Our most successful offer to date—by a large margin—was a succulent Right Bank Bordeaux that came in at a cool $20. At the time, we had no problem calling the combination of bargain, terroir, and vintage one of the few rarities in the wine world. Little did we know that on our last trip to France, we would find its greatest rival in Château Hyot.
If I were a betting man, I’d say the only reason today’s wine won’t become our all-time greatest offer is solely because we don’t have enough inventory to get it there! The name may be unfamiliar to you, but don’t mistake that for a lack of pedigree: Château Hyot is steeped—infused—in ancient history. This estate didn’t just exist during the Hundred Years’ War, it was the literal meeting place where it all came to an end in 1453. And then there’s the wine itself. It’s brimming with fruit, savory earth, and Bordeaux’ signature crushed rock minerality. Really, there is so much wine in this bottle: The ripe-and-ready 2015 vintage, a fabled terroir in the ancient hills of Bordeaux, and ultra-pure winemaking that all seamlessly merges together to form this perfect, sub-$20 red. Take six, take twelve—whatever you do, don’t short yourself!
The entire appellation of historic Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux (a.k.a. Côte de Castillon) deserves to be a World Heritage site, if only for the existence of Château Hyot: Rare is the opportunity to trace origins back to such an impactful event, so we were shocked when learning that when the Battle of Castillon came to a close in 1453, both England and France met at this very location to conclude the senseless Hundred Years’ War. Still, there is so much more to this appellation than its rich history. Côte de Castillon is one of the most reliable ‘outer-borough’ designations in Bordeaux when it comes to quality and price. Additionally, the western reaches of Côte de Castillon directly abuts Saint-Émilion, where you’ll find Château Hyot toeing the border barely a mile away, in the tiny commune of Saint-Magne-de-Castillon.
Château Hyot, under the corporate umbrella of Domaines Alain Aubert, doesn’t just rely on their history to be successful—hard work goes into the vineyard and winery. De-budding, leaf thinning, green harvesting—this small team does it all to their roughly 35-year-old vines and after hand harvesting and twice sorting, the clusters are entirely de-stemmed in the winery. The juice then ferments in temperature-controlled stainless steel and ages approximately 20 months before bottling. Sounds typical to you? Well, there’s an added bonus: One of their winemaking consultants is Michel Roland, one of the greatest names in wine. From Napa’s Harlan Estate, to Chile’s Lapostolle, to Italy’s Ornellaia, Roland has been directly involved with some of the world’s swankiest labels.
Not only is Château Hyot close to Saint-Émilion geographically, but it shares stylistic similarities too, with plush Merlot fruit and a touch of Cabernet grip to round it out. This 2015 pours a bright ruby core with subtle reflections at the rim. At first, the wine shows its Cabernet cards, but after we decanted for one hour, the plush aromatics of 2015 Merlot fruit exploded out. Ripe Bing cherries, red plums, currants, wet gravel, turned earth, tobacco leaf, and freshly picked raspberries come at you in supple waves and as oxygen continues chipping away at its suave exterior, further notes of cacao, cedar, and fresh herbs are revealed. Its medium-plus body brims with warm berry fruits and crunchy tannins that meld with softly textured acidity and it all comes to a harmonious, structured, and pleasantly dry finish. While this value Bordeaux is coming together wonderfully today, I anticipate its greatest drinking window around around 2020-2025. Again, I urge you to take a case so you can enjoy these value bottles over the years. Simply decant for an hour, serve in Bordeaux stems around 65 degrees, and bask in the gastronomic pleasures of a French-inspired pot roast. Cheers!
Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Merlot 70%, Cabernet Franc 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 10%
Sandy Gravel & Clay