France, Saint Emilion, Various Wineries

Sep 1, 2008
2008 / September 2008

Say “Bordeaux” and wine lovers automatically picture big-ticket bottles: Château Latour 2001 ($925), Château Margaux 2004 ($450) or what might be considered relatively inexpensive, Château Gruaud Larose ($90) — wines from Bordeaux’s Médoc district where Cabernet Sauvignon is king. But Bordeaux is France’s largest fine wine region and among the grand and glorious are also affordable, satisfying wines. In the St. Emilion district, for instance — which has its own top quality wines such as Château Ausone 2004 ($595) and Château Cheval Blanc 2004 ($400) — I’ve tasted lovely wines that retail for $30 and less.

In Saint Emilion, Merlot is the dominant grape and Cabernet Franc is usually the second grape of choice. Château Leydet- Valentin 2003, for example, is 80 percent Merlot, which gives it a silky texture and rich body along with a berry-like aroma. Price: $30. In Château Lapelletrie 2005, Merlot accounts for 90 percent of its blend; here is a satiny, supple, nicely-structured wine, also at $30. Clos Junet 2005, another $30 delight, is a generous wine that delivers a wealth of good character; it is 65 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Even less expensive is Château Cheval Brun 2005 at $26, a wine with a floral hint in its aroma and silky tannins in its texture. All St. Emilion affordables.

And then there are wines whose grapes come from throughout the Bordeaux region rather than from one specific district within Bordeaux. Many offer good value and tend to be ready to drink at an earlier age than most Bordeaux reds. A good example is Château Fongrave 2005. Labeled simply as a Bordeaux, it is a blend of 95 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc and is a nicely balanced, inviting wine — a bargain at $22. Also from Bordeaux generally rather than from a specific district is La Fleur de Château de Cazenove 2005; two-thirds Merlot and one-third Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a textured wine with a berry-like aroma, firm structure and medium body, and sells for only $20.

The Bordeaux bargains are there. You need only to look beyond the budget busters.

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