For those cabarnet sauvignon and merlot lovers out there I have surprising news: you will get the best bang for your buck with Bordeaux!
For the average American drinker Bordeaux has an image problem. Hard to pronounce names, a seemingly infinite number of Chateau’s, bottle labels that don’t carry varietal designations, to name a few. Worse yet, it is considered expensive, a luxury item. Its well known need for long term storage before consumption restricts it to the domain of wealthy snobs who can afford fancy wine caves.
Yes, all of the above is true. But for only a small portion of the wines from this region. These include the 61 labels of the 1855 Medoc classification, stratified into 5 “growths”, and a few others which have gained notoriety from Pomerol (Ch Petrus), St. Emillion (Ch. Cheval Blanc, Ch. Angelus) and such. These are the much coveted wines that serve as investment vehicles in lieu of stocks, some commanding eye popping prices. For instance a 2009 Chateau Latour, a 1st growth, is currently commanding an average price of $1774 per bottle, and that’s a regular 750 ml one.
The remainder of the vast Bordeaux production, eclipsed by these star labels, suffers indignity in obscurity. That’s where the bargains are. In particular a category named “Cru Bourgeois” deserves special attention. There are over 200 Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux, and they are of variable quality. However, some exploration of this category, in particular if aided by an appropriately helpful wine merchant, can yield great rewards.
My latest find in this region is the bottle you see in the above label, Chateau Beaumont. I first ran into it in a 2009 Bordeaux tasting, a blind affair, where, pitted against some major labels is shined. To be sure, grand labels, when tasted young tend to be too tight and not as approachable as lesser wines such as the Beaumont which are ready to drink now. Nonetheless, at $20 per bottle at Fine Wines of Stockton, it pitted very well against the big guns. Clean peppery, cedar nose, good upfront fruit, medium tannins, reasonable complexity; good for sipping or with food. Most of all: cheap. I bought a case and proceeded to consume it.
I knew the Beaumont was good when I served it to some friends with California tuned palates who said, “wow, what’s this?”.
As I am running low on the 2009, I checked K&L and wouldn’t you know it? They had it for $17.99 per bottle. I bought another case.
Yes, folks, there indeed is such a thing as “everyday drinker Bordeaux”, and for what you pay per bottle, you get the equivalent of an $50-80 bottle of Napa/Sonoma cabarnet or meritage mix. Some other names in Cru Bourgeois that deliver similar value include Chateaus D’Angludet, Phelan-Segur, Chasse Spleen, Meyney, Greysac, Poujeaux, Siran, Potensac, and Gloria (about which I already wrote a prior blog).
Kevin Zraly comments that wines priced between $8-25 represent 80% of the total Bordeaux production. All you have to do is begin exploring the region, and soon you’ll realize what a ridiculous premium you’re paying in Napa.