Although Bordeaux churns out oceans of wine, most of the headlines go to the top grand crus that sell for prices that require membership in the one-percent club or in China’s new elite with its insatiable thirst for the wines (China is now Bordeaux’s biggest importer by volume).
But beyond the storied names, Bordeaux doesn’t get much buzz these days in the United States. You hardly ever hear young people talk about it, which is regrettable given that Bordeaux can be among the best sources in the world for very good red wines under $20 and even under $15. I gained a new appreciation of this when I toured the region extensively a few years ago.
One category currently being promoted in this country is the wines simply called Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur, the region’s two broadest appellations, in contrast to wines that come from smaller, famed appellations such as Margaux or Saint-Emilion, which command much higher prices. While “Bordeaux” suggests a generic quality that is unfortunately the case with many of the wines, some rise well above that status, particularly those bottled as Bordeaux Supérieur, which may come from older vines and are required to have at least one year of aging in oak.
For example, Château Timberlay’s 2009 Bordeaux Supérieur illustrates the pleasures of young Bordeaux. Although the wine has the potential to age well for three or four years, it is drinking beautifully right now, showing quite opulent fruit and a tannic structure that California imitators can only dream of at a suggested price of $11 for an estate-bottled wine of this quality.
The blend is 7o percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent cabernet franc. The wine was an excellent match with lamb chops grilled in our fireplace, showing blackberry, black currant, raspberry and fig notes and a touch of chocolate. There’s lots of complexity here for the money.
Another standout is Château de Parenchère’s 2008 Bordeaux Supérieur from an estate on the eastern edge of Bordeaux near the Dordogne. Again, what jumped out was a tannic firmness that is a hallmark of Bordeaux, even at the lower end. This one is a blend of 80 percent merlot and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon with a blackberry core and some cedar, cocoa and herbal notes. At $13, it’s another excellent value with good fruit, good structure and the potential to age nicely over the next couple of years. Want further proof of value in inexpensive Bordeaux? Put together a mixed case of reds in the $10 to $20 range. I’m sure you’ll find a few that stand out. Wines received as press samples.