Christopher Testani

White and red, Bordeaux bargains abound. Here are 12 elegant, affordable picks.


Ray Isle
October 09, 2018

French wine for Thanksgiving? Sacrilege! Why not drink something all-American, like Zinfandel ... oh wait, that probably has its origins in Croatia, where it’s known as Crljenak Kaštelanski.


The truth is, almost all of the wine we drink comes from Vitis vinifera grapes—Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, pretty much any grape you know—which originally came to us from Europe.


But then why suggest Bordeaux, the haughtiest, snootiest, priciest wine out there? Short answer: because it isn’t. Most people hear the word Bordeaux and think of grand châteaus and equally grand wines—the multi-hundred-dollar Moutons, Haut-Brions, and Pétruses (Pétri?) of the world. 


But Bordeaux is home to more than 6,000 producers, and it’s actually far easier to find a good, under-$30 Cabernet- or Merlot-based wine from Bordeaux right now than from Napa Valley, where prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Affordable red Bordeaux tends to be less overtly fruity than California Cabernet, more savory, with autumnal red- and black-currant flavors bolstered by dry-leaf tannins. White Bordeaux, red’s overlooked sibling, is a great Thanksgiving option, too: Typically made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes, these wines feature bright citrus flavors and vivacious acidity, often accented by light vanilla-oak notes.


The other virtue of Bordeaux? Because of its slightly skewed reputation, you can tell your family you paid $90 a bottle when you really paid $20, and they’ll actually believe you. Just make sure you take away your annoying cousin Bob’s phone before he starts trying to look up whether you’re wrong. (You know, the way he always does, about everything.) 

Top White Wines

2016 Château du Champ des Treilles Vin Passiona Blanc ($13)


An equal-parts blend of biodynamically grown Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle, this delicate white comes from a property owned by Corinne and Jean-Michel Comme (technical director at the renowned, and far pricier, Château Pontet-Canet).


2017 Château La Rame Sauvignon Blanc Sec ($15)


This bright, zesty Sauvignon Blanc–dominated white from the underrated Sainte-Croix-du-Mont appellation is full of fresh grapefruit notes and offers impressively concentrated flavors despite its modest price.


2016 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent ($16) 

From vineyards in Sauternes, the home of Bordeaux’s greatest sweet wines, this impressive dry white, full of melon flavors and textural richness, is made by the winemaking team from the acclaimed Domaine de Chevalier in Pessac-Léognan.


2015 Clos Floridene Graves Blanc ($24) 

The late Denis Dubourdieu, one of Bordeaux’s greatest white wine consultants, founded this estate with his wife, Florence, back in 1982. Now it’s run by their children, and the quality hasn’t ebbed in the slightest—witness this lemon-grapefruity white, with its subtle vanilla notes.


Top Red Wines

2015 Château de Fontenille Côtes de Bordeaux Cadillac ($19) 

Light, toasty oak frames this surprisingly elegant wine’s red-currant flavors. The estate’s winemaking history dates back to the 13th century.


2015 Château Peyrabon Haut-Médoc ($20) 

Soft, plush tannins and rich, dark fruit, plus the warmth of the generous 2015 vintage, give this cru Bourgeois bottling a style that nods toward the New World (i.e., California) but still keeps its Bordeaux bona fides.


2015 Château Ducluzeau ($22)


Bruno Borie, of the famed second-growth Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, oversees this estate in Listrac-Médoc. He brings the same winemaking precision to bear here as he does at Ducru, as revealed in this red’s complex black cherry and spice character.


2014 Château Mauvesin Barton ($22) 

Lilian Barton-Sartorius, of the famed Barton dynasty, bought this property in 2011 and effectively brought it back to life. Daughter Mélanie makes the wine, which is full of vivid red currant and cranberry flavors.


2014 Château Biac Félix de Biac ($23)


The most affordable bottling from this stunningly gorgeous property above the Garonne river in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux region offers plummy fruit and a light anise note.


2016 Château La Fleur Garderose Bordeaux Rouge ($24) 

Organic grapes, natural yeasts, and minimal sulfur push this earthy Bordeaux to the edge of the natural wine movement but not so far that it becomes weirdly funky. Instead, its vibrant fruit is impossible to resist.


2014 Château Auney L’Hermitage ($26) 

Leafy tobacco and black peppercorn are the savory aspects that define this appealingly old-school red, which comes from a family-owned estate in Bordeaux’s Graves region.


2015 Château Brown ($33) 

A powerful, black-purple wine from a great Bordeaux vintage, this black currant–rich bottling comes from the prestigious Pessac-Léognan appellation just south of the city of Bordeaux.

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