Searching High and Low for Bordeaux (Grand Cru Grapevine: April 2012)

At a recent Wine Media Guild lunch featuring Château d’Issan and Château Rauzan-Segla, it was stated that, “as Bordeaux goes, so does the whole industry,” with the further comment that, it was a “lynchpin by which other regions measure themselves.” And, with the iconic nature of these two Margaux producers, it is not surprising that the wines showed quite well that afternoon. Several months earlier, four Pauillac châteaux – Château Lynch Bages, Château Pontet-Canet, Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Clerc-Milon – gave equal pleasure to the assembled journalists.

However, with the price of the classified growths reaching astronomical figures, many wine drinkers feel priced out of the Bordeaux market. Yes, it’s true, wines from pedigreed châteaux have become the object of collectors who may never drink a drop rather than the cherished claret they once were. Such wines are the result of high scores and top reputations, which have made them more prized for their investment value than for their hedonistic value. But, thankfully, the majority of Bordeaux is still very much for drinking.

As an extremely large French wine region, representing 26% of all AOC (quality) wine produced in the country, Bordeaux is home to 63 appellations. Yet, Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC together comprise 55% of the total production. And, despite the volume this entails, Bordeaux has thousands of small, family-run estates such as Château Penin run by Patrick Carteyon, the fifth generation of his family to work in wine. Similarly, at Château de Bonhoste, winemaking is the domain of Yannick Fournier, while his sister, Sylvaine, and mother, Colette, tend to the vineyard.

Although these two appellations stem from grapes grown on both sides of the Garonne River, on its own, the Right Bank has been the scene of recent change. A new appellation – Côtes de Bordeaux – was established in 2009, providing these wines with more market recognition. For example, wines previously labeled as Blaye or Côtes de Francs were not instantly recognizable. Now, the name Bordeaux is featured prominently on their labels.

While not as prestigious as the wines from the various classifications, wines from these three appellations offer great value, with most under $20.00 and many in the $10.00-13.00 range. And, at these prices, you can take a chance on a bottle or two to try before splashing out on a whole case.

Château La Rivalerie, Côtes de Bordeaux Blanc 2009, Bordeaux, France, $N/A
(60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Gris and 20% Semillon)
This wine offers aromas of oak, bruised apple, citrus and ginger on the nose. With bright acidity and medium body, the flavors echo the nose and linger throughout the long finish.

Château La Goutere, Bordeaux Rouge 2009, Bordeaux, France, $12.00
(77% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc)
Hailing from vineyards located near Saint Emilion, this wine showed aromas of blackcherry, vanilla and a hint of oak on the nose. Its palate also offered notes of earth and herbs along with medium tannins.

Château Penin, Grande Selection Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge 2008, Bordeaux, France, $13.00
(100% Merlot)
Blackberry, plum and some herbal character were present on the nose. Showing a supple texture, the wine had good acidity, with flavors of blackberry, plum, dried herbs and slight oak notes.

Château Peynaud, Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge 2009, Bordeaux, France, $12.00
(50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc)
Aromas of spice, oak, vanilla and black cherry greet the nose. On the palate, the wine is very fruity, with similar notes.

Château Saincrit, Vieilles Vignes Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge 2008, Bordeaux, France, $18.00
(70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvigon and Cabernet Franc)
This château is owned by Florence Prudhomme who took over the property in 2003. Showing aromas of plum, raisin and spice on the nose, the palate gives way to blackcherry and oak.

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