Let’s play a word association game. I say the word Bordeaux and what do you immediately say back to me. My friends fired back with “expensive” and “wine snob.” It got me thinking about the world of wine and how certain areas are perceived. Bordeaux has been given the distinction of having some of the best terroir in the world and therefore produce the best wines at a very expensive price. This myth, however, is only partially true. Bordeaux still has the distinction of having the best terroir and the best wines, but they don’t have to be out of the average person’s league in price.
Although the elites are still around and still expensive, many have second label wines that are made with newer vines on the same terroir as their premier crus. These second label wines, unlike their expensive, older sisters, don’t have to be cellared for 10-30 years. They are meant to be enjoyed now. Of course, they are less polished, less structured and less complex but these second labels are no less drinkable.
So how do we know one of these second labels when we see them? Most often, the chateau’s name will not be on the label but the name will probably be close enough to reveal the winery. For example, I would love to buy a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild from the Pauillac region of Bordeaux. But seriously, $750-$1,250 for a single bottle of wine is a little out of my price range. Instead I brought home with me Baron de Rothschild Reserve Speciale Bordeaux. With its delicate tannins, this Bordeaux is easy drinking and delicious at the affordable price of $12.99 a bottle. Ripe red fruit, especially cherry, with just a hint of vanilla from the oak made me feel like I was drinking an expensive bottle nonetheless. This 2009 Bordeaux has 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is soft, well-rounded with just enough acidity to go well with food. Roasted lamb would be my first choice but I know there are many out there that say no to lamb. So as a back-up choice I would suggest entre cote bordelaise, or in English, a steak that is topped with carmelized shallots.
Other second label wines to look out for are Bahans Haut-Brion from Chateau Haut-Brion, Les Forts de Latour from Chateau Latour, and Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux from Chateau Margaux. When I see these wines on the shelf I just grab them. You get the name of a big Bordeaux without the price tag that goes with it. These wines certainly take the expense and snobbery out of Bordeaux.