Winning Formula: Top Picks Of Bordeaux-Style Blends Made Outside France

These Bordeaux-style blends made outside France are striking quaffs.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Bordeaux-style blend—a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot—has found many practitioners outside of France. We pick some of the best examples of this crowd-pleaser from around the world.

Concha Y Toro, Marques De Casa Concha, Etiqueta Negra 2016

Maipo Valley, Chile

Surprisingly, Concha y Toro, which makes some of Chile’s best Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, did not introduce a Bordeaux-style blend for its storied 40-year-old Marques de Casa Concha brand until late last year. Winemaker Marcelo Papa says that Marques de Casa Concha has always focused on varietal wines but finally decided to “do something different” from their Puente Alto appellation in Maipo Valley. The Cabernet Sauvignon (60 per cent), Cabernet Franc (32 per cent), and Petit Verdot (8 per cent) that go into the Etiqueta Negra come from Puente Alto’s high altitude El Mariscal vineyard. The Etiqueta Negra 2016 is a whirlwind of dark fruit, cherry and vanilla. Tannins are grippy and help extend the wine’s long finish. There are savoury touches of soya and smoked meat, which should develop further as the wine ages.
Price upon request, from VCT Singapore. Email: fazil.mohammad@vctwinegroup.com.sg

Nelson Wine Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010

Paarl, South Africa

In 1987, Alan Nelson purchased derelict vineyards in Paarl, replacing abandoned vines with varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage, and Chardonnay. The estate has been gradually making a name for itself, sweeping up some top awards for its Cabernet Franc at domestic wine competitions. Part of the winery’s midtier Nelson Estate Label range, the Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, includes a small amount of Petit Verdot. The 2010 vintage has aged well. The inky ambrosia boasts an aroma of smoked meat and spices, and a soft, lush profile of dark fruit, cinnamon and mint.
$39, from Corney & Barrow Singapore. Tel: 6221 8530

Nederburg, The Brewmaster 2014

Paarl, South Africa

South Africa’s Bordeaux-style blends have gone from strength to strength. Like Pinotage—the country’s signature red quaff—Bordeaux-style blends have benefitted from contemporary techniques like lower yields and gentler extraction, resulting in wines that are more expressive and balanced. We sampled some wines from Nederburg winery’s Auction Exclusive Collection at Cé La Vi restaurant, and were particularly impressed with The Brewmaster 2014, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (52 per cent), Merlot (23 per cent), Petit Verdot (15 per cent), and Malbec (10 per cent). Plush tannins wrap around delicious, well-integrated layers of dark fruit, chocolate and coffee notes. The finish is long, evoking a ghost of spices, vanilla and light oak. Drink it now or cellar it for another five or six more years.
$120, from The Wine Company. Tel: 9181 7004

Vanya Cullen, Diana Madeline 2015

Margaret River, Western Australia

Cabernet Sauvignon reigns in Margaret River, so it’s no surprise that the country’s best Bordeaux-style blends come from this corner of Australia. One of our favourite Margaret River producers is Vanya Cullen, a certified biodynamic winery. Made with fruit from the historical Cullen Vineyard—a plot of granite and gravelly sandy loam soils—the Diana Madeline 2015 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and tiny amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The 2015 vintage saw cool spells during spring and summer, which extended the ripening period of the fruit and tempered their tannins. The Diana Madeline’s medium-bodied, elegant texture is matched by rich notes of cassis, mocha and dried leaves. It’s still youthful by Cullen standards, and worth revisiting after a few more years.
$155, from Hai Choo Wines & Spirits. Tel: 6515 6538

Vaso by Dana Estates, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Napa Valley, California

Bordeaux-style blends from Napa Valley used to get a bad rep. Critics dissed them with labels like ‘chunky’, ‘jammy’ and ‘sweet’. But in recent years, a newer generation of wine producers are taking a more balanced, refined approach to their wines without sacrificing that ripe, lush core that Californian reds are known for. Founded in 2005 by Korean wine importer Hi Sang Lee, Dana Estates represents this particular camp. With fruit sourced from the cool Howell Mountain and Vaca Mountains sites, the Vaso 2013—a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend with smidgens of Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot—is currently all youth and vigour with its bold flavours of espresso and dark fruit. Its secondary notes of truffle and spices, along with its well-integrated tannins, hint at a top ambrosia in the making. The wine is enjoyable now but will reward those with patience to cellar it.
Price upon request, from Giron. Tel: 6476 1569

This article was first published in Wine & Dine’s Mar/Apr 2019 issue – The Art of Craft.

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