2009 Sarget de Gruaud Larose
Retail price: approximately $33
Available at Suburban Wines and Spirits
French Wine: Le Roi des Vins, le Vin des Rois
Château Gruaud Larose never surprised me more than at my father’s 70th birthday party, which was itself a surprise party. Why is it good when a wine surprises you? Well, simply because it has gone beyond your expectations, and that is something that all great French wines have in common—they go one step further. The French wine Gruaud Larose has always been known for its firm masculine style and its ability to acquire finesse with age.
Normally in our house, I choose the wine, but this one was selected by my husband. He was new to wine but determined to make up for lost ground. The day of the party was so busy that I had uncharacteristically forgotten about the wine for the evening. In any case, my husband came through for me by arriving not only with the most clever and humorous toast of the evening in honor of Dad but also with a marvelous supply of Gruaud Larose ’89, which proved to be one of the enchanting secret ingredients of the evening.
Soon after the great success of the ’89, I was delighted to try the château’s second wine—Sarget de Gruaud Larose. Second wines are very much like younger siblings. They share a lot of the same DNA but are smaller in scale and almost always more approachable. The 2009 Sarget is a wonderful example of this: it has a bittersweet cocoa and tobacco-leaf nose, with a roasted-meat edge and lots of concentrated blueberry and fig fruitiness on the palate. It is medium bodied and has a very respectable, firm finish.
Like typical Bordeaux wines, this one from Saint-Julien is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and a very small amount of petit verdot. Saint-Julien is the smallest of the four main appellations of the Haut-Médoc: Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux. Saint-Julien is sometimes overlooked, as it doesn’t have a classified first growth within its borders; but at its best, as many Bordeaux lovers acknowledge, it is capable of combining the power of Pauillac and the finesse of Margaux, which are the communes just to the north and south.
Hundreds of years ago, Larose de Guyenne proclaimed his wine “le roi des vins, le vin des rois” because of its legendary popularity with the nobility, and the proclamation remains on the label to this day. This motto has inspired many imitators, and I can understand why, as it promises to exceed your expectations.
Try it with classic wintry dishes: croziflette, coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon.
Editor’s note: Food and wine lovers heading to Paris might want to try one of the Girls’ Guide’s favorite cooking classes in Paris.