This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Mar. 3, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080303.php.
Wine Focus - Value Bordeaux
Can cheap Bordeaux ever be good, and can good Bordeaux ever be cheap? Finding the answers to these wine bargain hunter's questions will occupy us during March in our monthly Wine Focus forum.
Top Bordeaux, critically acclaimed and sought after by a growing horde of wealthy collectors around the world, has reached the point where most of the wines ranked as "first growth" in the Medoc Classification of 1855 are no longer practical options for many middle-class wine enthusiasts.
And even among the less ethereal labels, some might argue that the connection between quality and value has become all but lost amid the great supply-and-demand rush.
At the lower end of the budget scale, there are thousands of less sought-after labels in relatively affordable price ranges. But there's a bewildering array of minor and "satellite" appellations outside the desirable Medoc on the Left Bank of the Gironde river and its estuaries and St.-Emilion and Pomerol on the Right Bank, and no handy classification system to sort it out.
We know that Bordeaux reds are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, mostly, with small lots of Petite Verdot, Malbec and other varieties permitted. But the exact composition, vineyard age, terroir and just about everything else varies from property to property. It's no surprise that, while the high-end "cult" wines of Bordeaux fly off the shelves at inflated prices, much of the region's wine languishes unsold.
This month we hope to scout out some of the best wines and best values among these "other" Bordeaux, and shart our impressions and buying tips in our WineLovers Discussion Group forums. I hope you'll pick up a bottle of your favorite modest Bordeaux from Blaye, Bourg, Castillon or other little-known quarter and chime in with your tasting reports and buying advice.
Today's featured wine opens the discussion with a red wine at about as low a price as you'll ever see for Bordeaux in today's market: Chateau Malbec 2005 Bordeaux, available locally for $12.99, comes from a property that bears the name of one of the minor Bordeaux grapes, but curiously the wine apparently contains no Malbec. It's a blend of 60 percent Merlot and 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, grown and estate-bottled in Bordeaux' Entre-Deux-Mers ("Between two seas") region, so called because it lies on a low plain between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. Entre-Deux-Mers is generally dismissed as the source of unexciting wines, but I can't complain about this one. Perhaps lifted by the overall quality of the fine 2005 vintage, it offers a good, clear example of simple Bordeaux in its traditional style. My tasting notes are below.
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Chateau Malbec 2005 Bordeaux ($12.99)
Very dark ruby, almost black at the center, with scarlet glints against the light. Black fruit and cedar aromas add a touch of characteristic Bordeaux "lead pencil" in the flavor; plenty of acidity, and a curtain of marked but palatable tannins drops in the finish. A good benchmark Bordeaux at the low end of the budget range. U.S. importer: Wine Service Inc., Neptune City, N.J. (Feb. 17, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: My idea of a perfect match with Bordeaux is lamb chops (we used a batch from Michigan's Wolverine Packing Co.), pan-seared with garlic and rosemary. Rare beef is another classic pairing.
VALUE: If you can find this wine and match the price, it's a fine value; over $15 I would be more skeptical.
WHEN TO DRINK: Quite drinkable now with a good red-meat match, but even a modest Bordeaux like this may benefit from a few years' cellaring.
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WineLovers Discussion Group: Will fear of recession change how you buy wine?
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:
Malbec inflation (Feb. 29, 2008)
When 1 + 1 > 2 (Feb. 27, 2008)
Glorious Geyserville (Feb. 25, 2008)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Juicing up burgers (Feb. 28, 2008)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: