So, anyway, I attended another trade tasting on Thursday, this one held at Chanterelle, the great restaurant in TriBeCa, a setting that ensured the best snacks I have ever had at such an event. The tasting was mounted by the Cercle Rive Droite, that is, the Circle of the Right Bank, meaning here the Right Bank of Bordeaux, where the reigning red grape is merlot, with cabernet franc playing a supporting role, to large or lesser extent. This situation is in contrast with the Left Bank, where the cabernet sauvignon grape dominates and merlot plays a very important second fiddle, followed by cabernet franc.

The principle appellations of the Right Bank are the august Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. but a host of minor appellations produces fine wines, many of which are increasingly attractive because of the rising prices (especially for the superb 2005 vintage) of Bordeaux’s top properties.

The 44 wines presented at this tasting were all barrel samples from 2006; the finished wines won’t be released until March or April 2008. Tasting the young wines, however (if you can get your tongue around the sometimes searing tannins), gives a decent overview of the year and how the merlot grape performed. Prices are problematic, but I would say that on release most of these examples will cost from about $18 to $40. The producers and chateau owners I talked to seemed almost relieved not to have to deal with a blockbuster year like 2005; now they have fairly accessible wines from an above average to almost excellent vintage that they can sell at reasonable prices.

I will write about these wines in more detail later, but here’s a quick run-down of some of my favorites.

*Chateau Carignan “Prima” 2006, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. Deep, dark purple, bright, fresh and clean, vivid, vibrant fruit, harmonious and drinkable. 85% merlot, 10% cabernet sauvignon, 5% cabernet franc.

*Chateau Bel Air La Royere 2006, Blaye. Lovely, penetrating, seductive, immediately attractive, crsushed raspberries, potpourri and plum dust. Try 2010 to 2014. 70% merlot, 30 % malbec.

*Clos Puy Arnaud 2006, Cotes de Castillon. Fresh and attractive but intense and concentrated, cassis, dried raspberries and cranberries, potpourri, seductive spice and flowers. Try 2009 to 2012 or ’14. 65% merlot, 30% cabernet franc, 5% cabernet sauvignon.

*Chateau de La Dauphine 2006, Fronsac. Huge, massive but succulent, almost sweetly ripe, intensely dusty, almost gritty. Try 2010 to 2014-’16.  90% merlot, 10% cabernet franc.

*Chateau Mazeyres 2006, Pomerol. Beguiling bouquet of sandalwood, exotic spice, dried flowers, cassis, black raspberry, well-balanced and harmonious. Try 2009 to 2012 or ’14. 83% merlot, 17% cabernet franc.

*La Fleur de Bouard 2006, Lalande de Pomerol. Entrancing bouquet, well-balanced and harmonious, delicious but with a tight tannic and mineral edge. 2009 to 2012 and beyond. 80% merlor, 15% cabernet franc, 5% cabernet sauvignon.

*Chateau Barde-Haut 2006, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Lovely style and character, dense, rich, well-balanced, plenty of grit. 2008 to 2014 or ’16. 90% merlot, 10% cabernet franc.

*Chateau La Marzelle 2006, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. Gorgeous, a burst of exotic fruit and spice, almost jammy but lots of dense chewy tannins. 2010-1016. 84% merlot, 16%, cabernet franc.

*Chateau Guibot La Fourvieille 2006, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. First note: God, what a bouquet! Sweet spices, bitter chocolate, cassis and raspberry. luscious but with a dense, dusty texture. 80% merlot, 10% cabernet frranc, 10% cabernet sauvignon.

*Chateau Clos des Jacobins 2006, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe. The scent, the color, the flavor of ink, great style, tone and balance, touch of exoticism, oak is fairly profound. 2010 through 2018 or so. 70% merlot, 28% cabernet franc, 2% cabernet sauvignon.

These posts from NYC make it sound as if I have occupied myself with French wines, when actually I have tasted more Italian wines (which I’ll be reporting on soon), and indeed this afternoon I’m going to my last event, the big Gambero Rosso tasting of top Italian wines. 

Then a quiet dinner, packing my bags (wondering how I’m going to bring back some wine) and a short sleep before catching a 6:30 a.m. flight home.