Second Wines, Not Second Best
Published by Ruth Farnon on 23/10/2019
The 'second wine' concept originates in Bordeaux, where as well as the 'Grand Vin', many estates will also make an additional cuvée with fruit from less mature vines, typically in a way that allows for drinking without any need for extended ageing in the cellar. Oftentimes these wines are lighter, and more fruit driven, easier and earlier drinking in addition to being generally great value.
So what do you want to do with your wine? Do you want to drink it now or lay it down for 10 years before it is approachable? Do you want to blow the holiday budget on one bottle or keep it and buy something with similar flavours, but a far more reasonable price tag?
In the interests of research for our customers (I know, tough gig), we tasted three amazing examples of second wines this week, with the visit of Cécile Cazard, who represents Chanel-owned estates, Chateau Rauzan-Ségla & Chateau Canon. You know when you are tasting vintage claret at 09:45 am that you have started the day on the right footing.
Croix Canon is the second wine of Château Canon, located in St-Émilion on the right-bank of the Gironde. Rather wonderfully, Chateau Canon was purchased in 1760 by Jacques Kanon who earned his fortune as a ‘privateer’, a polite way of saying pirate in those days.
The Fournier family managed the estate from 1919 until it was sold in 1996 to Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, the owners of the famous luxury goods manufacturer Chanel, who had previously purchased Château Rauzan-Ségla in 1994.
While Rauzan-Ségla’s and Canon’s first wines continue to fetch staggering prices, in part driven by their investment-grade status, there is amazing value to be had in their second wines.
First up was Croix Canon 2014. This was a classic vintage across Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion, which reaped the benefits of an Indian summer that kicked into action in late August and continued through September and October. The resulting wine has a wonderful purity of fruit and a long finish to match. As with most right-bank estates, the dominant grape here is Merlot.
One of the most surprising things we learned was that contrary to conventional food matching, Cécile recommended having a tasty white fish with the Croix Canon, for example a meaty fillet of grilled hake.
Ségla is the second wine from the Château Rauzan-Ségla estate, located within the Margaux appellation on the left-bank. The château was managed by John Kolasa, who was also in charge of Château Canon until late 2014. The history of the estate dates back to 1661. Thomas Jefferson ordered 10 cases of Rauzan-Ségla after visiting Bordeaux in 1787.
The 2011 vintage was marked by a warm spring and a cool summer, which suited the sandier soils of Margaux. The wine has intense aromas of black fruits and blueberries, integrated with subtle notes of vanilla. And the blend is predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc thrown in for good measure.
Cécile also suggested an unusual pairing for this wine. After allowing some time for the wine to breathe, she said that it would match excellently with some Indian cuisine.
To round off a superb morning tasting, Cécile poured us the 2009 vintage from Ségla. Following a difficult winter, the spring, summer and autumn were ideal a decade ago in Bordeaux. The wine was noted for its elegance and silky tannins. While it is drinking very well right now, this is a wine that still has plenty of fine years ahead!
We don’t know about you, but we are dying to put these food pairing suggestions to the test. We shall report back tout suite!
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