Bordeaux. For the Francophile like me, the word incites heart-pounding desire with the accompanying salivation over the region’s inherently earthy, cedary, powerful reds and zipping, fresh whites. For many others the word “Bordeaux” may be met with a look of confusion, or worse, a downright refusal to imbibe. A protest—not unlike my 2-year-old when he won’t eat his vegetables.
Perhaps this sort of reaction is deserved. Bordeaux as a whole hasn’t really done much in the way of attracting a new generation of wine drinkers. And it really hasn’t done much to win back its once loyal constituent drinkers who quit the claret long ago for the ripe, juicy, easier style of the new world. Couple lackluster enthusiasm with the simple truth that 99.99% of all Bordeaux coverage these days concerns the top-tier, unattainable-by-mere-humans, thousands-of-dollars-per-bottle kind of Bordeaux, and there’s no mystery why these wines are oftentimes dead on arrival when they hit American shelves.
Once the pinnacle of the fine wine world, the standard bearer of quality, a region both mocked and mimicked, Bordeaux is (once again) experiencing an ebb in popularity. Is it the style of the wines? Are the reds just too earthy, too stuffy? No. The whites too weedy, too thin? No. Are prices too high? Perhaps. Though much of what is produced in Bordeaux today is quite affordable. The gods of the Classed Growths may be too high up the echelon to hear the commoners’ groveling, but do not fear— many producers from once ‘lesser’ areas: the Blaye, Bourg, the Cotes, Entre-Deux-Mers and even the labeled “Bordeaux Superieur” have had their ears to the ground. And many have taken it upon themselves to raise the quality of their wines and winemaking practices, often with huge investments, while simultaneously keeping prices at an agreeable level.
Imagine a rich, plush red, wrapped up in dark berry fruit and cassis, with a halo of toasty oak for under $20… They EXIST! Or a trendy, crisp, zesty, bone-dry white, ridden on the back of Sauvignon Blanc that puts New Zealand in its place… Yep, them too. These wines define the notion of an “everyday wine.” A “house wine” even. Why entertain week in and week out with that particularly well-known, particularly dull domestic? Why not raise a glass of something unique, something new? Why not Bordeaux?
Despite the deafening noise of the Bordelaise elite and the laughable snobbery of a new generation of millennial sommeliers, it is the quality and pure drinkability of these wines that will always stand out in my mind. For so many, affordable Bordeaux is something lost to the ether. However time and again, it is these underdog wines that often ignite a curiosity in a wine drinker not usually stoked by other areas of the wine world. Bordeaux pulls you down a rabbit hole of aroma and flavor. Bordeaux makes you think. Isn’t that what wine is all about?
Bordeaux is to be loved, desired, discovered and rediscovered. Take a walk through the French section of the wine department next time. Allow yourself to discover just how accessible and affordable Bordeaux can be. Bordeaux without the snobbery. Bordeaux for the people. Here are some of my favorites.
Chateau De Francs ‘Les Cerisiers’ 2011 – Rich and polished with a prestigious pedigree. The chateau is owned by Hubert de Bouard of Chateau Angelus and Dominique Hebrard of Cheval Blanc fame. Well-defined aromas of plum sauce, Chambord, wet clay, sweet tobacco and coffee. It won’t win you any Instagram likes, but the wine is smashing. Totally underrated. Totally gluggable. $16
Chateau La Fleur Morange ‘Mathilde’ 2011 – Completely hand-picked and hand-destemmed. This is Exhibit A in the case for Merlot! 100% Merlot, aged only 8 months in oak. Violets, black raspberry, plum, licorice, fresh violets, grilled bread and vanilla cream. Dark, rich and chewy with some years yet before it hits its stride. Lie it down. $25
Chateau Les Charmes-Godard 2012 – The wine comes off of three acres of land in the far east of Bordeaux. Fermentation in barrel and some lees stirring lends a richer mouth to this wine, though not an ounce of freshness is lost. Big citrus, peach and mineral drive this wine through to the promise land. Perfect with poultry, fish or the patio. $19
Chateau Feret-Lambert – There’s some pretty serious production value here for a ‘little’ Bordeaux Superieur. A 10% splash of Cabernet props up the structure on this fat Merlot-based wine. Plums, black cherry and cedar dominate the nose, with a structure hinting toward some time needed in the cellar. $19
Michel Lynch Sauvignon Blanc – Zipping, fresh and prototypical of Sauv Blanc from the region. This wine sings clearly; racing over notes of citrus, peach, green pepper, field flowers and wet stone. As refreshing as it gets. $14
Wid Kever IV, Wine & Spirits Consultant