Don’t let Bordeaux vintages at staggering prices deter you from the impressive array of top wines that are astonishingly affordable. A panel of experts recently selected the most promising.
vintage Bordeaux (Antociano)
Wine collectors are complaining – at Château Lafite Rothschild, a one 2005 can cost upwards of €2,500 per bottle. Other vintages from the same year approach the €1,500 mark.
"Before, I would buy my dozen bottles, then six bottles of premier cru every year. Now, I'm not going to spend the price of a car for six bottles," said one motivated and wealthy collector indignantly.
The best of the best represents only one percent of the Bordeaux region's production. At the other end of the spectrum, the mass of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur produce an ocean of wine, 58 percent of Bordeaux's production at prices that defy any competition. The reasons? A serious rivalry between the numerous châteaux, and challenging global circumstances. Prices therefore remain reasonable, at less than €15 for the most expensive, less than €10 and even less than €5 for the most basic.
On the lower end of the scale, it is possible to find Bordeaux at €2 or even €1 with a deep discount (14 percent of total sales), a minimal profit, some making none at all.
As for quality, in all the appellations, or designations, the worst may stand next to the best, sometimes at the same price. But such is also the case regarding ranked wines. By investing a little time, one can find lovely bottles perfectly aged for less than €10. Bordeaux Supérieur represent the best quality-for-price ratio, but no one knows it just yet.
Blind taste test
A winery such as Reignac* (around €20), a simple Bordeaux Supérieur but which plays with the big boys, is usually the talk of the town at blind taste testings, beating the premiers crus, and not only the young ones. This is not random. The terroir of Reignac is classified as a premier cru, but it is cursed by being situated in l'Entre-deux-Mers; neither the Medoc, nor Les Graves, nor in the Libournais. Moreover, Yves Vatelot categorizes it as sharing the same luxurious technical qualities as the premiers crus that he encounters regularly.
How to find these hidden gems? A panel of judges just convened to elect via blind taste test the top five, which are actually six because of a draw. The selection of six is not by chance. These are the regulars for top accolades. As such, Château Pierrail, which dates back to the 17th century, is situated on a remarkable chalky hillside that gives it enormous finesse.
In the top three, Château Sainte-Barbe established its vines on a wonderful terroir, similar to the river bank in Margaux. "We strictly limit the production, putting quality first, which allows us to export freely to the United States," says owner Antoine Touton. The quantities produced by these châteaux are around 133,000 bottles for the top ranked, with a price of about €9.25 each. A deal not to be missed, especially as 2008 is a very good year thanks to a late autumn that allowed for optimal maturity. First of its class is Château Pierrail.
Bernard Farges, the president of the appellations for Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur remains optimistic: "In spite of a difficult economic situation for the entire wine-producing sector, our appellations are still a global leader, accounting for 55 percent of the Bordeaux consumed around the world. There are also very promising signs for the Asian markets."