Mature red Bordeaux have always been a classic match for roast lamb. These Cru Classe wines – from the Medoc subregion, where cabernet sauvignon reigns – include
Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Lynch Bages, and Chateau Lagrange. To allow their glory to shine, they need to sit for at least a decade in the wine cellar. As the wine ages, the tannins (polyphenolic compounds extracted from the grape skins and seeds that act as a natural preservative), become supple and smooth. The tannins in young red wines, especially in cabs, often impart astringency, which explains why these wines are not good before- dinner drinks. If you’re selecting Bordeaux from the already legendary 2000 vintage, avoid the prestigious properties and focus on the more reasonable Chateau Bonnet (about $11) or Chateau Beaumont (about $20), which can be enjoyed now. Good alternatives are cabernets from Australia, California, or Chile, whose lush fruit flavors and tamer tannins make them ready by the Easter parade.
A world of cabernet Penfolds put Australia on the world wine map with their stupendous Grange, a shiraz-based wine, which disappears from retailers’ shelves despite its $200-plus price tag. They also make luscious cabernet, including the flagship Penfolds Bin 707 (a former Qantas marketing manager came up with the name). About a decade ago the Australian winery introduced a more affordable cabernet. The 1999 Penfolds Bin 407 has the winemaker’s signature balance. It’s an engagingly rich wine infused with black currant fruit and wrapped with supple tannins. About $27. (Distributed by Carolina Wine & Spirits, 781-278-2000 and MS Walker, 800-238-0607.)
Simi’s Landslide Vineyard, located in the Alexander Valley portion of Sonoma Valley, supplies the majority of the cabernet sauvignon for their consistently excellent Reserve Cabernet (about $75). Four years ago, Simi bottled some cabernet from Landslide Vineyard grapes separately. The result is a staggeringly good 2000 Landslide Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Ripe and rich, without being overdone, it is polished and layered with flavor. About $35. (United Liquors, 800-445-0076.)
The winery Casa Lapostolle, owned by France’s Marnier Lapostolle family – of Grand Marnier fame – is one of the best in Chile. The family relies on Michel Rolland, a gifted Bordeaux winemaker, as a consultant to the vineyard and the cellar. Their regular cabernet, at about $11, always provides good value. A more upscale version, called Cuvee Alexandre, is made from better grapes and delivers more power and grace. Supple and packed with black fruit flavors, the 1999 Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon is outstanding. About $20. (Carolina Wine & Spirits and United Liquors.)
April 7, 2004.