Affordable Bordeaux: Oxymoron?
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed June 20, 2001. For more information go to www.wineloverspage.com.
Like a lot of wine lovers I know, I don't drink much Bordeaux these days. A string of lackluster vintages during most of the '90s was accompanied by a remarkable runup in prices that seemed to disconnect variations in vintage quality from market price.
This trend culminated last week at the huge Vinexpo wine show in Paris, when several of the "first growth" producers - Chateaus Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild - prompted wine lovers around the world to suck in our breath in a collective gasp as they offered their 2000 vintage wholesale at 1,400 French francs a bottle, about $180 a bottle or $2,200 a case. This could yield price tags as high as $5,000 for a case by the time these limited supplies reach the retail market in two years.
The other major Bordeaux producers will certainly follow suit, effectively pricing all but the wealthiest and most passionate collectors out of the market.
What's an everyday wine lover to do? Is it possible to get a glimpse of what Bordeaux - arguably one of the world's best wine regions - is all about, without having to take out a second mortgage?
Today's wine report offers one approach: Even in mediocre vintages, canny consumers can find producers that outperformed their peers; and relative value can often be had in the less sought-after regions. By shopping the 1998 vintage (when a rainy harvest caused problems in some areas, but only after a searing August fostered full ripening), and looking at the Lalande- a-Pomerol region (a low-rent neighbor of the more "desirable" Pomerol), I ended up with this pleasant, Merlot-based Bordeaux for a relatively low price.