Buying Bordeaux Wine
Now that we’ve taken a simplified look at the complex world of Bordeaux wine and we know 2009 is the best vintage in 30 years, let’s buy a bottle!
Do you want a red or white? If red, do you want a bold, strong wine? Using what we’ve learned so far, you’d want to pick a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Left Bank (like MÃ©doc, Graves, Margaux, Pauillac or Saint-EstÃ¨phe). If you’re looking for a softer red, you’d want to pick a Merlot from the Right Bank (Saint-Emilion, Pomerol or Fronsac). If white, do you want a round citrus or a golden sweet? If you’re looking for round citrus, you’d want to pick a Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers or Pessac-LÃ©ognan. Sweet white, go with a Barsac, Cadillac or Sauternes.
The label tells you everything you need to know about the Region/AOC (where its from which will provide insight into what kind of grape it is and taste like we discussed above), name of the chÃ¢teau/winery and the vintage/year (check out the ‘good year’ list here). This image from the Bordeaux Wine Council explains it simply.
Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Wine Course (a great resource for all wine) puts it simply also.Â In reading the labels, your basic Bordeaux name on the label will be your least expensive and basic quality. A Bordeaux label with region/AOC is next up the ladder in quality. Finally a Bordeaux label with region/AOC and chÃ¢teau will be best quality (you know it comes from an individual vineyard although remember there are thousands of them so not all will be great).
Also keep in mind when picking a Bordeaux, when it will be ready to drink. AÂ great chateau needs a minimum of 10 years to age. AÂ cru bourgeois or a 2nd label needs a minimum of 5 years to age. AÂ regional wine can be consumed within 2-3 years of the vintage year. And a basic Bordeaux AOCÂ is ready to drink now.
Do you have to spend a fortune?
This question often comes up in buying Bordeaux wine. The reality is you can find good quality at many price points. Kevin Zraly has a great way of looking at it…the ‘reverse pyramid method.’
It all starts with knowing what you like. We all can’t afford the perfect ChÃ¢teau Lafite-Rothschild every day. But we know its from the Pauillac AOC/region. So we could pick a Fifth-Growth/Cru from that region which is must less expensive, all the way down to a regional Pauillac. As Kevin says “When I go to my neighborhood retailer, I find a chÃ¢teau I’ve never heard of. If it’s from Pauillac, from a good vintage/year, and it’s twenty to twenty-five dollars, I buy it. My chances are good.”
In the end, its about experimenting and finding what you like! Hopefully you find these tips helpful. I know the facts I’ve shared over the last few days have helped me feel more confident in picking out a Bordeaux.
Cheers to 2009 Bordeaux!Tagged As:
Bordeaux, French Wine, Windows on the World Wine Course