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The Cellar: Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Friday, February 17, 2012

 

After having recently explored the Loire and the Rhone we now turn our attention to not only France's, but the world’s largest fine wine district—Bordeaux, where the world’s best red blends are made. Besides being recognized for producing some of the best-known and long-lived bottles of wine, Bordeaux is also famous for producing less expensive red blends, as well as some interesting everyday white blends.

2010 Chateau de la Vieille Tour, Bordeaux Blanc, France ($10-$15)

With more than 80% of Bordeaux’s total production being red, it is no wonder that white Bordeaux wines are not as well-known as their red counterpart. This is a shame because these wines

are often delicious, as well as very good values. The traditional white Bordeaux wine is a blend made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, often with Muscadelle added for extra aromatics. The majority of white wines from Bordeaux are made in the area known as Entre-Deux-Mers, which is a large sub-region located between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, approximately 45 miles southeast of Bordeaux.

Because the soil and climate conditions in Entre-Deux-Mers are not as good as in the rest of Bordeaux, the wines from this region are often of lesser quality, i.e. less expensive. These everyday wines, often labeled Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux AOC or Bordeaux Superior can be great bargains, like this week’s first wine: the 2010 Bordeaux Blanc from Château de la Vieille Tour. This vineyard and winery dates back to 1839 and is still owned and operated by the family that originally acquired it. Their 2010 Bordeaux Blanc is made from 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon and 5% Muscadelle. This dry wine has not seen any oak and is therefore crisp and clean featuring pears, stone fruits and minerality.

2009 Chateau Haut-Surget, Lalande de Pomerol, France ($20-$25)

Red Bordeaux wines are also usually blends staring either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot with Cabernet Franc. Sometimes splashes of Petit Verdot or Malbec complete the blends which are oftentimes massively structured and complex, not to

mention extremely long-lived. The before mentioned Entre-Deux-Mers makes a lot of simple red wines, but in terms of fine red wines, Bordeaux is basically divided into two parts separated by the Gironde River. The soil composition and micro climates are different making conditions on the left bank more suitable for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and conditions on the right bank more suitable for Merlot.

This week’s second wine is from Lelande-de-Pomerol, a sub-region of Bordeaux located just north of its more famous neighbor Pomerol, on the right bank of the Gironde. When someone asks me about getting into wines from Bordeaux, I often recommend Merlot-based wines from the right-bank. Because Merlot is softer, fruitier and has less tannins, the wines made from this grape are often approachable sooner then left-bank Bordeaux. The 2009 Chateau Haut-Surget is a great example of a quality Bordeaux made primarily of Merlot (70%) with 15% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. While still very young, it does open up after a couple hours of aerating displaying nice dark berries and dirt with pepper, as well as firm but not overpowering tannins. I am getting this for my Cellar, as I think it will improve significantly over the next 5-10 years. 

Enjoy!

Steffen Rasch CSW is ready to answer any wine-related questions, comments or concerns you may have. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

 

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