Affordable 2000 Bordeaux?
After tasting a fair cross-section of the ballyhooed 2000 vintage during our visit to Bordeaux last month, I'm left in little doubt that this turn-of-the-millennium year pretty much lives up to all the hype.
Many of the wines of the vintage that our group tasted showed that fine but all-too-rare combination of forward, appealing fruit that makes a wine immediately accessible, and the balance of fruit and acid with perceptible but smooth tannins that provide the structure needed for the long haul.
Unfortunately, reading about many of the wines of the top producers is sort of like looking at pictures of fine art or pricey homes in a slick magazine: They look mighty nice, but who can afford it?
At the upper extreme, rare sightings of the sought-after 2000 Chateau Petrus Pomerol and its neighbor, Chateau Le Pin, are being reported in the rarified ranges of $1,500 to $2,500 a bottle, at which point those who can afford it are quite frankly paying more for the privilege of owning these big-name wines than for their intrinsic quality.
Even the always reliable "first growths" of the Medoc - Chateaus Margaux, Haut-Brion, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothschild - currently command $400 to $500 a bottle in the U.S.; the remaining first-growth, Chateau Haut-Brion of Graves, looks like a relative bargain at $300 to $400.
Even below the "first growth" level, the 2000 bottlings from the classified producers remain at suck-in-your-breath level: Chateau Palmer (third growth) and Leoville Las Cases (second) are offered in the U.S. at $150 to $250 for a bottle; Cos d'Estournel (second) and Lynch-Bages (fifth) are going for $100 to $135. Even the more sought-after unclassified Bordeaux aren't cheap - Chateau Sociando-Mallet, for instance, is $40 to $50, if you can find it.
But thrifty wine lovers needn't despair. There is a way to get a reasonable taste of the vintage, if not the lofty first growths. The quality of 2000 was such that many of the tiny, little-known unclassified producers, whose names are not household words and frankly don't generate the kind of buzz that skews the supply-and-demand equation, produced wines of real quality and flavor interest.
If you don't insist on the big names and you're willing to budget within the dollar range from the mid-teens through the 20s, you'll find plenty of decent, drinkable 2000 Bordeaux that's ready for enjoyment now and that, at least in some cases, will benefit from a few years in the cellar.
Here are a few ways to maximize your chances for success in the quest for good, affordable Bordeaux:
BROADER REAL ESTATE:
CHOOSE IMPORTERS YOU TRUST:
Chateau Lyonnat 2000 Lussac-Saint-Emilion ($16.99)
Very dark garnet. Cherries and dark-chocolate aromas gain interest from notes of black olives and wood smoke; swirling the glass brings up the fruit. Ripe, full black-fruit flavor shows significant tannins, but they're soft and "sweet," making for an approachable young wine (especially with red meat) that will likely gain still more flavor interest with time in the bottle. U.S. importer: Ex-Cellars Wine Agencies Inc., Solvang, Calif. (June 28, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Tannic young reds need rare red meat, and a lean, fat-free locally grown buffalo steak made a fine companion with its just faintly gamey beef-like flavor.
VALUE: Good value by the standard of 2000 Bordeaux: Exceeds expectations at this mid-teens price point.
WHEN TO DRINK: As noted, full fruit and intriguing aroma complexity makes it approachable now despite the tannins. But it will reward at least five years' careful cellaring.
Chateau les Moines 2000 "Cuvée Cantemerle" Premières Cotes de Blaye ($14.99)
Dark garnet, not quite hazy but less than brilliantly clear. Ripe black-cherry aroma leads into a simple, fresh flavor of tart cherries with no tannins evident, tails off rather suddenly in a short finish. Good acidity and decent balance, a bit herbal with airing, but it's nicely balanced and a decent food companion. U.S. importer: The Stacole Co., Boca Raton, Fla. (June 29, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fruit, crisp acidity and non-tannic quality make it a particularly good partner with pork chops.
VALUE: Fair value at this price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Will hold for several years, but I don't see it gaining anything much with cellar time.
The California Wine Club:
Reds, Whites and You Sale!
The California Wine Club is having a special "Reds, Whites and You" sale - but only until July 10. You can save up to 60 percent off regular retail on an intriguing selection of wines. Choose from a vertical tasting of Paso Robles Pinot Noirs, Napa Valley Merlots, Cabernets and, of course, lots of great Chardonnays to enjoy during the upcoming summer months.
The list of sale wines is only available via E-mail. Call 1-800-777-4443 or e-mail email@example.com. Be sure to tell them you are from The 30 Second Wine Advisor and they'll be happy to send you the list of wines in their "Reds, Whites and You" Sale!
If you're looking for cool summertime sippers at hot prices, call or E-mail The California WIne Club before July 10!
Washington State: A force to reckon with
Washington State wines are on the threshold of greatness, WineLoversPage.com columnist Randy "Bucko" Buckner reports.
The vibrant, rising Washington wine community, based in some of the world's most pastoral backdrops, has grown from 19 wineries in 1981 to more than 240 today, and the states's wine-grape plantings - now up to 28,000 acres - have tripled in the last nine years alone. Its $2.4 billion wine industry now ranks second only to California in United States wine production.
We're proud to publish Bucko's extensive report: Washington Wine Country: A force to be reckoned with features a dozen scenic photos and tasting reports on more than 200 Washington wines. You'll find it online at
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Frizzante! (June 27, 2003)
Terrorism and unintended consequences (June 25, 2003)
Support your local winery (June 23, 2003)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Beer can chicken (June 26, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, June 30, 2003