Cellar notes #55: An Englishman abroad

Calling all claret lovers, or at least those happy few who remember what a good-value, traditional, red Bordeaux tastes like. The sleepy backwater of Villenave-de-Rions in the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux has been given a fresh lease of life at the 45-hectare Château Lezongars by an Englishman, Philip Iles, and his wife and son.

The wine-loving Iles family moved to Villenave-de-Rions (winningly rendered as "Villenave-of-let us laugh" in its website translation) in 1998, since when the cellar has been refurbished, part of the vineyards replanted, new drainage installed and substantial investment made in oak barrels. Today, the Iles family is making the sort of sensibly priced, petit château claret that the Bordelais would do well to emulate.

The 2001 L'Enclos du Château Lezongars, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, echoes the well-crafted 2000 with refreshing acidity and robust tannin suggesting improvement over four to five years. It's around £10 from Berry Brothers & Rudd (0870 900 4300), Jeroboams/Laytons and the Good Wine Shop, Isleworth (020-8892 7756).

The 2000 Château Lezongars, also a merlot-cabernet sauvignon blend, has the opulence of the fine 2000 vintage with seamless blackberry and dark cherry fruitiness. Jeroboams/Laytons (020-7730 8108) sell this for £8.40 (£7.77 per bottle in a case), but have a "while stocks last" offer of £5.95 per bottle per three cases from today. Team up with a couple of mates for a case each for the claret bargain of the year.

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