Character–it’s what defines vintage French winesBy Margaux Salcedo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
You can qualify as the best only if you have strength of character. There is something about struggle that creates a complexity of spirit, the kind that differentiates the men from the boys, the best from the rest.
In this respect, the human spirit is no different from wines. Those which have had it easy don’t come in quite as remarkably as those that underwent “struggling” in the soil.
It is for this strength of character that the renowned Margaux is appreciated. In the Haut-Medoc sub-region of Margaux where Chateau Margaux lies, you will find the thinnest soil in the region with the highest proportion of gravel (mabato!).
In our rice-producing country, having such condition would have been a nightmare. But this is the kind of soil that creates the best wines.
As the vines go deeper to find water and nourishment, they become physically stronger and “develop character.”
The specific characteristics of the deeper soils leave their mark.
Cabernet Sauvignon, the great varietal of the “first growth” or best vineyards, and which comprises a substantial percentage of the better acclaimed Margaux varieties, grows best in this rocky terroir.
There are many chateaux that bear the appellation Margaux, not just the prestigious Chateau Margaux. (An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical mark used to identify where the grapes are grown.)
The appellation Margaux actually applies to five villages: Arsac, Cantenac, Labarde, Margaux and Soussans. Wines from any of these villages have the right to carry the appellation Margaux.
At an exclusive wine-tasting at art collector and interior designer Jaime Ponce de Leon’s Leon Gallery, in the presence of an 1885 Rafael Enriquez and a rare 1937 Fernando Amorsolo, we had occasion to taste the wines from Chateau Siran, located on the plateau of Labarde.
The entire Siran estate covers 88 hectares, spread across both Margaux as well as the more generic appellations of Haut-Medoc and Bordeaux. The beauty of this estate is that it is entirely surrounded by vineyards whose wines were given a ranking in the Napoleon-dictated Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. (The most well-known classification here is the Chateau Margaux’s highest ranking of Premier Cru or first growth.)
Unfortunately, the estate was acquired by a family of wine professionals only in 1859 or four years after the 1855 classification, and, therefore, was not ranked. Experts say that had it been purchased four years earlier, it would certainly have achieved a close if not similar ranking.
The chateau is owned by the Miailhe family, now represented by Edouard Miailhe.
Belonging to the family’s fifth generation, Miailhe has made Château Siran one of the rare châteaux to belong to the same family for nearly 150 years. Lucky for Manila, Miailhe lives in the Philippines.
At the Chateau Siran wine-tasting, he himself shared his tasting notes for Chateau Siran Margaux 1989, 2006 and 2009 as well as St. Jacques de Siran 2008.
Of these wines, the 2009 vintage stood out. Wine connoisseur Tita Trillo slyly skipped the 2006 and had the waiter pour her 2009 all throughout dinner!
“It is full-bodied yet so subtle,” she gushed. “And it will even be better through the years.”
Leading US wine critic Robert Parker rated the 2009 vintage the highest at 90, of all the recent vintages. Its blend is 48 percent Merlot, 45 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Petit Verdot.
This vintage captivates you with its expressive floral nose, makes an impression with its balanced acidity, and lingers with its beautiful composition, leaving a structured finish.
Like a star in her breakout film, it makes a dramatic entrance, her beauty great and even promise even greater—a legend in the making.
The 1989 vintage is another recommended year for wines coming from Margaux.
Rounded and full on the palate, this was art collector Robbie Santos’ preferred vintage because of its lingering presence. This bottle exposed opulent and silky tannins but gave a stunningly long and persistent finish, reflective of true elegant Bordeaux flavors.
Its blend is 45 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 percent Merlot, 15 percent Petit Verdot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc. Its maturity was pegged at 15-20 years, and appreciating it on its 23d year was a real treat.
Interestingly enough, the other bottle that captured the evening’s audience was the 2008 St. Jacques de Siran.
Miailhe described it as an everyday wine, priced at Santi’s at only approximately P700. Yet it was greatly appreciated for being easy on the tongue without losing its density or elegance.
Its expressive palate of ripe Cabernet fruit is a favorite among Filipino tasters. If you are throwing a Filipino dinner party, an easy way to upgrade your bistek à la pobre into bistek à la sosyal is by pairing it with a 2008 St. Jacques!
A matter of taste
I asked Miailhe what makes Siran different from other estates. Quite humbly, he replied that it all boils down to a matter of preference.
The determining factor is neither price, region nor year, although these serve as a guide. As with all things French, it’s a matter of taste. And, as the most enjoyable wine-tasting of Chateau Siran wines proved, those with strength of character matter the most.
Chateau Siran Margaux is carried by Premium Wines, Terry’s Selection and Wine Story. The St. Jacques is exclusively available at Santi’s. Visit http://www.chateausiran.com.
Leon Gallery is at G/F, Corinthian Plaza, 121 Paseo de Roxas Legaspi Village, Makati City. Call 8467416
Visit www.margauxlicious.com, www.facebook.com/ margauxsalcedo, Twitter.com/ margauxsalcedo.