Chateau d’Arsac Margaux 2016 - A Ready-To-Drink Bordeaux
Chateau d’Arsac Margaux 2016 – A Ready-To-Drink Bordeaux
This week’s pick, Chateau d’Arsac Margaux 2016, is a chewy, savory little gem with a tight core of plum fruit. It’s a 60/40 blend of Cabernet and Merlot that scored 93pts from Wine Enthusiast. It’s just one of the 130+ Bordeaux we have on offer at the moment. Because we import directly, it’s just $24.99, a steal for a wine of its caliber. And it’s also, just barely, ready-to-drink.
As wine speak goes, calling something “ready-to-drink” seems especially counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t it be a safe assumption that any bottle of finished wine sitting on a store shelf is ready to drink? We don’t describe loaves of bread as “ready to eat.” But what we mean, of course, is that the wine has entered the sweet spot in its maturity where any hard edges have begun to soften, leaving it more balanced and approachable. And it’s not strictly descriptive of a wine’s age. Lots of wines will be made in a “ready-to-drink” style. Most white and rose wines will fall into this category, as will most of the bottles you’ll find in the grocery store. Even the majority of $60+ Napa Cabernet will be plenty soft and ripe on release. You can age a bottle of Caymus if you like, but there’s hardly a need for it. That bottle was ready to drink yesterday. Still, other wines will need more time and patience to become magical. And Bordeaux, famously, produces this latter style of wine.
The best of Bordeaux wines are long-lived. And maybe that’s to be expected from a place that’s been making wine for so long. Romans planted the first grapes here about 2000 years ago. The estate producing this week’s wine, Chateau d’Arsac, is itself almost 1000 years old. That’s not to say things haven’t changed in that time or that the wine made today much resembles the Bordeaux making its way around Europe in the twelfth century. But when you’re staring back at a couple of millennia of history and tradition, it seems easier to justify making the sort of wine that needs a few years in bottle to mature.
Which brings me to my dilemma… I respect all this French tradition. But I’m an impatient American. I’m irritated when I have to wait a third day for my Amazon package. We have all this wonderful 2016 Bordeaux, and I want to enjoy it now! So, I’ve been digging for the early drinkers, the wines that have already begun to soften. And I’m happy to report that the Chateau d’Arsac is just about ready to go. You might decant it (I did), or you might drag that fancy wine aerator out of your kitchen drawer, but either way, if you like Bordeaux, you’re in for an early treat.
And if you are the type that cellars wine, this is a great opportunity to drink a few bottles while you decide how many you’d like to lay down for the future. It’ll certainly last. Neal Martin, writing for the Wine Advocate, suggests that the 2016 Chateau d’Arsac should hang on until 2042 (which is oddly specific, right?). On the other hand, I can tell you I had a couple of bottles in the basement, and they didn’t last the week. Like I said, impatient American.