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Merlot-based fruity and unoaked claret supplied for over a quarter of a century by family-owned Maison Sichel.
Product Code: CL222
View all products by Maison Sichel
Maison Sichel first set up an acquisitions office in Bordeaux in 1883, and since then six generations of the Sichel family have built upon their empire. Not only do they sell wine today, but they are also growers and winemakers, and represent some very well-respected names. They currently own wine estates covering 350 hectares of vineyards, including Châteaux Angludet and Palmer in Bordeaux, and Château Trillol in Corbières.Their technical director is Yvan Meyer, and he is the winemaker behind The Society’s Claret, which is currently our bestselling red wine. It is made at Cave Bel Air in the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux region, and the grapes are sourced from local producers. Every year our Bordeaux buyer, Tim Sykes, travels to Maison Sichel to select the final blend.The blend varies greatly each year, but in each vintage our aim remains the same: to create a fresh, easy-drinking and accessible wine with true Bordeaux character, but without the firmer tannins of other clarets that may need more time in the cellar. It is perhaps for this reason that The Society’s Claret is always a huge hit with our members.
If the word Bordeaux is mentioned most people take it to refer to red wine. Though a good deal of white wine is made in Bordeaux, and some of the finest white Bordeaux are only entitled to that generic appellation contrôlée nomenclature, it is reds that are most associated with the region.The Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur regional appellation contrôlées are spread throughout the Bordeaux region. A bright colour, a clean, deep, appealing red-fruit nose (with hints of vanilla and spice if the wines have been aged in oak) and the classic balance of alcohol, tannin and acidity are the hallmarks. These modest designations verify that the wine comes from a particular region and conforms to certain criteria, such as alcohol content, but cannot be relied upon as a guarantee of quality. Many good wines are made in little-known appellations, just as mediocre bottles can have grand origins, so the key is to follow a property or grower you like and trust.The climate of Bordeaux is deeply influenced by its proximity to water, whether it is the sea, the estuary or the rivers, all have a major impact on the grapes grown and the wine made with them. The maritime climate is mild and gently warmed by the Gulf Stream which has a ready conduit deep inland via the Gironde estuary. The estuary acts as a moderator of the extremes of winter and summer. Summers are generally hot and autumns fairly long and mild. Winter and spring too are relatively mild but also often wet, and overall, give or take the odd and very rare major weather event, the climate is generally stable and consistent. Dampness is indeed on of the major difficulties of wine production and it is no coincidence that the anti-fungal spray ‘Bordeaux Mixture’ was developed here in the 19th century. In terms of weather events the two that are often encountered, sometimes with devastating effects, are hail and frost. Bear in mind that Bordeaux lies on a latitude of 45 degrees and should you travel across the Atlantic on that latitude you would make landfall in Nova Scotia. Without the Gulf Stream and proximity to bodies of water Bordeaux would be a much more marginal climate for making wine.Red wines are the biggest part of the wine production of Bordeaux. Some 55,000 hectares of vines are employed in the making of Bordeaux AC and Bordeaux Supérieur AC. The most planted red grape is merlot, followed by cabernet sauvignon. Most of these generic Bordeaux are made outside of more specific communes, and indeed may be made from grapes grown anywhere in the Bordeaux region, and it would be strange indeed, in commercial terms, if a grower could label his wine as something more prestigious but chose the Bordeaux AC for his bottles. The Entre-Deux-Mers region, between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, is home to much of the production of generic Bordeaux on its clay, or sand and clay soils with occasional outcrops of limestone and gravels.However, there are regulations and strictures that must be adhered to. To qualify for Bordeaux AC status the wine must naturally achieve 10% abv, and for Supérieur status the requirement is 10.5%. In actual fact the majority of wines are between 11% and 12.5 % abv, and as the climate warms up and vine canopy management and vineyard techniques continue to improve this may rise. Most reds from these appellations are designed to be drunk young.At this level some of the fruit is machine harvested, though much is still picked by hand because of the narrow row width of most Bordeaux vineyards, and the winemaking is fairly standard, with temperature control now the norm and chaptalisation less common than it used to be. Barrels are not often used for these wines due to their expense, though large wooden vats or hand me down barrels previously used by a wealthier producer might be utilised. Such second-hand barrels require great care to be taken to maintain them.Co-operatives still make most of these generic bottlings, but there are many smaller estates, many of them conscientious and making excellent wines that represent terrific value, that are finding the going tough in the prevailing economic climate and in the face of stiff competition at their price point from wines made in places where conditions and costs are more propitious for making fruity affordable wines. Négociants operate within Bordeaux and a good deal of the wine or grapes that make generic Bordeaux pass through the hands of companies like Maison Sichel and Dourthe.
