I just conducted a tasting at a private dining club in a major midwest city. My audience was local business people, professionals and people who enjoy wine but are not totally preoccupied by it. My subject was value wines, and I included wines from Bordeaux fine wines in my selection.
Those wines had an astonishing effect on my audience, especially when they heard the prices, around $20 a bottle. They asked me to repeat the prices. They did not believe that Bordeaux could offer such great taste at such modest prices.
We drank the same wines with the dinner that followed. Again, there was surprised pleasure. Bordeaux fine wines, they realized, is about wines that taste good with food. They balance alcohol, fruit tannins and acidity in a way that makes them taste almost seamless. The Bordeaux blend balances the structure and fruit of the Cabernets with the weight and richness of Merlot in a way that has been copied around the world. Of course, the best have great ability to age. But even the less prestigious wines, which is where the values are, develop for several years.
My audience had arrived at the tasting influenced by all the headlines about high-priced Bordeaux fine wines. My message was that Bordeaux isn’t just high prices. Most of Bordeaux is value.
With all the headlines about the high prices at the top of the market, we can easily forget that classified growths are only a thin slice of the Bordeaux pie. Those headlines are being burnished for the annual futures campaign, which starts at the end of this month with the barrel tastings in Bordeaux.
You’ll see the usual claims being made about the 2009 wines: “vintage of the century” or at least (and possibly correctly) vintage of the decade. The top few Bordeaux fine wines producers are already adding zeroes to their prices as speculators prepare to pounce on the first release in order to make money fast.
I urge you to ignore those headlines. What I want to concentrate on here is what I call Bordeaux value. These are wines between $20 and $30, wines with integrity, flavor and with a great ratio between price and quality. They are some of the most food-friendly wines around, balancing alcohol, fruit tannins and acidity.
Put aside the prestigious names and labels that attract the speculators, and that leaves 95% of Bordeaux for the rest of us. In my view, the most exciting wines in Bordeaux at the moment are the wines of the Côtes: Blaye, Francs, Bourg, Castillon and the Premières Côtes (also called Cadillac). Innovative, go-ahead producers are the key, and I urge you to read my reviews as they appear in Wine Enthusiast’s Buying Guide.
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