30 Second Wine Advisor: 2009 vintage lifts cheap Bordeaux 30 Second Wine Advisor: 2009 vintage lifts cheap Bordeaux

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2009 vintage lifts cheap Bordeaux

I'm still on a hopeful quest for really good wine that doesn't require a second mortgage, not even at historic low interest rates.

In the Jan. 27 issue of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, "Is $20-plus wine 'affordable'," I talked about the high cost of Burgundy, a category in which a $23 price tag qualified as "bargain" for the featured wine, 2009 Domaine Bertrand Ambroise Bourgogne Rouge.

This week let's move across France to the other iconic wine region, Bordeaux, which like Burgundy is draped in so much historic mythology that just about any property bearing a rating from the Médoc Classification of 1855 commands a price that many of us can't or won't pay for a bottle of wine.

Fortunately for bargain-seekers, there's a virtual ocean of "unclassified" Bordeaux, wines that didn't make the cut when the Bordeaux wine merchants tried to sort out quality on the basis of market price more than 156 years ago.

Much like California or Italy or any other wine-producing region or country, the output is variable; it would be naive to argue that "it's all good." But Bordeaux holds the benefit of tradition, and of strict rules that limit what goes into the wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, mostly, for the reds, perhaps with some Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Petite Verdot; but the exact "recipe" is up to the wine maker's discretion and what the vineyard delivers.

Happily for wine lovers on a budget, early signals are that the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, now coming onto the market, is shaping up as particularly good, and this particular rising tide lifted many boats, providing excellent wines and good value at all price levels. While long-time wine lovers are accustomed to seeing Bordeaux producers declaring every year the vintage of the century, popular critics including Robert M. Parker Jr. and Wine Spectator have been effusive. Here's a laudatory report on the vintage from The Telegraph in the UK.

For this week's tasting I sampled the 2009 Chateau des Leotins, from the generic appellation "Bordeaux," which cost a very modest $10. It made me happy: Good, characteristic Bordeaux style and a fine table wine for an everyday price. My tasting notes are below.

We're looking at Bordeaux bargains in our monthly Wine Focus for February, and you're welcome to join in. Come join our friendly international crowd of online wine lovers as we taste and talk about our quest for value in the less-exalted realms of Bordeaux. To participate in the conversation, simply click to the forum topic "Unclassified Bordeaux."

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Today's Tasting Report

Chateau des Leotins 2009 Bordeaux ($9.99)

Chateau des Leotins

Garnet color, dark all the way to the clear edge. Typical red Bordeaux scents, blackcurrant and a whiff of cedar. Tart plums and currants in the flavor, palate-cleansing acidity and astringent tannins, sturdy, rational alcohol at 13.5%, with good blackcurrant fruit lingering in the finish. Characteristic Bordeaux, not the most fancy, but a good demonstration of the style in a very good vintage. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Mariemont, Ohio. (Jan. 31, 2012)

FOOD MATCH: Its good acidity and palatable tannins are a plus with traditional Bordeaux matches, rare steaks, roast beef and lamb; good with cheeses and even "meaty" vegetarian dishes like a hearty, winter-style root vegetable stew.

VALUE: It's a rare and fine thing to find quality Bordeaux with a $10 price tag. As noted, all levels of Bordeaux seem to be worth consideration in the good 2009 vintage. Wine-Searcher.com finds a few U.S. retailers offering it for a dollar or two less.

WHEN TO DRINK: It's drinking well now, especially with a food match to tame the light tannins, and it seems to have the necessary ingredients and balance to gain a bit with three to five more years in the cellar.

WEB LINK: The website of the producer, Pierre Montagnac, offers pleasant French lounge music and a list of their properties, but Chateau des Leotins is nowhere to be found. Importer Cutting Edge Selections is silent on Leotins as well.

Check prices and locate vendors for Chateau des Leotins Bordeaux on Wine-Searcher.com.

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