Same-same, but different

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The locals must have been using this curious Thaiglish expression for years. I heard it when I first set foot here, twenty-four years ago and it had probably been around for years earlier. If it were simply a literal translation of the Thai, I could understand, but it isn’t. Perhaps we’ll never know the origin.

However, it applies rather well to these two wines. Red Bordeaux is nearly always made by blending several grape varieties. The star of the show is nearly always Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s normally blended with other varieties, including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Bordeaux wine was not always a deep red, for in the fifteenth century it was very much lighter and known as clairet, meaning “pale”. In Britain, the word became Anglicized to “claret” but you rarely hear the word used today.

Both the wines this week were bottled and exported by Borie-Manoux, one of the biggest wine merchant groups in France. Over the years, they have acquired some fine châteaux, including Château Batailley.  Incidentally, in wine-speak, the French word “château” has nothing to do with a castle. It describes a wine estate and its buildings and the word is most commonly used in the Bordeaux region. Admittedly, some top-of-the-range châteaux look pretty impressive, but lesser ones are more like unpretentious farmhouses.

Château Du Pin, 2009 (red), Bordeaux, France. (Only at Foodland, Bt. 529)

It means “Château of the Pines”, of course. But it’s a cheeky name if you ask me, because it sounds suspiciously like the legendary Chateau Le Pin, which produces the most expensive wines in the world. A single bottle of the stuff will set you back over $3,000 (or Bt. 90,000) and that’s just for a cheap one. I tend not to drink it very often.

Anyway, this more humble offering is a dark, rich red with a surprisingly complex aroma, although a little bit shy at first. It reminds me of black fruit and herbs with I think, a trace of mint. The taste has plenty of fruit up-front and in typical claret style, there’s plenty of tannin there too. The wine has quite a soft mouth-feel but is as dry as they come. There’s the tiniest hint of sweetness, but it won’t reveal itself at first. The finish is dry and refreshing with soft woody tannins. At 13% alcohol, this is a typical food-wine and would be good with red meat or suitable cheese.

Incidentally, the palatial building shown on the label gives the impression that it is the château, but closer inspection reveals that it is actually Bordeaux City Hall.

Château Les Tuileries, 2008 (red), Bordeaux, France. (Only at Foodland, Bt. 529)

Brighter in the glass with more purple hues, this looks almost identical to Château du Pin. But there the resemblance ends, partly because this is a year older and has softened considerably. There’s a rather beguiling “come-and-get-me” aroma of strawberries, bramble fruit and floral notes. I suspect the blend is slightly different too, because this is much softer on the palate. It has a seductive mouth-feel and very soft, almost imperceptible tannins. If anything, the tannin comes out best on the long and pleasing woody finish making this wine (at just 12.5% alcohol) quite an easy drinker.

To my mind, both these two wines are well-made and fairly typical everyday Bordeaux reds. They need quite a bit of air contact to open them up, especially the first one. Half an hour or so should do the trick. You’ll be rewarded for your patience.

So, which to choose? If you can fork out a thousand baht without having to sell the cat, then buy them both and decide for yourself. But I’ll make it easier. If you enjoy firm, very dry wines with a typically French tannic, woody quality, try the Château du Pin. But if you prefer softer, easy-drinkers, then I bet you’ll enjoy the Château les Tuileries. Incidentally, while typing up the notes for the second wine, my ever-helpful spelling-checker suggested “Château Les Toiletries”.