Monday, 24 June 2013

Roc de Lussac: Supermarket bargain red?

Sainsbury's have had the Roc de Lussac (Lussac St. Emilion) on their shelves for a good few years. I think I tried a 2003 a few years ago. I remember, I only bought it becasue it was on offer at half price. As I recall, it was OK, but nothing special. And at full price (£15) you could definately find a much better wine for your money.

About 2 weeks ago, I spotted that Saino's had the RdL at half price again. On the shelves at the moment, for the majority, is the 2011 vintage. This isn't a great vintage for Bordeaux wines and, I figured, did not bode well for this RdL. I think the vintage reports for 2011 contained weeks of wet weather, damp and mold problems, the need for spraying, and an eventual hail storm that ruined crop yields. I may be getting some of that confused with 2012, but either way, I know it's not at the '09 and '10 standard. As I was looking at the shelf, I remembered that the '10 vintage was rather a good one.

     -  Now, a quick tip for supermarket wine buying. Shelf stackers, even managers, do not understand what a vintage means to a bottle of wine, after all, the labels look the same. As a result, new stock, most likely a new vintage, often gets chucked on the shelf at the front, covering the old stuff at the back. I've found that it's a good idea to check all the bottles on the shelf, especially those at the back, for older vintages that could potentially be better than the new one. This is easier for me than for others. The top shelves usually contain 'the good stuff' and reaching the back could be hard when bottles are 6 or 7 deep. Unless, like me, you're 6'5" and have long arms!  -

Anyway, becasue of this, i reached to the back of the shelf to find exactly what I was looking for. There were 3 or 4 bottle of 2010 RdL remaining, right at the back, covered in dust. This may be dodgy, becasue they've probably been sat there, upright, for while. However, at the current price of £7.50, I figured I'd get one and see how it shaped up.

I opened the 2010 Roc de Lussac last night. I had it with a slow-cooked lamb hotpot dish I made that afternoon, which, with it's deep meaty flavour, was a good choice to accompany a Bordeaux red. On pouring, the RdL looked pretty good. It was a deep purple that looked young. medium to full bodied, it had good legs in the glass. There was a slight thinning of colour around the edges, but not the aged, garnet/maroon or brick colour of better wines. In fact, the edges had an almost synthetic 'pinky' tone. I'm not sure if this means anything, but I've seeen it before on cheaper, mass-produced wines. I have a suspicion that it arises due to the addition of enzymes during the maceration process. These help to bust open the cell walls of the grapes, to extract as much of the goodness as possible (from, maybe, lower quality grapes!?). Regardless of this, I swirled the glass and plunged in my nose. Not bad, i first thought. Not really ripe and aromatic, but definately not flat. There were good, traditional Bordeaux notes. Dark fruits, cedar cigar box and alike. There was a lot of alcohol, but thats not too suprising from a wine at this price range. On tasting, the wine was textured and mouth-filling. Pleasant! Again, there were traditional flavours, some nice fruit: dark cherry, blackberry and cassis. The mid-palate was a bit chewy, not fine-grain tannins at all, but not unpleasant. Again the alcohol was strong, but there was good acidity to match it. The finish was a little spicy and reasonably long.

Overall then, I was quite surprised. This is not a bad wine at all. It is certainly being helped by a good vintage, giving the wine reasonable structure and balance. However, it's not at the quality of other petit chateau's from 2010. I'd give the wine something like 83-85 parker points (just estimating!). At full price I still think that I'd put my money elsewhere. Morrison's have a lovely 2006 Bordeaux 'something' right now that is really luscious (sorry the name escapes me right now, and a quick google didn't find it!). What I've decided to do, is to buy another bottle, or two, of the 2010 RdL, at half price. I'll stick them away in the cabinet, as an experiment, to be opened in a few years (1 or 2) and see how it fairs. At £7.50, I could fish them out at any point without worry, and when they're gone, then they're gone. Given the structure and tannins, they may even age well and get better.

The Roc de Lussac might not be an amazing bargain deal then, but it's not half bad at £7.50. What I hope I've illustrated, is that good wines, even bargains, can be found if you look for them. You need to monitor the shelves/webpages, and be willing to have a punt. You need to try it and see. You never know what you might find!!

Let me know if you've found a bargain deal somewhere, leave a comment. Let's share the wealth!


  1. Andrew, Liverpool.28 July 2014 at 15:31

    I agree, although the 2011 is also very pleasant despite the difficult year. Another Sainsbury's Claret which is good value is Chateau David, priced around £7.50

  2. Stay clear of Chateau David. I really wanted to like it, but was a poor, bitter Bordeaux wine. Lussac much better