Be A Smart Bordeaux Wine Shopper


You’ll know a glass of Bordeaux when you sniff it -- from the pencil shavings of Pauillac to the elderflowers of Pessac-Leognan. Bordeaux is synonymous quality; it’s a universal truth of the collective wine consciousness. But while quality is often associated with premium pricing, this doesn’t mean you can’t find a great bargain in Bordeaux. The region is rife with hidden values. You just need to know where to look. Status symbol Bordeaux has its time and place (think MedocSaint-Émilion, Pomerol, Sauternes and more), but you may not wish to break out the $100 wines on pasta night. Fear not, for you can amplify your Fettucine Alfredo’s star power with a bottle of value Bordeaux. Your friends are sure to be impressed; from the erudite sommelier, to that party guest who mistakenly refers to Cabernet as Cabaret. No matter how much you actually pay for Bordeaux, the air of sophistication and excellence remains constant.
The Atlantic Ocean feeds Bordeaux’s River Gironde, in the northern part of the region. As the water travels south, the river’s estuary splits to form the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. The area between the two rivers, known as the Entre-Deux-Mers (“Between-Two-Seas”), is where you will find many of Bordeaux’s hidden treasures. Seventy five percent of all red wines produced with Bordeaux Supérieur on the label are made from grapes grown in Entre-Deux-Mers. It’s a bucolic swath of land where old vines abound. In order for Bordeaux Supérieur to appear on the label, wines must be aged for a minimum of nine months, mostly in oak barrels. Many producers age their wines far longer than required. You should consume these wines young; ideally within three to six years of vintage release. You’ll see Entre-Deux-Mers on a small number of white wine labels, rendering them a rare and often hard-to-find treat. The names Entre-Deux-Mers and Bordeaux Supérieur are not as famous as their nearby neighbors which gives consumers a huge advantage. Both areas boast the same loamy soils filled with gravel and limestone. Winemakers from higher-profile regions may come to the Entre-Deux-Mers for the opportunity to express more creativity in their craft; such is the benefit of fewer winemaking restrictions. 

These wines pair perfectly with casual dinner parties and cozy Netflix bingeing on 20th century French cinema. Here are four bottles for you to consider: 
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this is a classic Bordeaux white blend. Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux delivers a distinct grassiness with herbal notes that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Semillon, the most widely planted white grape in Bordeaux, brings body and finesse. It starts with austere aromas of lemon and peach with a tart citrus note. Similarly citrusy in the mouth, with lemon pith and grapefruit flavors taking a front seat, some golden berries and more herbal notes of tea leaf and grass toward the finish. Fresh and zesty throughout, it finishes with a bit of mellow cream.
This is a perfect selection for right bank Bordeaux lovers on a budget. You can find a bottle for under sixteen dollars in the United States. Jancis Robinson, who has extolled Bordeaux Supérieur’s virtues in the past, gave this wine 15.5 out of 20 points. It is 58% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were grown on clay and limestone soils, similar to its esteemed neighbors. This is just gorgeous on the nose with savory notes of dark plum, molasses and brown sugar, with dark blackberry jam, gamey notes of soy sauce and a hint of moist earth. Warm and full bodied in the mouth, this has the perfect interplay of juicy black currant and blackberry with more herbal notes of tobacco leaf, wet hay and spice with clove and cinnamon.
Composed of 75% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Robert Parker has praised Reignac as producers of “the best generic Bordeaux ever.” Fresh and light aromas of red currant and raspberry show dusty earth and some floral notes. Tart and medium bodied in the mouth with more red fruit notes of cherry, currant and raspberry jam, drying out through the midpalate with ripe tannins and dark earth, finishing with a hint of medicine and vanilla.
This wine is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon with an average vine age of twenty-five years. It’s a right bank Bordeaux lover’s value-drenched dream, and still drinking beautifully in 2016. Nicely spiced and oaked, this is herbal and earthy in the glass showing dark black currant and bramble fruit with hints of licorice. Tartly focussed in the palate, it shifts to red fruit flavors of cranberry, raspberry and herbal tones replete with licorice. Includes a pleasant tannic chew. Cream and dark chocolate on a ripe finish.

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  • I believe merlot to be the emperors 'new' clothes, though they are old and out of touch. No one likes it. No one sings its praises. and Bordeaux outside of the proper, decent wines (which are too expensive) and a massive gamble therefore, is a huge lie.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 1:53 PM

  • Please, enough of the wine snobbery!.

    There has always been "drinking" wine and "sipping" wine (as far back as Cana, for example).

    Certainly Bordeaux no longer "punches above it's weight", but that is NOT to say that there aren't many enjoyable wines at reasonable cost from that AOC.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 2:08 PM

  • My comments were as far removed from wine snobbery, as it's possible to be. Silliness itself.
    If that was who your implied, yet ill defined poke was aimed at, Paul, I most humbly apologise for creating that false image.... But maybe it wasn't that.

    My comments have everything to do with the perennial marketing nonsense around Bordeaux wines and the bollocks of promoting (his holy blandness) Merlo.

