(If you're familiar with this part, skip to the text after the picture.) At this time some bright spark (Napoleon III) decided it'd be a good idea to place the best wine producers in the Medoc, the left bank of the river Gironde, into classified categories. This became the the 5 rank system that we all know and loathe today. It's remained broadly unchanged since that time.
So, what happens over time? Producers get good, they go bad. Chateau change hands, get handed down to an idiot son, or the biodynamic guys next door start making better wine.
Whatever happens the classification stays the same. This surely benefits Chateau Croizet-Bages. Check Cellar Tracker. For years the best that could be said for this old Medoc name is that they under-perform for the money. The worst that can be said is un-publishable on a family-friendly blog. Look at the top of the label. GRAND CRU CLASSE. For ¥5500 from my local wine emporium it better emphasize the Grand.
First impressions are good and there is a vivid blast of squishy red fruit upon opening. It's broad and acidic in that electric way all red wine needs to be to excite. It's all that I'd imagined it could be. Call of nature. Return to living room to find that this stuff is belting out the stone fruit. My temporary tasting room smells like a large group of plums has formed a rugby team, performed a successful tour of south east England and has now decided to get get drunk and watch Youtube on my couch. Lurching towards my glass. took a hefty swig of this stuff and immediately started to dance around my amateur review process. This is a tough one to review. Not since Erwin Schrodinger took a dislike to his pet has there been a more dichotomous position.
First the positive. There are a ton of winemakers around the world who'd love to marry this wine's Old World mystique and New World ease. This is a wine that is languid and textured with soft tannins, licquorice and sweet pipe tobacco. It's also a wine with persistant red plum, a hint of cassis and a not unpleasant grapiness that is super easy to drink. I've had two good size glasses and I know I'm going to finish this bottle tonight. I can easily imagine this going with a ton of different foods, best suited, however, to meats with a sweater sauce. Some of the essence of the 25% new oak is present and, curiously perhaps, is the best integrated and most "expensive" aspect of this wine.
Now the negatives. Shouldn't a Grand Cru Classé offer a little more than this? Despite its deliciousness, this wine lacks the complexity, the intrigue to raise it above a lot of better priced offerings from Australia, the U.S., and latterly South America. Doesn't Croizet-Bages, in its drinkable yet yawn inducing competency, devalue the whole idea of the class of '55? It should unarguably offer the drinker something unique, and here, I fear the USP simply isn't strong enough. Where Bordeaux ought to differ markedly from the international crowd is on the nose (especially left bank blends). Here the aromas are too dominated by lush red fruit and the slightly elevated alcohol level to even offer much of a difference. The old school paper money funk is missing.
To buy or not to buy? As long as people are willing to pay the classy prices for the classy names, the Grand Cru Classé will always be a jealously guarded bauble. The question you should ask yourself is "Will I be drinking this with someone who cares about the classification?". Answer that and you have a good indication of whether or not you should buy this wine.
I'll tell you what I've also had recently,
Casarena Malbec Jumilla's Vinyard. An Argentine wine with none of the pretension, but all of the presence in the glass of the Croizet-Bages. 30% cheaper. Bang up to date.