Getting Good Bang for Your Bordeaux Buck

This month the French #winophiles are exploring the Bordeaux region with a mission – to find affordable options for holiday festivities. The price point has been set at $25 per bottle, and to be honest, there are truly so many options that the problem is not finding wines at this price, but figuring out how to choose one.

Please be sure to check out the list of articles from my fellow wine writers linked at the end of this page. I’ve so enjoyed seeing what everyone came up with and I think you will too! For a review of Bordeaux wines across several price points – from less than $10 to more than $100 – read my previously published article here.

A quick visit to a favorite local wine shop, produced quite a few options for a red wine, but 0 for white! This stands to reason as the majority of wine produced in Bordeaux is red – around 90%. A trip to my local big box wine retailer provided many Bordeaux Blanc options to choose from.

Map from http://www.winefolly.com

Bordeaux is located in southwestern France, bordering the Atlantic ocean. It is often broken down into Left Bank or Right Bank categories, with a large region in the middle called Entre-duex- Mers. There are many subregions, but, as with any wine region, the more focused you get, the more the quality and price increase.

Bordeaux wine is always a blend, with specific grapes, as noted below. The Left Bank wines are traditionally Cabernet Sauvignon dominant from gravelly soils, while the Right Bank wines will be Merlot or possibly Cabernet Franc dominant, from limestone and clay soils. Of the red varietals planted in the region, Merlot represents 66% of the vines. Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for only 22.5%, with the other blending grapes having an even smaller presence – Cabernet Franc 9.5%, and the remaining varieties representing only 2% of vines. For the white wines Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are nearly equal in plantings and represent 88% of the white grapes grown.

Photo courtesty of http://www.Bordeaux.com

There are two appellation (AOC) designations in Bordeaux that represent about 50% of the total wines produced in the region: the Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Superior AOC. Grapes can be sourced from anywhere in Bordeaux, with the main difference being that Bordeaux Superior wines require longer oak aging than Bordeaux. Every wine produced under these two appellations is going to fall into the less than $25 price point – that’s a lot of options!

In addition to appellations, classifications play a significant role in the hierarchy of Bordeaux wines. There are technically 5 classifications, but without knowing which producers fall into which ones, classifications are somewhat meaningless to consumers. There is one exception, the Cru Bourgeois du Medoc classification, which proudly puts its name on labels, making it easy for consumers to identify. This classification was originally created in 1932, as a classification system for the best Chateaus in the Medoc region that were not included in the 1855 classification. It has had a few “fits and starts,” having been dissolved in 2003, and revived in 2014. With grapes sourced from the Medoc, Cru Bourgeois will, be a significant step up from the very large Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior AOC’s for red wines.

I’m addition to the indication on the label, there is an interactive designation sticker where you can look your wine up at the Cru Bourgeois website. You won’t find label indications of other classifications in my experience, making Cru Bourgeois its own thing in terms of Bordeaux. With the increase in quality, comes an increase price, you will find many Cru Bourgeois options at the $25 mark, but some will be a bit higher. I found one that was $25.99 but decided the .99 cents was a gray area for purposes of this article.

Chateau Bel Air Gloria|Cru Borgeois|Haut-Medoc|2015|13.5% ABV|$25.99

I was completely unfamiliar with this producer at the time of purchase, so this was a field experiment of sorts for me – put my instincts to the test!

The things that jumped out initially to me were the Cru Borgeois classification, the 13.5% ABV, and the vintage. I wasn’t looking at the vintage in terms of whether it was a considered a good or bad one for Bordeaux, but rather that it was 6 years old – I liked that it had ateeny tiny bit of age.

The 13.5% ABV leads me to believe that this wine will be on the elegant and well balanced, something I’ve come to realize I appreciate through experience. I also lean heavily towards bottles that include a little bit of info on the back label – I like information and appreciate when it is offered up willingly. This one gives me an overall description, as well some production notes.

When I got this bottle home, I started doing a little research and I found some interesting history that made me feel even better about this selection. Chateau Bel Air Gloria is owned by Domaines Martin, located in Saint-Julien. Henri Martin has deep roots in the Medoc area of Bordeaux, coming from a winemaking family that dates back more than 300 years. Domaines Martin includes Chateau Saint-Pierre, an 1855 Classification, 4th Growth estate.

I discovered a little serendipity too – Henri Martin is the grandson of a cellar master at Chateau Gruaurd-Larose, a property that is included in the 1855 Classification as a 2nd Growth. This tickled me pink since I have had a Guaurd-Larose wine (see above linked article on Bordeaux by me). To randomly to pick up a bottle that has even the slightest connection to one that I am already a fan of seems a bit magical to me.

I’m pretty confident at this point that that this bottle was not going to be disappointing, and it was not.

Expressive aromas of blackberry, plum, and a hint of vanilla, all of which carried over to the palate, with the addition dark cherry, and a tobacco spice note. The mouthfeel was silky and smooth with perfectly integrated acidity and tannins.

