The benchmark for Bordeaux wines

Tasting at a Dourthe Chateau
Tasting at a Dourthe Chateau

“Since 1840, we have developed a distinctive culture that can be defined as a special bond with the soil, team spirit, a love for the finer things and a quest for perfection.”

Such are the words of Patrick Jestin, president of wine company Dourthe, which express the philosophy of one of the greatest Bordeaux wine companies in my view.

I have been travelling to the Bordeaux wine region for over 40 years, visiting the vineyards, tasting the wines and chatting to the producers. In the past few years, I have become a great fan of the wines produced by Dourthe, which sets the benchmark for the wines of Bordeaux, due to their passion for innovation and dedication to quality.

Number One Wine company in Bordeaux since 1987, it now owns no less than nine chateaux, including Chateau Belgrave, a Grand Cru Classé from the Medoc and markets some first-class blends, both red and white, under the Dourthe No. 1 label, established some 30 years ago. The company has come a long way in the last nearly 180 years, since the hotelier Pierre Dourthe opened his wine merchant business in the city of Bordeaux. It now has a worldwide reputation for its range of exclusive wines, with thriving export markets in many countries around the globe, including the UK.

Indisputably a leader rather than a follower, the company decided to relocate from the city wine merchant area, to the heart of the Bordeaux vineyards in 1950, pioneering new techniques and vineyard strategies as part of the absolute quest for perfection. Precise Vineyard mapping ensures that strategic decisions regarding rootstocks, grape varieties, clones and viticultural practices are tailored specifically to each parcel of vines. Even the way in which the soil retains or evacuates water is precisely recorded in order to adapt the vineyard management accordingly.

Dourthe has developed close relationships with a number of vine growers throughout the region, selected for their particular terroirs. With rigorous monitoring of the finest blocks of vines, combined with meticulous attention to winemaking and maturation, Dourthe has developed a true mastery in producing and ageing fine wines. Different collections of wines have been developed in order to make authentic, high quality Bordeaux wines available to a wider consumer audience, giving typicity of region and sub-region and affordable prices. Such are the No. 1 wines, the Grande Cuvée and Terroirs d’exception ranges.

But being vine growers first and foremost, Dourthe manages more than 500 hectares of vines. Chateau Pey La Tour is a 176-hectare estate planted mainly with merlot grapes in the Bordeaux/Superieur appellation. This is a very affordable claret, rich, smooth and concentrated, with a quality level and reputation far beyond its appellation. £10.69 for the 2016 vintage from Waitrose.

La Terrasse de La Garde, is the second wine of Chateau La Garde from the gravelly Pessac-Leognan region. A delicate and elegant wine, with surprising depth of flavour and finesse and again great value at only £15 for the 2014 vintage at Sainsbury’s. One of the Dourthe flagships is a chateau with one of the longest names – Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac – a succulent and refined Grand Cru Saint Emilion. Made from 75 percent Merlot and 25 percent Cabernet Franc, it is a jewel in their crown, deep, concentrated, with fine tannins, balanced fruit and a long finish with a touch of spice. £23 from Sainsbury’s for the very good 2012 vintage.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.