Today continues our exploration of Graves: Bordeaux’s diverse, left-bank, value region that struggles in the shadow of famed and pricier Haut-Médoc. A white van has toured us around the village of Langon, visiting its wineries for free (this is an EU Austerity Drinking Tour after all).
We leave “Château” la Croix‘s rustic charm. A new driver asks for our next winery. The local girls say something. I blankly agree. But my wife’s glare cuts me down.
“They don’t like you”, she growls. “I know. But it doesn’t really matter which winery we go to.” “Yes, but you choose one, they don’t want us around”. “Fine”. Angry, tipsy, and both of us sick and stuffy we continue to whisper/fight.
Luckily, our van stops at a huge winery. People bus about the parking lot. Cars, trucks and off-road buggies fill it. Excited, thirsty, and annoyed, the threesome leaves us.
We drive on. Graves is not rich compared to the Medoc. There are few fancy châteaux. Really, most are barns/wineries who all persist at calling themselves Châteaux. Towns look small and simple. Some homes look abandoned. Really, farmland and an airplane assembly plant provide Graves’ wealth.
Our guide makes every winery we pass sound like the same cute husband and wife, grower/maker of white, red, and whatever. I choose one that only makes red: Château Caillivet. My wife dishes up more flack for choosing the second-to-last winery. But palate fatigue and illness are catching up to us.
The van twists between small hillocks, stuffed with trees. Finally, it strolls up a manicured slope with golden green vines on our right. A clean, modest home sits on top, shaded by trees. It seems very still here.
Célia Carrillo greats us. She lets us finish our avocado and bread lunch, while explaining how her father Philipe and her brother Antoine began planting and building in 1997. Antoine was a Bordeaux U grad, who lived above vineyards while studying. Today, they have just 20 acres. They only grow Cabernet and Merlot (but whites are coming). Célia runs the business. Although young, at least they have 2010 under their belt (and in bottle).
As the rain picks up outside, Célia tastes us through it:
Château Caillivet, “IN”, Graves, 2010
This is their attempt to draw “in” a young crowd (sorry). It looks a medium ruby with noticeable legs.
Aromas smell youthful but strongly of black prune, clay, and calcium mineral.
The palate feels dry, zippy, decently tannic, and medium bodied.
Average flavors taste of tart black fruit and clay mineral. The culprit behind all this simplicity and cleanliness: stainless steal tanks (below). Nary a barrel sees this wine, which also explains why it costs 7 Euros.
The medium length, and medium-ness make “IN” a functional, good, all around wine (3 of 5). It wants food with so much tannin and acid, but nothing too saucy or heady. Appetizers.
Next up: Château Caillivet’s oaked 2010 Graves 60% merlot 40% cabernet sauvignon.
Already, this looks deeper in color, with a shorter clear rim: serious.
Still nascent aromas smell of ripe, red cherry, black plum, and tobacco.
Better fruit means less acidity, more ripe tannins, and a medium body.
Gorgeous, medium-plus intensity flavors of dried black cassis, mint, salt mineral, and tobacco carry for a pleasant, medium-plus length.
Eight months of used barrel time has made for a very good (4 of 5) bottle that only costs €12 at the winery.
I would set it down for two more years. Woody tannins and that strong minerality need time to cool down. But thank you barrels for bringing some interest.
Finally, we reach Caivillet’s last wine. Wait! Just three? Yup.
The only discernible difference is its black label (they could use some product differentiation).
As before, this 2010 looks a deep, dark purple.
Aromas smell of a quieter but more complex range of ripe red cherry and black plum, dry rose petal, and ash.
Like before, the firm, tannic backbone and medium body show that they are serious.
Complex, powerful flavors of dried black cherry, raspberry, and red licorice start it off, followed by a mint, salt, pine, cocoa-powdered finish. The length is pretty long.
8-12 months in second use barrels makes this black-label very good (4 of 5). It tastes ready to drink, but a bit of decanting or aging would not hurt it. It’s so good (and only €8) that we buy one.
Caillivet’s U of Bordeaux background shines in how painfully pure and clean their wines taste. Only growing Cabernet and Merlot seems a bit simple, even risky, given how wet and cold it gets here. But they make it work. They have oodles of potential. Just clarify your range.
Next Monday we wrap up our Open Doors tour of Graves at a behemoth of modern, stylish wine-making.