Right Bank bargains
This is a variation on a theme that I played in a column in June, in which I suggested shopping for wines from less-known regions close to more sought-after real estate - specifically, a $14 Lalande de Pomerol as an affordable alternative to a $50 bottle from Pomerol itself.
Today's strategy suggests taking note of the regions that performed well during vintages that were less than favorable for their neighbors: Specifically, 1998 in Bordeaux, when an exceptionally hot August fostered early ripening in the vineyards, but rain at harvest time - which prompts grapes to plump up with water, diluting the juice - turned smiles to frowns in some parts of the region. By and large, 1998 is now viewed as a lackluster vintage for Bordeaux.
But there's an interesting nuance: The rains fell more heavily on the "left bank" of the Gironde river and its tributaries - the Medoc region where Cabernet Sauvignon predominates - than on the other side of the rivers, where Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the primary grapes. By looking for fairly priced items from the "right bank" - St.-Emilion and Pomerol and their neighbors - you can often find flavorful and ready-to-drink 1998s like today's featured wine, at prices that, if not cheap, are at least attractive by the lofty standards of Bordeaux.
Chateau Daugay 1998 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru ($22.99)
FOOD MATCH: Very good indeed with chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto with a bit of pesto and a lemon-saffron sauce.
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Thursday, Sept. 6, 2001