“What a fabulous wine to enjoy as an aperitif!” I exclaim, sipping 2006 Esquisse, a new brand from the 2nd growth Chateau Nairac. It’s not a second wine, exactly, which is the traditional name for a cuvee that does not meat the standards of the singular “great wine” from a classed growth Chateau.
And when you think about it, the term “second wine” has the connotation of an inferior product, which is why Esquisse (sometimes referred to as exquisite Esquisse) is really a separate brand in its own right.
Now let me set the seen. It is dinner time at Chateau Nairac, and charming Adele has just presented me with flowers. We have just sat down to a beautifully set table, and we enjoy Esquisse with asparagus and spinach wrapped cod.
Owner/winemaker Nicolas Heeter-Tari first got the idea for Esquisse in the great vintage of 2002, when he saw the quality of the wine was so superior it would be a shame to negotiants as generic wine in bulk.
Instead, Nicolas decided to blend and bottle it in a style that can be consumed when it was young and fresh. In short, an easy drinking style that can be paired with lighter cuisine (think salads instead of foie gras) or as an aperitif.
Next came the name. The inspiration came when the family (including mother Nicole, who with her husband Tom bought the winery in 1972, and Nicolas’ sister Eloise who is involved with promoting and marketing the wine) found sketched drawings of Chateau Nairac drawn up by famous architect Jean Mollie , himself a disciple of the even more famous Victor Louis who designed the famous Bordeaux theater. The label is clean and modern, with the gold ink of the sketch reinforcing the golden hue of the wine.
The aroma is clean and fresh, with tantalizing ripe apricot on the nose, and the racy palate showcasing fruit that is bright and lifted, a refreshing wine with a long, lingering finish of that same ripe apricot.
To produce this wine with the pleasurable, fresh lifted flavors, the wine was aged for a shorter period in oak casks. Nicolas was determined that Esquisse should also reflect the character of the vintage, so in 2006 the residual sugar was 130 grams per litre, where as in 2005 it was a more opulent 160 grams per litre.
The Esquisse worked well with the starter of fresh white asparagus and later, the entrée of monkfish (here called Lotte) with lightly cooked spring vegetables.
The great wine, Chateau Nairac, was brought to the table to serve with cheese. This wine, 2001, was from a spectacular vintage and was a brilliant shade of pure gold. With jeweled amber tones, this wine has a ripe, lifted aroma of fresh apricot and the long lingering finish reveals concentrated fruit, spice, a certain nuttiness.
The Nairac family were very important in 17th century Bordeaux, but by the time Nicolas parents Nicole and Tom bought the property in 1972, it was in bad shape. They spent decades restoring both the property and vineyards to its former glory.
Today, the newest member of the family, Nicolas daughter six year old Adele, has the charming responsibility of being an adorable ambassador for her family’s Chateau. We will have to check back with her after her oenological studies to see the new brand she creates.