This is a solid $25 bottle of Bordeaux wine that I will purchase again in the future. Not only that, I will be looking for other Domaines Martin wines. This is one of the reasons I love wine and never tire of the subject, this random purchase has resulted in a deeper knowledge of the region for me, connected with dots of previously enjoyed wines and now ones that I will seek out in the future.

I’m going to be perfectly honest, I paired this with a store bought mushroom and barley soup because that is the kind of week I am having! The soup had barley which helped it stand up to the wine and it was a perfectly enjoyable pairing, but I am looking forward to pairing this with other dishes in the future. I think for the holidays this wine would be fantastic with any beef dish, including tenderloin. It would be excellent with sweet potatoes, or an herbed stuffing, and or course some lovely hard cheeses.

Store bought mushroom/barley soup – an ok pairing in a pinch!

White & Rosé

This is where you are going to find the absolute best bang for your buck and when it comes to pairing for the holidays, I gravitate to white. It was a Bordeaux Blanc that changed my wine life but it was not affordable at more than $100, nevertheless, white wine from this region remains a favorite of mine.

I was able to find this Clos Floridene from Graves at my local big box for $29.99 – slightly above our target here, but well worth the extra five bucks. I’ve enjoyed this wine a few times, and highly recommend! It is on deck for our Thanksgiving table to be sure.

Coming in at $19.99, we are under budget with this Bordeaux Blanc from Rothschild Selection Prestige, yes that Rothschild! A general Bordeaux appellation wine with First Growth producer Rothschild-Lafite behind it – these are the wines I never hesitate to take a chance on. This is a slightly lighter bodied wine than the Clos Floridene, but a beautiful wine that would pair great with all of Thanksgiving dishes.

Justifying the extra $5 on the Clos Floridene is easy because this wine comes in at $14.99. Chateau Ducasse is another fantastic option that I have enjoyed. Also falling under the general Bordeaux AOC. The first time I enjoyed the Ducasse was after reading about Herve Dubourdieu who is known to be a meticulous wine grower, with incredible attention to detail. How can you resist such a wine at this price point?

Rosé is an excellent holiday wine option and I don’t often find Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot rosé except from Bordeaux. These bottles are priced well enough that you don’t have to think too hard about adding a couple to your holiday rotation. This one was only $20 on a restaurant wine list! The only drawback here is that is that they are rare on retail shelves. But, I wanted to mention it in case you happen to see one, you should definitely grab it!

Sauternes

I cannot exclude the sweet wines of Sauternes from an article on holiday wines. These delectable dessert wines can be very expensive – a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem will cost you nearly $400.00.

There are some affordable options – especially at the half bottle size which is common with these wines. I haven’t paired sweet wines with dessert, but pairing a Sauternes with a blue cheese, or an aged cheddar is one of the best pairings on the planet to me. Sauternes is not cloyingly sweet by any means, it has an acidity that makes it well balanced. You will get notes of dried tropical fruit, honey, and nuts. It really is a treat and if I had a dime for every time I heard someone say “I don’t like sweet wine, but this isn’t bad,” I’d be able to afford a Chateau d’Yquem! This one was lovely and you can purchase the full 750 ml bottle for $24.99.

Do you think of Bordeaux for affordable wines for the holidays? Please add your thoughts and suggestions on the comments! I love to know what everyone else is drinking.

Please check out the other winophiles articles on finding affordable Bordeaux wines for your holiday table:

  • Sparkling Wine Secrets: Cremant from Bordeaux Paired with Bisque, Gourmet Grilled Cheese from Gwendolyn at Wine Predator
  • How to Balance Quality vs. Price in Bordeaux Starting with Saint Émilion from Jeff at foodwineclick
  • Cru Bourgeois: Welcoming Wines for Experts and Novices Alike from Susannah at avvinare 
  • Château Roc de Candale Saint-Émilion with Skirt Steak and Roasted Leeks from Nicole at Somm’s Table 
  • Chateau Haut Guillebot with Mini Cheeseball Truffles for Thanksgiving from Terri at Our Good Life 
  • Bay Scallop Chowder and a White Bordeaux Wine from Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm 
  • Spiced Pork Tenderloin with a Cherry Sauce with an Affordable Bottle of Bordeaux: Chateau des Mille Anges 2016 from Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla 
  • Getting Good Bang for Your Bordeaux Buck from Cathie at Side Hustle Wino 
  • Bargain-hunting for a Côtes de Bordeaux celebration wine from Linda at My Full Wine Glass

7 Comments Add yours

  1. culinarycam says:

    Such a great post, Cathie. And, yes, my shopping list is growing. Thanks for all the recommendations and information. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wendyklik says:

    I don’t think I have every enjoyed a Rose from Bordeaux. I’m going to keep my eyes open.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a big fan of Cru Bourgeois, I’ll need to see if I can find the Ch. Bel Air Gloria!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article, Cathie! Love the serendipity and connect the dots. I also appreciate information on the label but didn’t realize it until you mentioned it. Will have to look for that Cru Bourgeois!

    Liked by 1 person

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