Chateau de Balan ’05 vs ’07

When we were recently sent a few bottles of the 2005 vintage of a cheapish Bordeaux (£8.99) from our warehouse instead of the 2007 (that we normally stock), I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to compare the two wines and see how they measured up to one another. A direct comparison of the two like this is probably a bit unfair; 2005 was perhaps the best vintage of the last decade or more in Bordeaux, whereas 2007 was underwhelming by comparison, to say the least. The extra two years maturity should also have given the 2005 added depth and intrigue, so without question, the expectation would be that it should be the nicer wine, and it didn’t disappoint. The two bottles provided two very different wines, which were very good for different reasons, but the ’05 was definitely the more enjoyable.

Chateau de Balan itself is based just outside of Sainte-Foy-la-Longue, in the Entre-Deux-Mers (“between two seas” – the Garonne and Dordogne rivers) area of Bordeaux to the east of the city of Bordeaux itself. The map below displays the 1hr 15mins (roughly) route from Bordeaux to the 3 hectares of vines at the Chateau. The Entre-Deux-Mers region is generally known for producing good, if unremarkable Bordeaux that doesn’t overwork the palate or the pocket. The wines make for decent easy-drinking everyday stuff, although some producers have been markedly improving their production methods in recent years, and consequently the quality of their wines too. If you know where to look, there are some real gems to be found for a good price right now, that could prove to be the big names of tomorrow.

Sold under the general AC Bordeaux title, Chateau de Balan is a real quality example of the everyday easy-drinking sort of Bordeaux that can be had for under £10. Both wines were very approachable and offered good flavour and complexity, but the 2005 was definitely the better of the two. It had a lovely inviting deep purple colour, fairly complex nose with some black fruit and some more unusual aromas I couldn’t work out. Rich and velvety smooth on the palate; really soft supple tannins and good depth of flavour. The finish lasted longer than expected as well. A wine that’s drinking very well now, and should last a while longer yet but I’m not sure it’s got much more developing to do. For under £10 this was an absolute steal, and drank like a £15 bottle of wine.

By comparison, the 2007 has got at least a good couple of years improving to come yet. Not as smooth as its older brother, but packing more upfront fruity flavour and a slightly rougher tannic edge to it. Tasty stuff, still pretty smooth, and still very enjoyable. The colour was a deep reddy-purple, and the nose had plenty of cherries upfront. The flavours were dominated by the red cherries as well, with a hint of bitter fruit. The finish was pleasant, but had no great length. The wine delivered what you’d expect for the price, but should improve markedly over the next 2-3 years.

All in all I’d happily recommend the 2007 Chateau de Balan for someone who wants a sub-£10 fruity and approachable bottle of Bordeaux, but comparing it with the ’05 helped re-affirm the idea that any Bordeaux is better with a bit more age on it, if you can afford to pay for it. It also demonstrated that it’s not just expensive wine that improves with age; the ’05 definitely punched above its price tag. I’ll be interested in trying the ’07 again come 2011 to see if it gets a similar result.

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