Want to discover Bordeaux? Vintage 2009 is a great place to startFood & Wine, What's New?, Wine & Spirit Events & News
Do you even like Bordeaux? (red) Bordeaux is wine from a huge wine region of France (almost a billion bottles a year!) from the regions established on and near the banks of the Gironde and Dordogne rivers in a cooler climate partially governed by the Atlantic ocean and partially by the continent. The better areas have well drained gravel soil. These wines are blended from the well known Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec
Your wine biases develop early on in your career. If your first wines were California Cabs and Chardonnay you probably prefer fruit forward wines with low acidity, high alcohol and lots of oak. You may find Bordeaux to be thin and sour. If you grew up drinking Bordeaux you probably prefer wines with a broader range of flavors besides just grapiness, a little herbaceousness, some spice and minerality. You probably prefer the subtlety of French oak over the heavy hand of American oak and like the lift of a little balanced acidity rather than the flabbiness of those over ripe California fruit bombs. At its best, Bordeaux is a harmonious balanced blend of flavors including dark berries, cassis, oak flavors from the cask, spice and licorice flavors and even notes of mineral tastes from the soil. It is soft yet powerful with long lingering tastes and for the collector it is a wine that magically changes when properly stored and aged and goes through stages of life like a person with an infancy, youth, middle and if you don’t open it soon enough an unpleasant death. The best Bordeaux can get better in the bottle for a decade, plateau for another decade and hang on beyond that depending on storage.
Vintage 2009, a gift: I chose now to write this post because the 2009 vintage of Bordeaux wines are starting to hit the shelves. It is a Great Vintage and the Big Time Bourdeaux (BTB) is being hyped to the heavens and priced in the stratosphere. Also it would be a sin to drink the top wines anytime soon, remember about the aging potential of Bordeaux, as well as the trophy factor of possessing the best Bordeaux from the best vintages. Well we want to drink the stuff that is actually available, affordable and good. This is a very good vintage to buy from top to bottom. At the bottom, the unclassified Bordeaux as well as the second labels of the more famous estates are excellent to seek out and buy up. The great thing about these wines is that they are utterly charming without any breathing or bottle age. Just beautiful wines that are a joy to drink. What I like about Bordeaux is that it is easy to drink and goes so well with food. Some big reds just sate you with one glass. They are so thick and high in alcohol that you don’t want more than one glass and are often too heavy for a heavy meal. Bordeaux is a bit more lithe, you can drink a glass with your meal and enjoy one or two more without feeling overwhelmed.
The real estate factor: If you are not a wine geek and you’ve heard of the “apellation” of the wine (Bordeaux subregion) it’s probably expensive. Just as you pay a premium simply for getting the word “Napa” on a bottle of California Cab, in Bordeaux the famous regions are on the left bank downstream from the city of Bordeaux. Regions like Paulliac, Margaux, Saint Julien, Saint Estephe are more expensive as are the wines from Graves, further upstream and Pomerol, still further upstream and on the right bank. There are less well know Bordeaux appellations that make great wines at better prices. Look upstream on the right bank a little further from the river for less well know apellations that give you more bang for your buck. Look for Fransac, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Bourg and Cotes de Blaye, even the famous appellations like Pomerol have border areas on the “wrong side of the tracks” like Lalande-de-Pomerol . And on the famous left bank Molise and Listrac are appellations (Bordeaux sub regions) that fly under the radar as well and generally give you wines with lots of stuffing for not a lot of money. Going farther away there are also the Malbec based wines of Cahors in southwest France for Malbec fans. Cahors is NOT Bordeaux but hey the bottles look the same so I thought I’d throw it in. Again start with good retailers and ratings for specifics, here are a couple to get you started.
Chateau Haut-Surget Lalande-de-Pomerol 2009
Chateau Clos du Roy Fronsac 2009
Chateau Hyot Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux 2009
Chateau St. Didier-Parnac Cahors 2009
Petit Chateaux: These are all the unclassified estates and are often bottled simply as “Bordeaux”, “Bordeaux Superieur”, “Premier Cotes du Bordeaux” or maybe even “Medoc” or “Haut-Medoc”
From the good years they are often very good and are often under $20. There are so many I hesitate to give specifics estate names since each shop has a different selection but many are regularly rated by Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits and a couple of others that are popular in this country. The rating is of course subjective but it gives you a starting point. Well informed retailers are good to ask as well. A couple of the estates we carry in this category are:
Chateau Saincrit Classique Bordeaux Superior 2009
Chateau Macard Bordeaux Superieur 2009
Second Labels: The better estates want a consistently high level of qualtity yet younger vines and weaker vintages result in juice that doesn’t make the grade. What to do? Often the wine is merely very good rather than excellent so it is bottled under a second label, in cases where the juice is just poor for some reason it is sold off and not even vinified by the estate itself. So if you want to spend a bit more and taste what better Bordeaux is like try one of these.We have a few in our selection but again, there are many so don’t get hung up on these names. Ratings and retailer recommendations are good starting points as well. These are not from the 2009 vintage but looking for these second labels is an overall good Bordeaux strategy. Actually we have one from the famous 2000 vintage that is priced really well. Here are a few to get you started:
2nd label of Ch. Cantemerle (5th growth) is Chateau Les Allees de Cantemerle Haut-Medoc 2006
2nd label of Ch. Leoville Las Cases (2nd growth) is Chateau Clos du Marquis St.-Julien 2006
2nd label of Ch. La Tour Carnet (4th growth) is Les Douves de la Tour Carnet Haut Medoc 2000