This is an exceptionally good vintage for Bordeaux, with the best reds probably eclipsing those of any vintage in recent memory.In our visits to Bordeaux in early April 2019 we tasted some of the finest clarets we have ever tasted en primeur. The wines are intense, powerful and most have excellent ageing potential. Colours are deep, alcohol levels are between half a degree and a full degree higher than recent averages, and tannins are ripe. Yet the best wines have maintained freshness, energy and most importantly balance. And it’s not just the top wines that shone in 2018; many super wines were made at the more affordable end of the price spectrum, and this offer includes plenty of examples. But whilst all the top communes and appellations made a number of truly remarkable wines, 2018 is not a universally fabulous vintage. It is much less consistent than 2016, 2010 and 2009, and considerable care was needed in selecting the wines we wanted to offer our members. The keys to making excellent wines in 2018 were firstly choosing the right time to harvest, and secondly ensuring gentle handling of the grapes during the winemaking process. Picking too early meant good acidity in the wines but a lack of phenolic ripeness, whereas harvesting too late led to over-alcoholic wines lacking freshness. The grapes at harvest were tiny in 2018, and the skins were packed with tannin. Only the gentlest of extractions was necessary in the winery.In addition to the many red wines there were many excellent dry whites, which despite the heat and dryness of the vintage also maintained admirable freshness. 2018 was another vintage of extremes. One of the wettest early seasons on record was followed by one of the driest and sunniest summers. The mild, damp spring encouraged a widespread and aggressive mildew attack. This had a devastating effect on some châteaux’s yields, with those producers employing organic and biodynamic practices particularly badly affected. Hail also struck in parts of the southern Médoc, Sauternes and the Côtes de Bourg.But then the clouds parted and the sun shone… and shone. Between the beginning of July and the harvest there was 25% more sun than the 30-year average, and rainfall was tiny – just 46mm fell throughout the entire summer at Château Margaux. The harvest was very long and unhurried, with growers able to decide exactly when each plot of vines should be picked.In conclusion, it was possible in 2018 to make superlative wines, as long as you were vigilant in the vineyards during the growing season, when choosing the optimum harvest date, and then in managing the vinifications in the cellar. Not everyone got these three vital elements right, and so careful selection has been key for us.
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"Purchased as part of a mixed case.
Highly enjoyable ‘everyday’ claret in a handy half bottle size.
Excellent fruit and concentration for the price.
Complemented a chunk of Sage Derby cheese and rustic bread for supper.
Fully recommended "
Mr John Davies (22-Nov-2019)
"Simple, fruity, enjoyable. Mainly merlot and the better for it in my opinion. Far more approachable and easy drinking than, ahem, "another wine merchant's" Good Ordinary Claret which was a big disappointment being far too ambitious for its price point and practically undrinkable. The Society's claret is unpretentious and honest. I'm sure that it will become a repeat order."
Mr Tom Lavercombe (15-Dec-2018)
"Just received another case of 24 half bottles of this very drinkable claret. As other reviewers have said its not the most complex of wines but very enjoyable to drink on its own or with food. Slightly more expensive in half bottle format but given that if there is an open bottle of red my self control is almost non existent its a perfect amount for me as my wife rarely drinks wine at home. "
Mr David Marshall (23-Nov-2018)
"This is not only the first bottle I have bought from the Society but the first time I have purchased in this format (half). So an evening of firsts and full of expectations! The wine is exactly what I need in an every day wine, will it blow you a way with complexity? No, but this is missing the point. At this price point it is a very drinkable claret and holds up well against many higher priced supermarket stalwarts.
The format is a revelation especially for this price point and everyday drinking. I would advise anyone to try smaller bottles, for the convenience of that during the week glass of wine with dinner.
The wine is easy drinking, this is evident in the soft tannins and fruity nature of this claret. A great post work glass of red.
Mr Lee Bartup (14-Mar-2018)
"Personally would like a Society claret with a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot based at the cheaper end in my view are very bland. Notwithstanding this is a very popular and good value claret."
Mr David J Rutter (12-Dec-2014)
"Very impressive and really good value. A lovely balance of fruit, tannins and acidity (and hints of minerality?) Tasty and refreshing.
Mr Andrew Watson (16-Aug-2014)
"We have enjoyed each of these half-bottles as everyday claret and they have provided exactly what we were after. The small format is ideal for weekday evenings, and then the next day (sometimes) you can simply open a fresh bottle!"
Mr Peter Lawrence (25-May-2010)
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