What: Many novice wine drinkers don’t know that you can get a really good bottle of wine from a legendary region without breaking the bank.
That fact may not surprise people about some regions, but when you think about Bordeaux, most people assume the good wine there is out of reach, either because of price or scarcity. The truth is you can afford outstanding wines made from grapes grown a short distance from the Premier Cru or first growth wines that can fetch thousands of dollars.
Is there a difference in taste? Of course there is. But most of us don’t have the palate that says one wine is 50 or 100 percent more expensive than another. And many of the wines in the affordable price range really are outstanding.
This Chateau La Haye is a great example of that. We didn’t drink it with a meal you would associate with a Bordeaux wine, but everything came together nicely. I really like wines that are versatile and can match many different foods. When pairing a nice Bordeaux, your first thought wouldn’t be fried chicken, but that’s what we did and it was terrific.
In the glass, the wine is a beautiful deep red, not quite opaque. It offers pleasant floral and oaky aromas leading to plum and blackberry flavors with some spice notes. Silky tannins wrap all the flavors together and lead to a long finish. It is a fresh and elegant wine, well balanced.
The grapes are grown in deep gravel and clay in Saint Estéphe on vines between 40 and 50 years old. After harvest they are cold fermented for four to seven days followed by a hot maceration of seven to 14 days. The juice then goes through malolactic fermentation in steel tanks.
All of the wine is aged in French oak barrels, 70 percent new. The cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc spend 14 months in the barrels and the other two wines, 12 months. They are then blended.
Chateau La Haye is a Cru Bourgeois wine, which really only means it was not included in the official 1855 list of classified growths. The first Cru Bourgeois list was compiled in 1932 by the Bourdeaux Chamber of Commerce. It has undergone changes and legal challenges since then. It now is awarded annually as a sign of quality to individual wines, not to chateaux. Any property in the Medoc region may apply for the designation.
The Cru Bourgeois du Medoc wines are some of the best values you can find in Bordeaux. They have to undergo a strict quality selection process each year and they generally are priced in the $15-$40 range.
While the Classified Growths still represent the highest quality wine in the region, most experts acknowledge that there is some overlap in quality between the Classified Growths and the Cru Bourgeois.
Bordeaux is divided into several regions, the largest of which is the Medoc, known for growing great cabernet sauvignon. Within the Medoc are several villages, including Saint-Estéphe, the northernmost in the Medoc.
Saint-Estéphe wines are known for their rugged style and intensity. They generally include more merlot than others from the Medoc.
Winery: Chateau La Haye is steeped in history. Henri II and Diane de Poitiers used the home as their hunting lodge. Henri was married to Catherine de Medici, but he carried on with Diane, his governess. They even had a monogram, H and D interlaced, and it is engraved in stone at the entrance to the chateau. It is also on the labels of Chateau La Haye wine.
The vineyards were planted in 1557 when Sire Janot Bernard of Leyssac bought the property. The building is one of the oldest castles of Saint-Estéphe.
Louis Bernard was made a noble in 1821 and became Baron Bernard de Saint Affrique. His coat of arms is still on the door of the chateau. Chris Cardon bought the property in 2012.
La Haye’s 27 acres of old vines include 45 percent cabernet sauvignon, 42 percent merlot, 8 percent cabernet franc and 5 percent petit verdot. They also are starting to plant malbec.
The Chateau also produces three other blends: Le Cédre de Chateau La Haye, Chateau Bel-Air and Majesté de Chateau La Haye, produced only during the best vintages.
Goes With: We had this with carry-out fried chicken one hot night last week when I didn’t feel like cooking. Both the chicken and the wine were big hits.
I had read an item in an email newsletter about this fried chicken franchise called Krispy Krunchy that made great chicken. They are one of the largest chicken franchises in the country, but many of their locations are in gas stations, so people don’t really notice the name.
There are only a few locations around Augusta, but I had to try some. I’m glad I did, because the chicken is crunchy and juicy, with plenty of flavor. I bought a 12-piece bucket for about $15, so I thought it was a bargain, too.
The wine clearly made the meal better, with all the complex fruit flavors blending with the juicy chicken. We added a tossed salad and had a wonderful meal that fit my theme of easy meals for this summer.
Chateau La Haye would go well with grilled beef, pork or chicken; mushroom crostini and hard cheeses. Serve it at cellar temperature, about 50 or 55 degrees.