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2010 Ch. Roc des Cambes, Côtes de Bourg
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Roc de Cambes is a Côtes de Bourg Estate and is now unquestionably the finest producer in the appellation. It was bought in 1988 by François Mitjavile, owner of Château Le Tetre-Rôtebouef in St-Emilion. He was attracted by the ideal locations of the 10 hectares of vineyards, which are situated close to the Gironde on a south-facing slope in a natural amphitheatre.
The average vine age is over 35 years and François Mitjavile overhauled the vineyard by replanting diseased vines and introducing grass covering which helps regulate the water supply. The grapes (65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc) are harvested as late as possible, and are then vinified in temperature controlled cement vats. The wine is then matured in oak barrels (50% new) for 15- 18 months. Roc de Cambes produces rich, stylish, full-bodied wines that considering their size are remarkably harmonious and well balanced.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
Côtes de Bourg is a bucolic Bordeaux wine appellation on the Right Bank, where the Dordogne and Garonne meet, lying between the Côtes de Blaye and Fronsac . The location of the port and the hills behind made it an important strategic location in Plantagenet times, and the vineyards are actually longer-established than those of the Médoc. Currently there are around 3,500 hectares in production, the source of hearty, rustic reds – with a limited amount of white wine.The varied soils are very productive, with the ensuing dangers of high yields and green, unripe flavours in the wines following early harvesting. Where these issues are addressed, good wines can be made, often representing good value for money. Merlot is the predominant grape, although Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Malbec can be important, according to soil type.