It has been said, "Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized." ~ André Simon. For many newbie vino-sapiens or even the newly minted wanna-be wino looking around the vino landscape, it's far too easy to stick to the garden variety staples of the wine aisle. Whether it's Napa Valley Cabernet's, Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir's from the Russian River Valley. I totally get that attitude, I was there once and appreciate your conundrum when you start thinking, "is there something beyond these "staples" which will make me just as happy", the answer is a resounding yes, but not in a formulaic fashion.
With that said, I want to introduce you to some very tasty wines from the shores of France, a little place called Bordeaux, perhaps you've heard of it [ha]? Now I know when many folks hear the word Bordeaux, especially vino-newbies, they perhaps think of two things; big wines that need time to get better and wines that tend to be on the expensive side of the equation. I won't try to candy-coat the truth here, those impressions are more true, than they're false. Unfortunately, it's those impressions which keep many folks away buying or even considering Bordeaux and that is a shame.
I think you'll then be surprised to find out, that the words Bordeaux and Bargain can go together, sitting comfortably next to each other in the same sentence. Oh, yes it's true. Perhaps you're thinking, "oh okay so if it's a bargain, than it's just plonk" again I'd generally be with you in that sentiment. However, as someone who has been running to explore wines from all over this grape-filled world, we all live in and having recently participated in a Bordeaux tasting the other night, via Twitter, I am happy to report back to you that there are many wines from Bordeaux [BDX] which are easy on the pocket-book and are ready to rock your palate with a boat load of finesse and fun flavors.
The wines I experienced last night are just the tip of the iceberg in the many gems you will find in BDX bargain aisle. But at the same time you have learn to navigate the waters correctly or end up with a Titanically Tannic wine that may never be able to right itself in your glass, before its down the drain. That said, enter a host of wine-bloggers who were invited to sit in on a live tasting sponsored by the kind folks at Planet Bordeaux who provided us with a tasting sample pack which included five wines, with price points ranging from $12 to $20 and each from a different producer.
If you are curious to take a look at the conversation that transpired, click on the #planetbordeaux hastag. There was one wine in the tasting which I truly don't think would trip most folks triggers. I appreciate a wine that gives you a sense of where it came from, as much as the next guy and I've learned to enjoy those styles of wine, which frankly have what I would call more of a rustic or austere
And seeing that most folks reading this blog, don't get it the whole "place" debate or care about "typicité of the grape or the place it was grown" [Rick Bakas], so instead I focus on wines which are by-and-large approachable to the wine-swirling masses, boo-yah! My recommendations are not for other wine-bloggers, to ooh and ahh over, nope I write for the everyday vino-sapien who wants to have well made, easy drinking wines swirling about in their collective glasses.
1] Chateau de Parenchere BDX Clairet 2010: Cutting through the fog on the label, this wine is a brillant clairet which is not a Rosé, to which you may say huh?. Although it walks like one and smells like a Rosé, it is in fact a very different creature, showing depth, structure and dare I say more fruit. It even has its own AOC: the Bordeaux Clairet to regulate its production. But enough of that, complex aromas fill the air just above the rim; rich raspberry, peach and spice overtones. You’ll find it soft, yet full. The tasteful fruit of blackberries, redcurrants and raspberries hit your mouth like a slap-shot from your favorite hockey player, giving intense round flavors that marry easily with food; like the Broccoli Beef, a delightful dish from PF Chang's menu. My Score: 89 points. This wine sells for a SRP of $12, highly recommended.
2] Chateau Lamothe Vincent 2009: A wine you'll find available predominately on the East Coast, is robust blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. A bright vivid ruby colored wine the glass, made in an easy to drink, very fruity style. Here’s what to expect, ripe black cherry, odd red-vine licorice, a small dusting of cassis and newly ripened strawberries splashed with a bit of silty-clay. You’ll also get a subtle bit of toasty spice. Most of mouth-filling flavors are found mid-palate and then drop off in the end, saving grace smooth tannins abound. This wine sells for a SRP of $15. My score: 86 points. Recommended, but not enthusiastically so, meaning I wouldn’t go out of my way to procure a bottle, but wouldn’t turn down a glass if offered.
3] Chateau de Bel 2009: Okay, I'm going to be frank right here, this wine did NOT come dressed to impress. It's the kind of wine, you'd find dressed in an uncomfortable bur-lap bag, making you scratch your head, wondering why? It's even more funny that this wine, is predominantly impressed just about everyone else in the tasting. I was the only who dared to say, "umm, the king has no clothes on" and as predicted my comments were not well received. This is not the type of BDX, you'd want to introduce to folks interested in getting their first intro into the BDX wine scene. I found this wine unapproachable, flat out dry, tannic, rustic, barely scent of flavor. The red and dark fruit flavors are mostly muted, while earthiness, olive are emphasized. This wine sells for a SRP of $15. My score: 82 points.
4] Chateau Reignac Vendanges 2008: This delightful blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, impressed me from the first moment I pulled the cork. A lovely bouquet jumped from the opening of my glass as I poured my first slurp. A sweet barbecue, chocolate truffles and a fine Cuban-cigar enthralled me, giving me ample indication I was going to enjoy this wine immensely. After getting the wine in the glass, a rich garnet color rim to rim. Here's what to expect once it's sloshing about your mouth; abundant mix of red and dark berry fruit, riding along with plenty of dark cocoa, rich-toast, mineral and tar-note, floating on a groovy acid, leading to the plush finish. A great foodie wine, that will easily marry with many types of food. This is kind of wine that will make folks think, "oh-so this is BDX?" Well the answer is yes and know, while it give that sweet-rustic old-world authenticity there is a nod to the easier to quaff international style. My Score: 91 points. This wine sells for a stunningly low price of $20 and is widely available. Drinking great now, but has the stuffing to sit down for a few years, if you're thinking about a case purchase.
5] Chateau Larteau 2005: A wine from the famous Bordeaux '05' vintage, which didn't fail to deliver. This tasting definitely saved the best for the last two spots in the line-up. I'm really impressed with this 100% Merlot effort, a wine that would get up in Miles grill with a few expletives of its own, challenging his "No F'g Merlot" policy. This wine is drinking fab right now, you can expect a well rounded harmonious tannins and acidity that carry the abundant ripe dark plums and blackberry flavors. Nicely integrated oak influences, play nicely with the supporting cast of tobacco and floral flavors, on the polished finish. This wine sells for a mere $15 and is widely available. Another great intro into the BDX wine scene, pairs easily with many foods and my score of 90 points makes this wine highly recommended.
These wines reviewed above were sent as media samples for the review process. I hope you will seek out these wines out for yourself, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!