I’m kicking off this year’s series on value wines by taking a look at one the regions least commonly associated with value: Bordeaux. Now that’s not because Bordeaux doesn’t offer value, it’s just that their value wines get little attention from the media. I’m not sure why that is. Why the big names glom all of the media’s attention. I think back to my formative years with wines and how fortunate I was to have Meyney, Poujeaux, and Patache d’Aax as my introduction to Bordeaux. All remarkable values at the time, and while Poujeaux and Meyney are well into the $30 range these days, Patache d’Aux can still be found for under $20 and is worth seeking out.
Those wines, smaller scaled but classic Bordeaux, served as my introduction to what Bordeaux was and what it can become. When young, classic Bordeaux is a little stern, and moderately tannic. It possesses fine acidity which contributes to it’s early rigid feel. With time, say three years in the cellar, even a modest little Bordeaux begins to flesh out as the tannins soften. The aromas of herb and black fruit are joined by hints of earth, leather and spice. They never will become big, fruity and jammy, and that is their appeal.
These wines are destined to remain lean, elegant, and with a wonderful affinity for food. Simply prepared beef and lamb is a classic pairing but the structure of Bordeaux really serves to refresh the palate and is worth experimenting with at the table. You see what unites Bordeaux, both cheap and dear is their terroir. While many expensive wines strive to overcome what is seen as a limitation, these more modest wines tend to celebrate it. They celebrate the edge of unripeness that comes from a cool climate like Bordeaux. They celebrate the edgy structure that can come from a normal sized crop. They celebrate the complexity and elegance that one can achieve when skillfully blending varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
Yes, all that sounds grand, but can you expect it of a value priced bottle of Bordeaux? You bet your sweet bippy you can. In fact, a vast quantity of Bordeaux falls under the value pricing limit I’m using here: $15 a bottle. I chose this price, the actual price I paid for these bottles at retail, because the price of wines vary greatly across the country. You might very well find that $15 bottle for less, either on sale or by taking advantage of the mixed-case discount that most retailers offer.
So what can you expect from value Bordeaux? First off, as with all value priced wines, expect variability, though in quality more than style. For the most part these wines are pretty simply made. No space in the budget for lots of new oak or fancy machinery tends to do that. Expect fruit that is fruity but not frooty. Herbs and mineral, and hints of bitter cocoa and yes some oak are all part of the package. it can be a bit of shock trying these wines. They are not soft. Not sweet, frankly a bit tannic and hard. But that is, to my mind, what Bordeaux is.
If it’s not for you, then it simply is not for you. But if you enjoy more traditional styled wines, this value segment is becoming one of your last refuges. I can’t say that these would be my first choice at a party, unless that party was filled with hanger steaks and duck fat fries. But i would say that I would certainly stock up on a few of these to be enjoyed with dinner when the moment is right. As a group they are lovely wines which illustrate the range of today’s Bordeaux and some very affordable, and competitive pricing. Vive la Value!
Where varietal content was listed on the label I have included it in the notes.
50% Merlot 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
What a big, leafy, herbaceous, black currant driven nose! There’s some smoke, earthy, and oak in here as well but this is all about classic Bordeaux aromas. Rich if a bit compact and dense on entry. This is gorgeous, a wine with rich fruit that is fresh, precise and powerful yet not sweet, over-ripe, nor weighty in the mouth. The fruit is gently herbaceous, with flavors of wild raspberries, cranberries and red currant all coming together on the palate over nuanced tea and subtle floral notes. the tannins are ripe yet offer some weight, with the acid just where I would want it, refreshing and bright but so very well matched by the fruit. A bit plummy on the back end, then more red fruited on the moderately long finish, this should improve over the short term but is already drinking fabulously today. 88pts
60% Merlot, 30% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc
Big aromatics of black currant, plum, and mulberry greet the nose underpinned by notes of candied violets, licorice, and dried rosemary with just a hint of vanilla adding sweetness. Opulent and smooth. This has a graceful richness to it, sweet herb studded blackberry fruit coats the palate supported by supple tannins and well integrated acids. The backend picks up some subtle spice notes and plum skin flavors all with a bitter cocoa cast to them. Finishing with power, fruit and freshness this lacks some of the finesse that is Bordeaux’s strong suit but makes up for it with its sheer intensity of flavor, adding hints of blueberries and spice on the fairly long, chewy finish. Does show a bit of heat though. 87pts
40% Merlot 35% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fairly fruity on the nose with hints of black currants and plums layered over some smoky, sweet oak and vanilla aromas with hints of herbs emerging with time. On entry this is bright, and fresh with lovely balance and a superbly friendly mouthfeel. A classic glass of Bordeaux, slightly austere, a bit firm, just under medium bodied with crisp black berry and red currant flavors. The finish is tight, and moderately long, showing both the youthfulness of the wine and its potential for positive development. This is a great value. 87pts
A little minty at first on the nose then turning attractively fruity with lovely black currant fruit over tobacco and dried thyme notes. Soft, broad and fairly ripe on entry. This firmly medium bodied wine has a bit of spicy oak early on the palate followed by rather rich candied black cherry and strawberry flavors. Tannins are ripe and well integrated, lending this a nicely rounded feel in the mouth, though ample acids keep this quite bright right through the moderately long blackberry finish. A lovely bottle. 87pts
