On Thursday, May 10th, we participated in the Bordeaux Wine Bureau’s second annual Today’s Bordeaux tasting of 100 “classic, contemporary, affordable wines”. This was a trade-only tasting designed to introduce distributors, retailers, and wine writers to 100 of the best Bordeaux wines that retail for less than $25. An independent jury selected the wines from over 300 wines entered. In addition, several of the winemakers were present to represent their wines and the region on behalf of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB).
Before attending this event, we were familiar with the high priced Bordeaux red wines that are often featured in Wine Spectator and other sources. We were a little skeptical that there were even Bordeaux wines available for less then $25. Were we ever wrong. In fact 80% of the wines produced in Bordeaux fall within this price range. Not only were the wines fantastic, but the majority were less than $15. Complete bargains - particularly when locally produced wines now cost more than $20. It was also fascinating listening to the winemakers discuss Bordeaux – the terrior: from the appellations to how elevation and location affects not only which grapes to grow, but what percentages to use in the blend. Fascinating stuff.
The white wines were blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and sometimes Muscadelle. This grape has a similar aroma as the Muscat family of grapes, but is unrelated. And this aroma led us to prefer the blends with higher percentages of Muscadelle. Our favorite was the Chateau Lamothe De Haux 2006 – a blend of 40% Sémillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, and 20% Muscadelle from the Bordeaux appellation. The winemaker, Damien Chombart, explained that the Muscadelle is used for its excellent aroma, but it is a very fragile grape – prone to noble rot. The finished wine has flavors of kiwi and grapefruit. This wine retails between $12 and $14. Another white that we enjoyed was the Chateau Villa Bel-Air Blanc 2004 ($20), a blend of 45% Sémillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, and 5% Muscadelle. The best non-Muscadelle blends were the Saint Savin 2005 (60% Sémillon - 40% Sauvignon Blanc); the La Vigne D’Argent 2005 (75% Sauvignon Blanc - 25% Sémillon); and the Vieux Chateaux Gaubert 2005 (50% Sauvignon Blanc - 50% Sémillon). Fortunately, there was also dessert wine, an incredible Sauternes – the Castelnau de Suduiraut 2003 (90% Sémillon -10% Sauvignon Blanc). This wine just melted in your mouth and at $20 it is more affordable than ice wines or many late harvest wines.
The red wines were either vintage Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or a blend of the three. In a few cases, a small percent of Petit Verdot or Malbec were added to the blend. Our favorite was the Chateau Taffard 2005, a 50-50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Médoc appellation. Chateau Tafford has been operating for 163 years and ages this wine in stainless steel. The result: a full-bodied, dry wine, but the low tannins provide a long soft finish – very smooth. And at $12-$14, this is a bargain. Another excellent wine that is aged in stainless steel was the Roc de Jean Lys 2005 and blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Aging in steel allows the grapes to speak for themselves; this wine is full of berry flavors and a balanced smooth finish. And its only $15. Another great wine was the Chateau Robin 2003 a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc from the Cotes de Castillon appellation. This wine is aged one year in oak and is a balanced full-bodied wine. Jerome Caille, the wine maker, informed us that his goal is to produce a drinkable wine with low sulfates. If the wine is made carefully with quality fruit, sulfites are unnecessary.
Although I’d like to discuss all the wines, the last I must mention was the 2005 FreeRange Red Bordeaux another 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc blend. Produced by the JuiceBox Wine Company, the Red Bordeaux is one of seven Bordeaux wines available, by; yes; a 3-liter box. First, the wine is excellent; otherwise it would not have been selected to participate in the tasting. Second, it is incredibly affordable – priced at $27 a box – this converts to $6.75 a bottle. Finally, the process is simple. Eric Delong, a fifth generation Bordeaux winemaker searches the area for outstanding wines from small producers. The wines are blended and packaged in France, then shipped to the states. We will have several available at our next family cookout.
We left the Today’s Bordeaux tasting completely infatuated with the wines and winemakers. Bordeaux is not the home of stuffy, high priced wines; but friendly and affordable ones. We strongly recommend visiting the Bordeaux Wine Bureau and trying one of the 100.