Popcorn from Bordeaux: innovating to save a struggling Château
Bordeaux is defined in most peoples’ minds by the classed growths of the Médoc – the 4%. But this is a big region, with a lot of vineyards. And many of the growers in the region have struggled with low prices for their wines.
One such struggling estate was Château Surain, in the village of Saint-Gervais, with vineyards that are classified AOC Bordeaux. It has been a family estate for 100 years, and the founder Roger Surain grew it from a single hectare in 1920 to 15 hectares, the size it is today.
In 2014 the estate was close to bankruptcy, and the owner’s young nephew, Adrien, started helping out from afar in 2015. In 2018, Adrien moved back to Bordeaux and became the fourth generation to run the property.
He decided that the best way forwards was to change the sales model completely. Rather than package the wines in a traditional way, he chose to make wines and label them in a way to appeal to a broader consumer base. This approach has been a success.
There are two innovative wines. The first is Popcorn, and Adrien explains why he chose the name: ‘heating corn too much makes it pop just like a winemaker who gets heated from hearing that Bordeaux is too expensive, too old and so on,’ he says. ‘I created Popcorn, a fruity Bordeaux wine that is fun and affordable.’ The second is News Drinker, a wine with no added sulphites.
There have been changes in the vineyard, too. No more herbicides, and although they aren’t organically farmed, they are managed in an environmentally friendly way. The pricing is quite friendly, too, ranging from €7-12 retail in France.
Mademoiselle Voila Blanc NV Vin de France
13% alcohol. Rounded and fruity with appealing citrus and pear fruit, as well as some spicy hints and a bit of stoniness on the finish. Has nice brightness to the fruit. 86/100
Mademoiselle Voila Rosé NV Vin de France
13% alcohol. Pale orange/pink in colour. There’s a sappy green edge to the fresh red cherry and cranberry fruit, with some citrus and stone notes on the finish. Bright, dry and attractive. 86/100
Château Surain 2019 Bordeaux, France
14.5% alcohol. This is fruity and expressive with rich blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. It’s ripe and sweetly fruited with nice purity and density. Pushing ripeness to the limit, it’s sleek and enticing, offering a lot of rich fruit and immediate pleasure. 88/100
Château Surain Popcorn 2016 Bordeaux, France
14.5% alcohol. 100% Merlot. Ripe and sweetly fruited with an appley edge to the slightly over-ripe red fruits, with a spicy undercurrent. There’s lots to like about this fruity red, but it is pushing ripeness perhaps a little far. 86/100
Château Surain Popcorn 2018 Bordeaux, France
15% alcohol. 100% Merlot. Deeply coloured, this has an enticing spicy blackcurrant fruit nose. The palate is rich and quite dense with bold blackberry and blackcurrant notes, with a spicy underpinning. A rich, ripe, forward wine of great appeal, but it is really ripe, so drink up soon. 88/100
Château Surain News Drinker Sans Sulfites 2018 Bordeaux, France
15% alcohol. This is ripe and sweet, with bold plum and blackberry fruit. There’s real concentration here, along with firm tannins and a bit of spiciness. Lots of fruit and good purity, but some appley hints that point to a touch of oxidation, not from the lack of sulphites, but the extreme ripeness of the fruit. Still, it gives lots of immediate pleasure. Drying finish. 87/100
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