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In This Issue
 WT101 - Budget Bordeaux This classic French wine has become a benchmark for conspicuous consumption. Is it possible to find quality and value in its lower price ranges?
 Chateau Larose-Trintaudon 2000 Cru Bourgeois Haut-Médoc ($19.19) At the affordable end of the region's offerings, it's not as complex or as ageworthy as a classed growth, but it certainly gives a clear sense of Bordeaux.
 The California Wine Club Uncork a South African Wine Adventure!
 This week on The fine new wines of Chile and the great Brunello di Montalcino, plus discussions on our forums about "forgettable" Pinot Blanc and the oldest wines we've ever tasted.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Chateau Palmer
Bordeaux's Médoc region is studded with fine 19th century chateaux like third-growth Chateau Palmer's elegant quarters in Cantenac, Margaux.
WT101 - Budget Bordeaux

One of the most historic wine regions of France (and therefore the world), and not coincidentally one of the most respected, Bordeaux has enjoyed fame outside its home region for close to 2,000 years. The Roman poet Ausonius (whose name lives on in the highly regarded Chateau Ausone) wrote of the region's wines with pride in the 4th Century AD. Its connection with England, where the fine red wines were known as "claret" for their then unusual clarity, dates to 1152, when the French princess Eleanor of Acquitaine married the British prince Henry Plantagenet, who would soon be crowned King of England.

With such a storied history, it's no surprise that Bordeaux makes some of the world's best-known wines. It produces the lion's share of France's top-end wines, and its most sought-after labels - such as most of those classified as "classed growths" in the great Medoc Classification of 1855 - command dramatic prices. Indeed, Bordeaux's economic fortunes thrived so well for so long that its landscape is dotted with the elegant chateaux that adorn the labels of many of the region's top wines.

Particularly since the 1980s, when critical acclaim and wide publicity dramatically expanded the U.S. market, many high-end Bordeaux have all but priced themselves out of reach for most consumers. Sadly, moreover, the quality that distinguishes the high-end wines trickles down only spottily at best to the more affordable price range; there's no really polite way to say that much of low-end Bordeaux is plonkish at best.

Is there any way for most of us to experience the character that has made top Bordeaux so sought-after for so long? We hope so. That's the challenge of this month's topic in our Wine Tasting 101: Budget Bordeaux. We'll suggest specific wines that represent the region well, and talk about more general buying tips for exploring some of Bordeaux's less-familiar (and thus less price-driven) "satellite" appellations; and we'll try to provide an easy roadmap through the often confusing thicket of good, bad and mediocre vintages, as well as talk a bit about cellaring and maturing this, one of the world's most purportedly ageworthy wines.

To get us started, I've selected Chateau Larose-Trintaudon 2000 Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois as the month's top "benchmark" wine. It's a good, widely available Left Bank Bordeaux with a long track record for good quality and value near the low end of the "serious" range. I found it locally for just under $20; you'll find my tasting report below.

You're encouraged to try this wine and other affordably priced Bordeaux during April, and share your comments about them - as well as asking any questions you may have about Bordeaux, in our interactive online forums.

For those who want a Right Bank comparison, look for something like this affordable example: Vieux Château Haut Béard 2000 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru ($20.99). On the lower-priced shelves, consider a "satellite" appellation such as Bourg or Blaye, such as this one: Château Bertinerie 2001 Premières Côtes de Blaye ($12.49).

Want more wine talk? Got a question? You're always welcome to join the online conversations in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where you'll find today's column at this link:

For more advanced wine-enthusiast discussions on this or any wine-related subject, you're welcome in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group,

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

Chateau Larose-Trintaudon Chateau Larose-Trintaudon 2000 Cru Bourgeois Haut-Médoc ($19.19)

Sporting a typical Left Bank blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with 20 percent each Cabernet Franc and Merlot, this is a very dark reddish-purple wine with a clear garnet edge. Its aromas of blackcurrant and leather are characteristic of Bordeaux, and the flavors are typical of the region, too: Black fruit and earth follow the nose, with medium body, crisp acidity and soft if rather "green" tannins to build a food-friendly if slightly austere structure. At this price point, it's not as complex or as ageworthy as a classed growth, but it certainly gives a clear sense of Bordeaux. U.S. importer: Diageo Chateau and Estate Wines, NYC (April 2, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Rare beef or lamb makes an ideal accompaniment to Bordeaux; this one was fine with pan-seared flatiron steaks.

VALUE: By Bordeaux standards, $25 is more than fair for a good-quality wine from a top vintage; viewed against a broader range of competition, let's face it: Even in the "budget" range, Bordeaux is a bit overpriced.

WHEN TO DRINK: Like most lower-end Bordeaux, Larose-Trintaudon isn't really made with long, collectible-style aging in mind. That said, however, cellaring this 2000 for five more years might pay a dividend in complexity and a more mature flavor profile.

The Larose-Trintaudon Website is available in French and English. You'll have to look closely to see the rather dim French and United Kingdom flags at the upper left; click for the language of your choice.

Look up prices and locate sources for Larose-Trintaudon on

California Wine Club
Uncork a South African Wine Adventure with the California Wine Club!

The California Wine Club's International Selections is a great way to experience limited-production wines from countries like France, Italy, Spain and Australia (to name a few!).

Members receive wonderful tasting wines from small artisan winemakers. Because they are imported directly by The California Wine Club, these wines can not be found anywhere else in the U.S.

Shipments average $65-$80 every other month and include two bottles of hand-selected wine plus an engaging international newsletter.

Start your international wine adventure now, and receive two exciting wines from the Cape Winelands area of South Africa:

  • Azania 2004 Shiraz - Deep purple hues of ruby. Follow the tracks of black cherry, plum and spices.
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This month's shipment from South Africa is $68, which includes all shipping, handling and import charges. To order call 1-800-777-4443 or visit Mention this week's 30 Second Wine Advisor, and we'll send you 3 bottles for the price of 2 in your very first shipment.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Italian Wine Guide: Chile - Dazzling Whites and Reds
Tom Hyland, who usually writes about Italian wines, changes gears this month to report on some of the latest releases from Chile. He recently made his second visit, and says he is amazed at the amount of work that has taken place in the vineyards, resulting in some truly stunning white and red wines.

Wine Advisor Premium Edition: Brunello di Montalcino
Staying on the theme of Tuscany's great traditional regions, our most recent Wine Advisor Premium Edition turns its attention to the wine that may just be my favorite of them all: Brunello di Montalcino.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. In addition to our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service, we've just revamped our "classic" WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG), the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for serious wine conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. I hope you'll take the time to visit both of our forums today!

Pinot Blanc: Forgettable grape?
Have you ever had a pinot blanc that made you go "Wow!"? Or even just, "let's have another glass of that?" One reader postulates that Pinot Blanc is the most useless, boring, white wine grape there is. Others demur, citing glorious examples. What do you think? Read the conversation and add your comments in this WLDG topic.

This week's poll: Your oldest wine?
In this poll and discussion on the Netscape WineLovers Community, we're talking about the oldest vintage wines we've ever experienced. Tell us your story!

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:

 Froot Loops (March 31, 2006)

 Really, really old wine (March 29, 2006)

 Does a wine glass need a stem? (March 27, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Babbo (March 30, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, April 3, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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