Rethinking Bordeaux

If you read or pay attention to current wine trends, you will quickly discover that Bordeaux is somewhat out of fashion. Bordeaux is seen as old, stuffy, boring and expensive. Even the famous first growths like Chateau Lafite and Mouton Rothschild are feeling the pinch; over the past five years prices have flatlined as demand, much of it from Asia, has fallen and collectors have moved on to that other French wine darling, Burgundy.

However, a few days ago I was drinking a 2010 from the Medoc and it occurred to me that there are plenty of Bordeaux, particularly those at the amorphous “Cru Borgeious” level or equivalents below the more famous classed growths, that can offer surprisingly value for money in good vintages. At K&L wine merchants, where I buy much of my wine, you can find many Bordeaux from the very good 2009 and 2010 vintages for between $10-20 a bottle. Now, these probably won’t be the most amazing wines you’ll ever have, but they go great with food and are very much expressive of Bordeaux. Also, given that Bourgogne Rouge is on average selling for north of $20 a bottle these days, if you want to drink a classic French reds without spending too much money, why not throw in some Bordeaux along with Loire valley reds and Cote Rotie Syrah?

Bordeaux is in some ways a victim of it’s own success and fame. For decades it was THE definition of red wine and new world producers from Napa valley to Australia planted Cabernet Sauvignion and Merlot and dreamt of making wines that could equal and exceed the wines of Bordeaux. They succeed and today you can find delicious ‘Bordeaux blends’ from all over the world. So are entry level Bordeaux still worth buying and drinking? In comparison to some of the California Bordeaux varietal blends at a similar price point, I’ve found these Bordeaux to be a bit more austere, with stronger tannins, higher acidity, and less fruit forward initially. Based on the results of this survey this might not be appealing to the average American wine drinker. However, I found drinking these wines as they evolved over the course of two or three days to be a fun and wonderful experience.

As an addendum, don’t forget about the white wines made in Bordeaux, both dry and the famous sweet wines of Sauternes, which both deserve a lot more love! I really ought to go out and buy a bottle…

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