At the end of a long day's tasting, the team travelled up the windy lanes to Castillon to visit Paul and Cedric Valade. After the likes of Petrus and Ausone, one might expect a little Castillon wine to be somewhat overshadowed, but this was (as always) one of the most interesting tasting of the week. This 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc cuvee is produced from yields of 42hl/ha. Cedric followed their normal practice of leaving grass growing between the vines, which proved to be an astute choice when the rains came pre-harvest. The grass absorbed much of the moisture and resulted in no dilution. Perfumed, gravelly, with good density and structure. Ripe, rich and very smart for the price tag.
Situated in the Côtes de Castillon, where the terroir is similar to the higher vineyards of St Emilion, Château La Grande Maye reminds you that Bordeaux is not just about astronomically priced classed growths. The average age of vines on this 18 hectare Estate is 30 years and consist predominantly of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The final blend spends a year in 1/3 new oak barrels and with its ripeness of fruit, grainy texture and complexity offers a value for money the rest of the world would be hard pushed to beat.
These are Merlot based wines, sometimes with Cabernet Franc, that betray a fleshiness and sturdiness that can be drunk 1-5 years after the vintage. The region is named after the town of Castillon-la-Bataille, the battle that brought an end to the hundred years war.