March is the Month of Bordeaux at Le Dû’s!
No wine region in the world has a combination of quality and quantity like Bordeaux. In any given year, Bordeaux may produce up to 900 million bottles of wine – enough to account for about 1.5% of worldwide production! The vast majority of that is table wine, consumed domestically in France with a very reasonable price sticker. The rest of the world is usually not so lucky. When we think ‘Bordeaux’, one of the first words that comes to mind is ‘pricy’. Bottles of classified-growth Bordeaux have carried price tags in the triple- and quadruple-digits for decades now, and left-bank reds dominate the list of most expensive bottles of wine ever sold.
What’s a value-minded American to do, then, when their thoughts start turning to Gascony? Bordeaux that gives you bang for your buck isn’t an endangered species just yet. Here are a few tips to shop Bordeaux without breaking the bank.
the classification that isn’t The Classification
The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux is one of the most monumental events in wine history. What began as a bit of a novelty at the Paris Worlds’ Fair has wholly permeated the world of wine, as most countries now have their own delineated appellations, sub-appellations, and sub-sub-sub-sub-appellations. But being first is a double-edged sword. Altering the original Bordeaux cru classifications is a non-starter, regardless of the advances or regressions of certain estates or sub-regions. This has left many estates that were not included in the original classification in an awkward situation with no way to elbow their way to the big kids’ table.
Rectifying that lack of recognition is the mission of the Cru Bourgeois designation. Though it has gone through many permutations, the modern Cru Bourgeois is an un-tiered title of quality given to individual wines in individual vintages (rather than an estate holding the title permanently) for producers on the Medoc peninsula north of the city. Where the classified producers of Pauillac, Margaux, or Saint-Estephe may have prices in the stratosphere, their Cru Bourgeois neighbors offer similar taste profiles at a fraction of the price. Those who attended our Cru Bourgeois event in the beginning of the month can attest to their quality!
GRAVES & PESSAC-LEOGNAN
the left bank that isn’t The Left Bank
Near everyone will admit that yes, the Medoc has the most prestige in modern Bordeaux. But did you know that as recently as the 1700s (centuries into Bordeaux’s reign as capital of the wine world) the Medoc was nothing but a giant untenable salt marsh? In those days, the truly famous and sought-after wines of Bordeaux hailed from Graves and Pessac-Leognan, just to the south of the city center. The same famous gravelly soils that Dutch engineers uncovered when they drained the Medoc had always been available to the south, so while they lack the same immediate maritime influence of their northern cousins, the region’s clarets have every bit as much potential for power, grace, and complexity. So, while others chase capital-L capital-B Left Bank estates with shocking prices, never forget the wealth of awesome producers working in the left bank’s true traditional heartland.
the great vintages that aren’t THE VINTAGE OF THE CENTURY
Sometimes, the siren song of a true blue 1855-Classified Estate is just too much for a wine lover to resist. So you Google the best vintages, Google a few estates of that vintage, then immediately set your computer on fire and throw it out the window when you see the price tags. Yes, a 2005 or 2009 or 2010 Bordeaux sounds like a wonderful experience. But, at the end of the day, is the absurd runaway inflation associated with a 1- or 2-point difference according to vintage chart X really worth it? Vintages like 2011, 2008, 2001 are proud expressions of Bordeaux that just happen to be next door neighbors to a VINTAGE OF THE CENTURY. If not for that proximity, these wines would receive much more breathless exaltation of quality.
Does that mean we can throw vintage out the window when shopping for Bordeaux? Of course not. If you’re going to be investing in a Classified Estate, the price would need to be really, really right for a truly underwhelming vintage like 2013 to make sense. But Bordeaux is driven by hype, and the shadow cast by the ultra-elite vintages can create opportunities for those that are merely really, really, really good.
Want to experience for yourself the vintage differences between excellent Classified Estates and see for yourself if the hype is worth it? On March 30th, we will host a seminar in the shop comparing glasses from the same estate in different years, side by side. Join us and decide for yourself!