the many distinct and beautiful Wine regions of france.