Bordeaux on a Budget

Bordeaux is a classic region, home to classic wines. So often seen as unattainable, or even undrinkable, the wines of Bordeaux are slowly overcoming these misconceptions in the wine world. While serious wine collectors tend to focus on high-priced futures intended to be cellared for decades or on the rich, honeyed sweet wines of Sauternes, it is certainly possible to find both aged Bordeaux and ready-to-drink young Bordeaux at affordable prices—you just need to know what to look for.

Because outdated stereotypes can make these wines seem so intimidating, many casual wine drinkers don’t know enough about affordable Bordeaux to choose one for the dinner table. In reality, there is no need to feel overwhelmed, and the selection process can be simplified with a few easy pro tips:

1. Discover the Côtes de Bordeaux
Côtes de Bordeaux is comprised of the Right Bank regions of Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon and Francs. This collective of growers and producers banded together a few decades ago and were granted the Côtes du Bordeaux appellation status in 2009. In a way, this is similar to the way villages are attributed on the labels for Côtes du Rhone-Villages—each appellation adds its name to the Côtes de Bordeaux label, highlighting its own unique identity but identifying with the quality specifications of the Côtes de Bordeaux appellation as a whole.

A favorite value from the Cotes:
Chateau Les-Charmes Godard 2012

2. Buy older wines at a value
Some vintages are highly acclaimed at the time of their release (such as the heralded 2000 vintage), but then a few years later, even better vintages arrive—for example, 2005, 2009, and 2010. As a result, the 2000 will begin to lose some of its shine, followed by the 2005, and so on. Those vintages, when available, offer the great opportunity to purchase an older Bordeaux from an outstanding vintage.

Great picks include:
Château Simard Saint-Emilion 2005
Château Balestard La Tonelle 2005
Château Cap de Mourlin Grand Cru 2005

3. Find entry-level wines from fantastic vintages

There are highly-acclaimed vintages that demand extremely high prices from top châteaux, but a universally wonderful vintage means that even the under-$25, entry-level wines will be delicious. Currently, 2009, 2010 and 2011 can all be relied upon for high quality at low prices.

Some more-than-safe bets:
Château Lyonnat Lussac Saint-Emilion 2009
Château Fourcas Dupré 2010
Château Haut-Bellevue Haut-Médoc 2010
Château le Doyenné 2011

For a comprehensive list of the best deals in Bordeaux for this fall, shop this link.