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French Wine Regions: Bordeaux Wine

Bordeaux, on France's western coast, is the source of many of the world's greatest Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.
The Bordeaux wine region's cool maritime climate and shallow gravel-and-clay soils give its best wines an unmatchable balance of elegance and power. Its most famous wines are the "classified growths," 61 châteaus that were chosen as the best in 1855. Their wines are generally seen as Bordeaux's finest, but people sometimes forget how vast a region Bordeaux is, and consequently, how many good, affordable wines come from far less famous properties.

Bordeaux Wine: Main Varietals

White Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle
Red Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec

Bordeaux Sticker Shock

In 2011, publications in England and the US criticized the top châteaus' outrageous prices for the upcoming (and extraordinary) 2009 vintage. But the wines are selling briskly in Asia, despite the price.

Bordeaux Wine's Organics Pioneer

In 2010, Château Pontet Canet in Pauillac became the first classified growth to farm all of its vineyards organically. Wines made from the organic grapes won't be out until 2013, but in the meantime, look for the aromatic 2007 Château du Champ des Treilles Petit Champ ($16). It's from an organically farmed property owned by Pontet Canet's vineyard manager, Jean-Michel Comme.

Bordeaux Benchmark Bottles

Bordeaux Wine: 2008 Château de Pez
© Theo Morrison

The great first-growths of Bordeaux wine often cost more than $700 a bottle, but there are good examples of the major appellations for under $50. Look for the undervalued 2006 and 2008 vintages (skip the 2007s).

St-Estèphe

2008 Château de Pez ($37) De Pez's wines—like this firm, blackberry-inflected 2008—typically sell for about half the price of the neighboring third-growth Château Calon-Ségur. But they're often of similar quality.

Pessac-LéOgnan

2006 Château Haut-Bergey 06 ($33) Classic Pessac tobacco notes and full-textured currant fruit make this Cabernet Sauvignon–dominated red from an up- and-coming producer a great introduction to the appellation.

St-Julien

2006 Château Gloria ($40) Gloria is one of the few deals in the St-Julien appellation. That's partly because it wasn't included in the 1855 classification—it didn't exist until 1942.

Pauillac

2006 Château Haut-Batailley ($38) Though Haut-Batailley is a classified growth, it's available for a relatively modest price. This is mysterious, since its wines are so good: The 2006 has classic Pauillac strength, balanced by plum and chocolate notes.

St-Émilion

2006 Château Corbin ($30) Like most St-Émilions, Corbin is mostly Merlot; a touch of Cabernet Franc gives it a distinct tea-leaf note.

Pomerol

2008 Château La Croix de Gay ($34) Croix de Gay's '08 has Pomerol's signature plush, dark, spicy fruit at a very fair price.

Delicious, Inexpensive Bordeaux Reds

Bordeaux Wine: Delicious, Inexpensive Bordeaux Reds
© Theo Morrison

For value, try lesser-known appellations: Côtes de Castillon, Fronsac and Bordeaux Superieur.

2007 Chateau Briot ($13) From the Entre-Deux-Mers zone ("between two seas"), the 2007 vintage of this Cabernet-based red is precise and firm.

2007 Château Greysac ($15) One of the most widely available Bordeaux reds, Greysac shows classic cedar and currant notes, even in the weak 2007 vintage.

2008 Chateau Mayne Vieil ($15) The hilly Fronsac region is a great source for lush but structured Merlot-based Bordeaux like this one.

2008 Chateau Roc du Manoir ($18) Sommelier (and part-time wine importer) Daniel Johnnes brings in this ripe wine from the Côtes du Castillon region.

2008 Château Bellevue ($19) The former enologist for the famed Château Cheval Blanc consults on this plummy red, also from Côtes du Castillon.

Bordeaux Wine Pairings:

Published October 2011
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