As recent wine industry reports show blended wines gaining popularity, I wonder how much of that is Bordeaux. I suspect little. And I suspect that is largely because of price.
When I first got interested in wine, I could afford even top Bordeaux on occasion. The famous château of the Left Bank (of the Gironde estuary) communes of Margaux, Paillac, St. Estephe, St. Julien and Graves - plus the Right Bank communes of St. Emilion and Pomeraol - get most of the attention. But their prices are beyond what most can afford.
Bordeaux values do exist, though. Wines from the Left Bank, particularly those carrying the Cru Bourgeois label, offer admirable quality for significantly lower prices. Here are three Cru Bourgeois to serve as an introduction.
- Château Aney. This domaine, built in 1850 by the Aney family, is between St. Julien and Margaux and has been owned by the Raimond family since 1972. The wine is made in a more traditional style at only 12.5 percent alcohol with a judicious use of oak, a balance of earth and fresh currant, drinking with finesse. The 2012 ($24) is 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot, 7 percent cabernet franc, and 3 percent petite verdot.
- Château Maurac. Situated just outside of St. Estephe, Maurac has been a Cru Bourgeois since 1932, and the quality continues under new owner Claude Gaudin. The 2012 ($25), at 50 percent merlot and 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, struck me as more modern in style with tangy red and black fruits, a touch of oak and a lush texture.
- Château Greysac. This domaine just north of St. Estephe was built in the 1700s. Its wine has been a favorite of mine since I began drinking wine in the late 1970s. It was nice to see it show well here. The 2012 ($26) is 65 percent merlot, 32 percent cabernet sauvignon and 3 percent petite verdot. It is earthy, spicy and minerally, presenting black currant fruit with authority.
On the Right Bank, the satellite regions of the Côtes de Bordeaux are worth seeking out. The region - encompassing the villages of Blaye, Castillon, Cadillac and Francs - can deliver extreme value. Also, many of the producers pursue organic and biodynamic practices. Here are two good ones.
- Château Puygueraud. This estate is in Francs, the most rural of the Côtes de Bordeaux and known for prehistoric Lascaux cave paintings. It is owned by the Thienpont family, which also owns the highly regarded Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol. The 2014 ($20) is 75 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc and 5 percent malbec. It offers juicy black currant, touched with tobacco, spicy herbs and generous tannins.
- Château Hyot. With roots in nearby Saint-Émilion since 1750, the current generation of the Aubert family continues the tradition, with their daughters overseeing vineyards, winemaking and marketing. The 2014 ($25), 60 percent cabernet franc, 20 percent merlot and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, has juicy blackberry and red currant accented with toast, forest and licorice notes; it's balanced with an elegant but firm texture.