France, Bordeaux

Dec 18, 2013
2014 / January 2014

Bordeaux is the largest wine appellation in France, with close to 7,000 producers. But how many do we hear about other than the 61 Grand Cru châteaux plus a handful from Pomerol and Saint-Émilion? Most of their wines are often excellent, all of them always expensive, with the extraordinary 2010 vintage being offered by some châteaux for $1,000 or more a bottle.

What makes a wine that expensive? The soil in which its grapes were grown, a reputation dating back 150 years and, to a great degree, demand.

Still, these stratospherically priced wines account for only about 5 percent of Bordeaux’s output. Among the rest lies an abundance of good wines at affordable prices, wines I found on a recent trip through Bordeaux. And of particular interest are those in the Cru Bourgeois category that retail in the United States for about $25 to $50.

Château d’Agassac, with its 13th-century château, is one of the oldest estates in the Médoc. It has been making wine since the 18th century and currently produces 250,000 bottles a year, most of them under its major label, Château d’Agassac, the rest under two lesser labels. I very much liked the château label’s 2009, a bright-shaded wine with harmonious balance, fresh fruit aroma and good concentration. Its 2010 is still a baby, purple as young red wines are, with lively acidity, already showing a satiny body and lingering finish.

Château Paveil de Luze, another Cru Bourgeois with a long history, had vineyards in the 17th century and has a 150-year history of winemaking. Its 2010, while quite young as wines of that recent vintage are, scores an “A” for promise with good color, lovely balance, tantalizing fruit flavors and complexity.

Château Les Grands Chênes was a fort in the 16th century and a winery since 1880. Its young wine reveals a beguiling fresh fruitiness, liveliness and a slight hint of coffee and vanilla in the aroma.

Château Petit Bocq was a bit slow to open, but when it did, it revealed ripe berry flavors, deep color, medium body and hints of the pleasures to come with maturity.

And these are only a few of the unsung pleasures affordable Bordeaux offers.

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