Tight and focused on the nose with finely detailed notes of dried thyme, blackberry fruit, old wood and dried rosemary emerging from the glass. there’s a bit of barnyard and a gamy edge here as well as a bit of excessive sulphur. Smooth and a bit tight with a lovely blip of acidity early on the palate followed by a polished, rich and very well balanced mouthful of reticent black currant and blueberry fruit. This is tight and firm and shows the balance for ageing, but probably will hit it’s stride within the year. There’s good depth to the blackberry and black cherry skin fruit with a little mineral edge on the backend that leads to a long, elegant and refined finish which shows lovely ripe tannins and more cherry skin flavors. Mineraly and a bit spicy on the finish, this is a winner. 87pts
Rich on the nose with scents of tobacco, vanilla, dried herbs, plums and black currant fruit. Rather supple on entry, with a fairly rich mouthfeel. This is fairly fruit driven but the fruit is fresh and precise. Red plums, red currant, and some lingonberry fruits all come together on the palate over soft tannins and supportive acids to give this a rich feel. There are subtle oak, mineral earth and dried herb accents adding detail in the mouth with some strawberry flavors that lead to a moderately long, slightly chocolaty finish. Showing just a bit of heat and extraction, this still manages to impress and the tart cranberry flavors of the finish show sneaky length. A bit of a powerhouse at the price. 86pts
Soft on the nose with a delicate raspberry tone woven together with subtle hints of caramel, wood smoke and dried bay leaf. On entry this comes off as decidedly fruity in a classic Bordeaux style. Raspberry fruit is followed by red currant and an attractive hint of minerality and old wood. The texture is supple without being soft, supported by small, ripe tannins. This has a nice mineral note on the mid-palate, river stones that recall Graves. Finishing with freshness and austerity, and even a bit of elegance, this is a subtle wine but one that is quite charming with good length to the finish in a medium lightweight style. Charming. 85pts
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
Dark, plummy and chocolatey on the nose with hints of candied berry fruit, something a bit pruny, and subtle peppery spice notes. Rich and chewy in the mouth, with lovely ripe tannins and integrated acids all supporting a somewhat chunky core of plummy, mineral edged fruit. This is medium plus bodied and in a fairly plush and polished style. Modern Bordeaux that shows a bit too much extraction and a fairly heavy load of tannin on the moderately long finish. the flavors here tend to the inky and plummy side of things and while this is pretty big it lacks a bit of elegance and clarity on the palate. 84pts
Faint aromas of cigar box and herbaceous herbs greet the nose followed by creamy and toasty aromas of black currant fruit with hints of ink and ash. Fresh and moderately rich on entry, this has some inky and bitter notes early on the palate, showing a bit of extraction that follows through the midpalate layered over blueberry and plum flavors. For all their bitterness the tannins are moderately soft and the finish does have an attractive bitter/fruity thing go with fine persistence to the black raspberry fruit. A little forced and slightly chunky but in a firm, strict way that may appeal to lovers of classic Bordeaux. 84pts
55% Merlot 45% Cabernet Sauvignon
Stemmy and a little weedy on the nose with some clay soil tones over candied floral and cherry fruit aromas. This shows some spicy cherry wood tones as well. Sort of cedary, though with a little more spice notes. Smooth on entry with licorice laced black fruits. this is polished but not complex, with rich fruit flavors that are a bit indistinct. A touch of wood and an herbal flourish adds some detail as this moves to a brief, fruity finish that does offer an appealing sweet/tart quality to the black curranty flavors. This has decent structure and an attractive texture, medium bodied and focused, but it lacks definition in the mouth. 83pts
Smoky and sweet on the nose with more than a passing resemblance to fish sauce. There’s some holiday spice here and faint shadings of blackberry fruit but mostly spicy, BBQ spice savoriness. Bright and clean on entry with some early raspberry/not fully ripe strawberry fruit. Medium light bodied with right acids and a nice base of powdery tannins that leads to a modest, red currant toned finish. A bit coarse and dull, but fresh and bright. 82pts
A bit weedy on the nose and sharp with spicy pink peppercorn edges to the astringent red fruit aromas. Softer than expected on entry, with a lovely roundness in the mouth. rather nondescript but at the same time easy to drink with gentle raspberry and blackcurrant flavors. The modest tannins emerge on the backend and add a bit of spice to the modest finish. A touch soft on the palate, but eminently drinkable and friendly. 82pts
60% Merlot/ 40% Cabernet Sauvignon
Decidedly fruity on the nose with jammy overtones to the plum and blueberry fruit that is wrapped up in licorice, caramel and violet aromas. Plump, round and juicy in the mouth this offers up attractive flavors of spicy black fruits famed with subtle vegetal notes. There’s something about this, both on the nose and in the mouth that reminds of Syrah. The edgy blue fruit and blend of floral and spice accents. Fairly rich, impressively so at the price, this is a lovely table wine, just a touch rustic, with a hint of sweetness, and a modest. astringent finish. It’s hearty and ready for anything. Quite the value. 81pts
Smoky and dense on the nose with jammy aromas of black fruit and accents of maduro tobacco. Soft and broad in the mouth, with a touch of a creamy texture. the acids here do lend an accent to the flavors of tart red fruits, but they don’t really perk up the plate. Dark, chewy and soft, this flows across the palate with hints of dried plums and berries wrapped up with bitter chocolate on the backend before dropping off on the short finish. Easy drinking if a bit anonymous and only the tannins on the finish talk to be of Bordeaux. 80pts
By: Snooth – Articles