About this WINE
Jean-Michel Cazes is one of Bordeaux's legendary figures, a man of enormous dynamism, vision, energy and charm. His family have owned 5th Growth Ch Lynch Bages for decades but in recent years have added Ch Les Ormes de Pez in St Estephe to their portfolio. He has also been responsible for pioneering developments in wine tourism, gastronomy, wine education and the revitalisation of the hamlet of Bages which sits behind Ch Lynch Bags.
More recently he purchased a well-sited estate in the Graves region called Ch Bel Air; as there are dozens of Bel-Airs in Bordeaux he named this one Ch Villa Bel Air to differentiate it, perhaps naming it thus with an eye to the Iberian origins of his wife. At this estate Jean-Michel makes benchmark examples of Graves wine, a white blend of Sauvignon and Semillon and a red Cabernet/Merlot blend which is mellow and round on the palate and yet which still exhibits the typical Graves terroir character.
He produces a special blend for us to bottle under our own label, the Extraordinary Claret, a noticeable step up from our popular and well-made Good Ordinary Claret, and a wine which demonstrates his skill in producing stylish, eminently drinkable Bordeaux from widely differing appellations.
Graves is the region which first established Bordeaux's wine reputation. Its wines were exported to England as early as the 12th century and Samuel Pepys drank Ho Bryan (sic) in London on 10th April, 1663.
The names Graves is derived from ‘gravel’ and the best soils are gravel-rich, mixed with sand and occasionally clay. Graves is larger in areas than the Médoc but produces only half the amount of wine. The best wines of Graves were initially classified in 1953 with this classification being confirmed in 1959.
Until 1987, this entire region, which runs immediately south of the city of Bordeaux until it reaches Sauternes, was known as the Graves and its entirety is still sometimes informally referred to as such, but from the 1986 vintage a new communal district was created within Graves, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city.
Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the Classed Growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.
The climate is milder than to the north of the city, and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.
An important white grape in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley that has now found fame in New Zealand and now Chile. It thrives on the gravelly soils of Bordeaux and is blended with Sémillon to produce fresh, dry, crisp Bordeaux Blancs, as well as more prestigious Cru Classé White Graves.
It is also blended with Sémillon, though in lower proportions, to produce the great sweet wines of Sauternes. It performs well in the Loire Valley and particularly on the well-drained chalky soils found in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, where it produces bone dry, highly aromatic, racy wines, with grassy and sometimes smoky, gunflint-like nuances.
In New Zealand, Cloudy Bay in the 1980s began producing stunning Sauvignon Blanc wines with extraordinarily intense nettly, gooseberry, and asparagus fruit, that set Marlborough firmly on the world wine map. Today many producers are rivalling Cloudy Bay in terms of quality and Sauvignon Blanc is now New Zealand`s trademark grape.
It is now grown very successfully in Chile producing wines that are almost halfway between the Loire and New Zealand in terms of fruit character. After several false starts, many South African producers are now producing very good quality, rounded fruit-driven Sauvignon Blancs.