    For at least 30 years I have been following that grape. The industry has surrounded itself in the lie that is Merlot. Let's be homest: it's fairly crap in most instances... and yet gets hyped and even worse allowed 'to be', because it's the only commercial option in that place for large scale mass production. That does not excuse how bloody boring and downright unpleasant it is to consume. Name a single person who 'Loves Merlot'? No-one.

    In fact, the sheer number of merlot dominated wines adds to the problem of a wine region out of touch. That's not snobbiness to mention. It's snobby to stay with the make fabricated reality: Bordeaux has, in large part become a marketing lie.

    I am not a person who enjoys bland comments; so if I made one, more the fool me... but on reflection, I did not. And so, your comment cannot be aimed at me and my foolproof synopsis of a fake grape, only popular for it's corporate money spinning angle.
    It's about time Bordeaux woke up to the fact that it backed the wrong horse, in Merlot, perhaps by necessity. But it had limited choice, because it's actually NOT the ideal wine location it would have the world believe (through hype and hyperbole) that is says it is is. Emperors clothes.

    Not snobbiness. Silly comment.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 2:58 PM

  • I'll add to that and say there are aren't any enjoyable wines at reasonable cost made from merlot at all. Full stop.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 3:01 PM

  • In France...

    Mar 11, 2016 at 3:02 PM

  • Full stop. Full stop.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 3:03 PM

  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 839

    "Jancis Robinson, who has extolled Bordeaux Supérieur’s virtues in the past, gave this wine 15.5 out of 20 points."

    As someone who started his wine adventure many years ago with the 20 point scale, I find a wine rated at 15.5 to be mediocre at best.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 3:26 PM

  • Be a smart Bordeaux wine shopper: buy elsewhere.

    My comments risk becoming a caricature of themselves, but are they passionate, eh? I'm just so fed up of the blandness (merlot-ness) of Bordeaux AOC and the spin surrounding it and all things Bordelaise.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 3:29 PM

  • Sounds like someone had a bad bottle of Bordeaux one day! I love to be able to drink something from the area that won't burn my whole pay check. But maybe i don't know what I'm talking about since I've been drinking wine for only a few years....but with many more to come!

    Mar 11, 2016 at 5:26 PM

  • First off Bordeaux is the best value on this planet only if you like Cabernet Merlot and Cabernet Franc. If you are a Pinot Noir fan there is no Pinot with any complexity for under 15 dollars good luck on that search and if you want fruit bombs buy Italian Spanish Argentina California for 15 dollars there will be loads
    of complexity there LOL. There are 6000 Chateau with the appelation Bordeaux Supieur and the others are labeled AOC Bordeaux ( the Merlot based wines) I am sure you will find one you like for under 15 dollars. Great article

    Mar 11, 2016 at 5:32 PM

  • Snooth User: cablecars
    321328 31

    I've been reading this website since 2009, ever since I first I came to college in San Francisco and spent a lot of time in Napa on the weekends. I can't believe some of the things I have read here over the years, but this takes the cake. It's really hard to find "bad" wine coming out of a region like Bordeaux. Is your palate is made of pure gold? Sheesh.

    Mar 11, 2016 at 5:45 PM

  • Snooth User: MeDas
    1388243 73

    Gary, the attitude you extol is the one that paints the vast majority of wine lovers as snobs, which I for one am not. I happen to like right bank Bordeaux's, Merlot and all, and open to trying a good value wine. I have found some good ones and yes dumped some down the drain. Viva la choice.

    Mar 12, 2016 at 7:56 AM

  • Gary,
    evidenced by the number of your posts on this topic, you are clearly impressed by YOURSELF. Far from being "ill-defined" my comments were an experiment in sublety, and not STUPIDITY (sadly this seems to have been clearly lost on you), however, what is not quite so subtle is your pretentiousness, why even your moniker stinks of pretentiousness...Gary Wine-Man?????
    Perhaps, when your taste buds ( and experience) arrive at maturity, you might realize that your generalization on a particular grape variety is NOT empirical: HENCE "it is all a matter of individual taste".
    Whilst on the general point of snobbery, I am amused by the quote from the blurb about Bordeaux wine to read that "The Atlantic Ocean feeds Bordeaux’s River Gironde", what geographic and factual PAP. it is the river which feeds the ocean, and this also strikes as snobbery. Editor, please note that less can be more....
    Rant over....I will NOT make any further comment on this as I have more important matters to be concerned with. Night All.

    Mar 12, 2016 at 1:53 PM

  • Snooth User: Shagwong
    1323542 32

    The only way to buy Bordeaux's is to get them in Futures, but you have to have self control. I paid $79.00 for the 2008 Chateau Pontet Canet and $39.00 for the Chateau D'Issan. They are now going for twice the prices and will go even higher as they Mature.

    Mar 22, 2016 at 12:53 PM

  • As for everyone hating Merlot, I (who also did not favor Merlot) had a bottle of Ehler's Estate 2010 from St Helena Napa Valley. It was great and now almost impossible to find. But what do I know? I'm not a wine snob and just drink what i like. Even those "fruit bombs.....Italian Spanish Argentina California"

    Mar 22, 2016 at 5:05 PM

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