Values in Bordeaux?

Don’t be surprised, we may be entering a bit of a golden age for value Bordeaux. Here’s a baker’s dozen to consider.


Bordeaux gets a bad rap for several reasons. the top wines are ridiculously expensive. They also require significant time in the cellar to really show their stuff, and the style of these wines has changed over the years, becoming bolder, riper, and to many palates both less fresh and less complex. That’s the problem with expensive Bordeaux, but there’s a whole world of value priced Bordeaux that consumers should remember.

While these wines rarely challenge their classified growth brethren (though they occasionally do), they continue to offer an authentic expression of Bordeaux. The issues with the big boys all play to the favor of these smaller wines.

Even though these wines benefit from ageing, they show their best after only a year or three in the cellar. And while they very rarely develop the nuance and complexity of the classified growths, they do offer consumers an inexpensive option for a wine that ages well.  You could argue that virtually all wines age well to some extent, and you would be technically correct - but Bordeaux is special. 
The mature flavors and aromas of Cabernet and Merlot are notably more complex than most other wines at this price point. If the fruit is grown somewhere cool and fresh (where the wines produced speak of more than explosive fruit), even better. In this case we get the full range of herbal, savory and complex nuances. There is also the texture that a mature wines offers. Silky, easy to drink yet with tension in the mouth. That is something that is hard to come by with value price points, but if you enjoy aged Rioja and Chianti you know what I’m talking about. While released in a more youthful state, value priced Bordeaux is another rare wine that can offer such textural nuance without breaking the bank.
The ripeness and boldness that is can be part of Bordeaux does not exist at this price level. For starters, no one can afford to drop yields precipitously and still sell a bottle of Bordeaux for under $15. What does that mean? Well, low yields tend to give rich wines with plenty of alcohol, and that is not really what Bordeaux is about. Some of the change in style over the past two decades or so can be attributed to climate change, but in the case of these wines, where vineyards in less than ideal locations are carrying full crop loads, it simply means that grapes are getting ripe (as opposed to over-ripe and jammy.) It’s a distinct advantage that the value priced producer of Bordeaux have rarely enjoyed -- until now.
So here you have what might turn out to be a bit of a golden age for value priced Bordeaux. Lower demand is keeping prices down and yet the wines are better than ever. There is no doubt that vintage variation also plays an important role in the quality of any particular bottle of Bordeaux, as it obviously does elsewhere around the world. But in this day and age, most producers will only bottle what they feel is a good wine. We can disagree, but for the most part we should stop thinking of vintages as good and bad per se, and begin instead to think of them as agers or mid-week wines; fruity wines or savory wines. While each of us might have a personal preference for one style or the other, the marketplace as a whole has proven that there is a palate for every wine.
So take some time to discover Bordeaux. These wines are rich with history and historical importance. Bordeaux inspired a whole class of imitators, so it’s important that we know and understand what a Bordeaux blend originally tasted like! I love a good bottle of Bordeaux, and while the classic match of lamb and Bordeaux is terrific, many of these lighter styled wines pair wonderfully with foods that we commonly eat. Take meatloaf, or a lovely stew. These dishes have proven to be a wonderful partner for a modest bottle of Bordeaux. And about ageing, don't be afraid to buy a few extra bottles of your favorite value Bordeaux. They are wines that, perhaps more than any other at this price point, benefit from 2-5 years in the cellar!

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6 Top Value Priced Bordeaux Tasted 8/14

Chateau Labrousse Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux (2012)
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Chateau Moulin de Lavergne Bordeaux (2011)
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Chateau Bourbon la Chapelle Medoc (2011)
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Baron de Luze Bordeaux (2010)
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Chateau St. Sulpice Bordeaux (2010)
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Chateau Petit-Freylon Bordeaux Blanc Cuvee Izzy (2011)
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