2016 Chateau Armurey Bordeaux Clairet

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 11:19 AM

MYTH: Bordeaux wines are too expensive. First off, “too expensive” is subjective. Secondly, due to high global demand, the most famous Bordeaux wines can be very expensive. These are the wines that grab the headlines. These are the wines around which this myth was born. It has been reported that less than 5% of all Bordeaux wine sells for more than 15€! Let that soak in for a moment. That means that more than 95% of all Bordeaux wine sells for less than 15€ per bottle. So even when we grumble about Château Beau-Coup de l’Argent raising their price by 20% each year over the past three vintages, we still know an overwhelming majority of producers do not engage in such practices. The subject of this week’s Saturday night email is a big favorite of ours. I don’t want to bore anyone here, because it does fall into the 95% category. It is actually a rather unusual wine, as a quick look at WineSearcher Pro Version reveals only two other merchants in the US are listing a 2016 vintage of this type of wine. And after having not purchased any of the 2015 vintage of this wine, we are thrilled to welcome back to our bins, the 2016 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet!

Though seemingly not as obscure as it once may have been, one still must search hard to find a Bordeaux Clairet (say clare-AY), especially here in the states. A reminder: Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, darker than a Rosé and lighter than your typical red table wine. It is made in roughly the same way a Rosé may be made, only the juice stays with the skins longer which produces more pronounced flavors and aromas, as well as its happy-go-lucky color. It is made much like the wines which were shipped from Bordeaux to England in the middle ages. These Bordeaux Clairets were enjoyed by the English from the time of Eleanor of Acquitaine’s marriage to the eventual King Henry II in 1154. These wines were the inspiration of the English word Claret (say clare-ETT), still in use today, to describe the much darker red wines from Bordeaux. Bordeaux Clairet is the perfect red wine for summer. Don’t want to drink white wine with your backyard ‘cued burgers and dogs? Don’t fret; a chilled glass of 2016 Château Armurey Clairet will do the trick. Pizza and red sauced pasta? Sure a fine spaghetti red always works, but in the heat of summer? Bordeaux Clairet is the answer. Earning nicknames like, “Fruit Punch for adults, Oh Yeah!, and the anti-wine-geek wine,” we’ve enjoyed this wine going back to the 2012 vintage.

Our quest for Bordeaux Clairet began with a question from a former colleague, which set in motion our tracking down the 2012 vintage. It proved to be a big favorite, not only for our customers, but for each and every one of us.The 2013 came and went. Quickly. The 2014 came with its own humorous story and was enjoyed by all, but when it came time for the 2015, we hit a logistical snag and had to pass on it rather than receive it in late September of last year. Sorry about that. Learning from our mistake, we were sure to buy the 2016 as soon as it was released, and it arrived just as spring was packing its bags and moving on. Anya, Chris, and I have all taken bottles home to enjoy, and we are in agreement that it is the perfect wine for these summer days. Sip it on its own, or pair it with comfort food, the 2016 Armurey Clairet will put a smile on your face and save you some cash to boot!

FACT: Most Bordeaux wine is inexpensive. One fact that often goes unmentioned is that in many cases, estates in Bordeaux are passed down in families for generations, taking real estate costs off the table. The majority of Bordeaux producers are farming families living off the land, producing wine for their own consumption, and allowing the excess to be sold in the marketplace. We’re just happy that we came across the Armurey Clairet a few years ago, as it has become a symbol of summertime for many of you and all of us. Wishing you all good health and fortune for the summer of ’17. – Peter Zavialoff

Visiting Bordeaux each spring to attend theEn Primeurtastings isalways an interesting experience. Full ofchallenges and deadlines, but also rife withlearning opportunities and plain old dumbluck, I try to approach the week asopen and accepting as possible. It isnot a time for stress or mood swings. You never know what is going to happen. Not being much of a planner,Primeurs is theone week that I keep a list of appointments, from 9am until 6pm, every day, and I cram a lot of tastings and appointments into those time slots!Monday was spent in the Médoc with appointments at 11 châteaux, including 2 First Growths, 5 Seconds, 2 Thirds, and 2 Fifths.Tuesdaywas again spent in the Médoc, only 3 appointments, but all 5 UGC tastings were there.Wednesday morning began with the UGC Pessac-Léognan tasting at Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. Between the reds and whites, that was 31 wines, soit was rather amusing as to why I busted my tail after this tasting to drive to Pomerol for a noon appointment to taste one wine. What was the wine? Believe it or not, it was the2014 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet.


You may have heard the story before, a few years ago, former TWH staffer Emily asked me if I had ever tastedBordeaux Clairet. The answer was no, but more than that, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Once again, Bordeaux Clairet is a light red wine, made in the style reminiscent of the wines shipped to England in the middle ages. It’s made like a Rosé, yet sits with its skins for a longer period of time, hence the red wine aromas and palate. We just love it! With a little chill on it, it’s fresh, it’s fruity, it’s light, but definitely more substantial than a Rosé. Around the table, it’s incredibly versatile too; you can pair it with almost anything. The best part: its price. $10 by the bottle or $8.50 by the case, it’s no wonder my fall invoice usually has a bottle or seven on it. Here is our post about the 2012 version. Also, you can read our write-up on the 2013 here.
Unlike the past two vintages, the supplier did not air-freight out any samples of the 2014 for our staff to taste, and we weren’t about to buy something we hadn’t tasted, so I made arrangements to do so while in Bordeaux. It must be amusing from the négociant’s perspective as well, as she interrupted her hectic Primeurs schedule to grab a sample of inexpensive Clairet, chill it, and meet with me so I could taste it. We went to lunch afterwards, where we did discuss more serious matters with some serious wine from a Pomerol estate called Château Bonalgue (You will be hearing a bit about Bonalgue in the near future). After lunch, I was off to four appointments at various celebrated Pomerol châteaux, then two more just across the border in Saint Émilion. When I look back on the day as a whole, it cracks me up to think about leaving Smith-Haut-Lafitte and high-tailing it across the two rivers to make my noon appointment to taste the Bordeaux Clairet. I was confident that it would be to my liking, but I needed first hand knowledge before we went ahead and bought a bunch. It exceeded expectations.
It’s container season here at TWH! The 2014 Château Armurey Bordeaux Clairet recently arrived on the first of three containers due in the next several weeks! Both Anya and I took bottles home last weekend, and it looks like we’ll be doing it again after we close today! First thing this morning, Tom asked Anya if she had tried the Clairet. “I love it! It’s great, so easy to drink, so plump, so juicy. I like this year’s version better than last year as it’s fresher and less herbal.” Who need boring tasting notes when you have Anya’s enthusiasm? – Peter Zavialoff
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