These are shaky times for many Bordeaux wineries. Though the much-hyped 2000 and 2003 vintages saw prices skyrocket for the region's top 50 to 100 wines, the majority of Bordeaux producers are facing a backlog of unsold bottles from recent vintages and stiff new competition from around the world. Given that there are some 9,000 wineries in Bordeaux, it's a buyer's market for Old World-wine lovers who appreciate the refined Bordeaux style.
Lesser-known place names, like Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Canon-Fronsac and Lalande-de-Pomerol, are a good bet. Second labels of famous wineries (often wines from younger vines) are also worth investigating, as are petits châteaux wines; many are labeled cru bourgeois.
Vintages to Buy
There are quite a few: the overlooked but good 2001s and 2002s, the famed 2000s and the lovely, ready-to-drink 1999s.
2003 Château Haut Rian $10 Here's your next house white: a medium-bodied blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc fermented in stainless steel to retain its youthful fruitiness.
1999 Château Puy-Blanquet $17 Is the greater surprise that this St-Émilion grand cru is such a steal or that it's so incredibly luscious? A Merlot-dominated blend from Bordeaux's Right Bank, it's soft and packed with plenty of black-cherry fruit.
1999 Château Bel-Air $18 This Haut-Médoc property was the pride of the late, great Henri Martin, who welcomed generations of American wine lovers to a region that wasn't always so hospitable. Medium rich, with a lovely polished texture and feel.
2001 Château Mazeris $18 From the limestone plateau of Canon-Fronsac, this spicy red is a different sort of Merlot: plump and mouthfilling but with a tannic backbone and refreshing acidity.
2000 Château Loudenne $20 This handsome cru bourgeois property is one of the Médoc's better-kept secrets. Its 2000 bottling captures the depth and richness of the vintagea bit tight but with pleasing notes of plum and coffee.
2001 Château Siaurac $20 This property is owned by the family of Baron Olivier Guichard, France's minister of justice under de Gaulle, but it's a far-from-formal wine: deeply colored and wonderfully juicy and sensual.
2000 Château de Candale $27 From the Cruse family of the Margaux grand cru Château d'Issan, this simple Haut-Médoc wine rivals many much pricier Bordeaux, with its classic combination of plum and black-cherry fruitiness; classic Bordeaux.
2002 Château Faugères $28 Here's a flamboyant wine by Bordeaux standards: a perfumed, Merlot-dominated wine with superripe, kirschlike flavors.
2001 Les Tourelles de Longueville $29 This second wine of Pauillac grand cru Château Pichon-Longueville is a powerful, sophisticated, unctuous and impressive red.
2003 Château Bonnet ($13)
This sprawling property in the Entre-Deux-Mers region has belonged to the powerful Lurton family since the late 19th century. The wine produced there is a light but aromatic Sémillon-Sauvignon blend (with a touch of Muscadelle) that's light but full of juicy pear and herb flavors.