Good cheap Bordeaux
Earlier this month, when I announced the "Bargain Bordeaux" theme for April in our Wine Tasting 101 Forum, I made the rather cynical, if arguably accurate, observation that the quality that distinguishes high-end Bordeaux trickles down only spottily to the more affordable price ranges, adding, "Tthere's no really polite way to say that much of low-end Bordeaux is plonkish at best."
It's interesting - and possibly not coincidental - that both these wines were from the much-debated 2003 vintage, the record-hot summer in Europe that yielded hugely ripe fruit that made many offbeat wines that lovers of classic style and "typicity" found bizarre. It should be noted, though, that most observers didn't find the 2003 Bordeaux quite as crazy as some of the truly wacky '03s from places like Burgundy and the Loire.
Today's tasting also suggests another generalization: In more normal vintages, the problem with "lesser" Bordeaux in normal vintages is usually under-ripeness, producing thin, lean, tart and herbally "green" wines that aren't easy to like. Perhaps the heat-wave vintage that pumped up the more desirable vineyards to almost California-style ripeness had the unanticipated but happy side effect of bringing the less-favored vineyards up to the mark.
Could be ... at least, based on this experience, I'll be a little more open to trying very-low-end '03 Bordeaux. At this price point, it's not much of a risk.
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Chateau Malbat 2003 Bordeaux ($8.99)
This is an inky blackish-purple wine, almost opaque. Simple but pleasant, it shows typical Bordeaux aromas of blackcurrant and cedar, with subtle herbal background notes. Ripe, rather full black-fruit flavors show the fruit-forward character of the 2003 vintage, but there's plenty of zippy acidity and soft tannins to hold things in balance. If it's a bit on the simple side, it's definitely a cut above most generic Bordeaux, and a noteworthy bargain for this low-end price. U.S. importer: International Gourmet Corp., Tucker, Ga. (Nov. 30, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with pan-seared lamb chops, a classic partner with red Bordeaux.
VALUE: Absolutely no complaints at this price; you'll be hard pressed to find a drinkable Bordeaux for less.
WHEN TO DRINK: Not a Bordeaux meant for cellaring, although its good balance of fruit and structure should hold it for at least a few years.
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California Wine Club: Mother's Day is four short weeks away!
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Clercy Grossard 2003 Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)
The wine is pale and almost transparent, but it flashes glints of bright gold against the light. Its aromas and flavors are simple but fresh, melons and citric lemon-lime, characteristic young White Bordeaux. So crisp and clean that it seems light at first, but an attractive medium- bodied texture becomes apparent on the mid-palate. Its typical White Bordeaux blend consists of 90 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Semillon. U.S. importer: Eurowinegate N.A., Manhasset, N.Y. (April 16, 2006)
FOOD MATCH: Its crisp acidity, simple fruit and slightly creamy texture made it a surprisingly good match with Easter ham.
VALUE: A fine buy at the just-over-$10 price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Only the best White Bordeaux reward aging; enjoy this one over the next year or so.
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Some highlights of recent articles on WineLoversPage.com that I hope you'll enjoy:
Bucko's Wine Reports: Spring 2006 Releases
Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
How about the 2005 Bordeaux?
Tears and legs
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:
Wine to go? (April 14, 2006)
Napa Wine Auction goes global (April 12, 2006)
Red wine and fish (April 10, 2006)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Slow-roasted steak (April 13, 2006)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, April 17, 2006