The very first customer that walked in to the shop today strolled through our Bordeaux section and later commented, “Wow. I remember the days when Lynch Bages was less than $30, and now it’s over $100??!!” Sad, but true. Who doesn’t have a story like that about something, whether it pertains to a house, car, meal in a restaurant, or even a bus fare once paid? Sometimes prices go up, it happens. Not to fret; there’s plenty of sub $30 red Bordeaux out there to be enjoyed! That’s what we do. Sure, we buy most of Bordeaux’s fancy offerings in each vintage, but with our boots on the ground in the region, we suss out quality wines made by smaller, lesser known producers as well. While in Bordeaux early last month, I got the chance to revisit a wine that reassures me that there continue to be delicious bargains from the world’s wine capital. The 2010 Château Rollan de By is that wine.
I’ve gone on before about things I do while in Bordeaux during the time of the En Primeurs tastings. The UGC tastings are crowded affairs, and anyone that knows me well knows that my M.O. in an environment such as this is to focus and stick to the task at hand with maximum efficiency. In other words, do the job and get out. Despite their hectic nature, the UGC tastings only pour around 20% of the samples I taste over there. There are other sanctioned tastings and chateaux visits, but the majority of samples are tasted in a far calmer environment, at the offices and warehouses of negociants. It was in one of these warehouses that I got to taste the 2010 Rollan de By out of bottle for the first time. There is an ethereal aroma/flavor component that I associate with red Bordeaux after it spends some time in bottle. To my friends and colleagues I call it “that Bordeaux funk.” It is not funky nor unpleasant. It is the height of complexity, to a point where I lack the words to describe it further. I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I detect it. It is the reason I drink red Bordeaux. Wines that I have tasted in recent years that have it include 1985 Leoville Las Cases, 1995 Grand Mayne, 2002 Domaine de Chevalier, 2000 Château de Malleret, and 2007 Pape Clement. The 2010 Rollan de By has it in spades.
Château Rollan de By is located in the northern Médoc village of Bégadan. You may remember some earlier praise for a château in Bégadan. The 180 hectare property overlooks the Gironde estuary which protects it from extreme weather conditions. Their 2010 was made from 70% Merlot, and 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The château is run by Jean Guyot. No, this is not Will Durst. Guyot is the son of an antique dealer, which explains the artistic aesthetic of the château and property. A poignant piece of his collection is a cherub-like bronze statuette holding a bunch of grapes to its mouth. According to the chateau’s website,“It symbolizes the love of the grape. Before the love for wine. Wine is a work of art, and like all masterpieces, what counts is to drink it, as much as to talk about it.” That’s what I’m talking about; where’s my wine key?
This from The Wine Advocate: “Consistently better than its humble appellation, this excellent wine from proprietor Jean Guyon offers up plenty of black currant fruit intermixed with cedar wood, licorice and incense in a medium to full-bodied, surprisingly concentrated and expansive style that should drink nicely for a minimum of a decade or more. There’s no need for patience with this sleeper of the vintage, given the sweetness of its tannins, attractive glycerin and fruit levels. 90 points” – Robert Parker
“The Rollan du [sic] By 2010 has a ripe raspberry coulis and wild strawberry nose with just a hint of candied orange peel. The palate is medium-bodied with crisp acidity. There is very fine tension here, great purity on the finish with a supple, focused finish with beautifully integrated oak. Excellent. Drink now-2018. 91 points” – Neal Martin
Wow, Will Durst. Back in the days when one could find Lynch Bages for less than $30, I found myself rubbing elbows with the comedian and his wife Debi from time to time. I used to hang out with the gang at The Punch Line comedy club because … I love comedy. I introduced them to the “Hi Bob” game, and that became our way of saying hello to each other for years after. Who’d of thunk he has a doppelgänger in the Médoc.
So there you have it, another rock-solid red Bordeaux for less than $30. An exercise I like to undertake when I have nice bottle of Bordeaux that sells for a modest price is to treat it special. That’s right, get the decanter, the good stemware, pair it with something good, and of course, share it! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about low priced/high quality Bordeaux, English Football, or our upcoming 2014 Bordeaux Futures campaign: peter@wineSF.com