As a blog that preaches “eat cheap,” and exalts good wines costing less than $10, Eat Well, Eat Cheap doesn’t get much of a chance to talk about wines from Bordeaux, the most acclaimed wine region in the world.
It might not be the birthplace of wine, but it is certainly the Mecca of wine. Both because of the marketing value of its name and the actual greatness of its wine, Bordeaux wines are so expensive that four figures is not an unusual price.
But if you’ve been watching your online wine bargains lately, you would be excused for wondering whether the decimal point had been misplaced. $10.99, or even $9.99, is not uncommon for more than a few 2009 and 2010 Bordeaux bottles.
So, what gives? Are these wines any good? The answer, as is so often the case, is yes and no. Yes, there are Bordeaux bargains to be had. But no, not every $10 Bordeaux is worth even that miserly price. The new, lower prices are the result of lots of factors, but mostly it’s because the world’s wine regions produce an oversupply of wine and because 2009 and 2010 were good years in Bordeaux, both in quantity and quality. Only bad wine makers shipped bad Bordeaux in these years, so that’s good news for wine drinkers who want to try a Bordeaux that they normally wouldn’t even consider.
What to do? It’s somewhat difficult because the big names of Bordeaux are not dropping anything on the market at a reasonable price. And when you get into the unknown cousins of grand cru who live out in the Bordeaux burbs, the names are mysterious and the quality can be anything from rags to silk.
There are lots of DOCs (appellations or sub-regions) even within Bordeaux. Some you might look for are: Cote de Castillon, Cote de Blaye or Entre Deux Mers. These DOCs are all on the right bank of the Gironde River that splits the region. As with all Bordeaux output, the wines are blends of several grapes, but the Right Bank wines are typically Merlot blended with Cabernet Franc.
You still might have trouble finding a good Bordeaux for less than $10, but you could certainly find good bottles for less than $20 or $30.
These outlying DOCs, including the ones mentioned above, are the place to look. And while there is a big argument in rarified wine circles about whether ’09 or ’10 is the better vintage, our recommendation in the short-term is to go with an ’09, because they tend to be slightly fruitier and less tannic than the ’10s. The 2010 wines will be great, but they probably need a little time in the bottle.
Still confused about what to buy? Good, because there’s a lot of Bordeaux swill out there on the shelves.
With some help from our friend Paul Spring and lots of reviews, here are two suggestions:
1. If you see one or two reasonably priced ’09 Bordeaux bottles on the shelf of your local store or at your favorite online merchant, Google that wine and vintage to see what other online merchants and reviewers are saying about it. If they’re silent, stay away. If several are praising it, buy away.
2. Go to the biggest wine merchant in your area — one where they sell at least some Bordeaux wines — and tell them that some knucklehead who writes a wine blog said there are good ’09 Bordeaux wines to be had at decent prices and could he recommend one or two?
Take a chance. Buy a bottle or two at whatever price you can afford. Better yet, buy two and lay one down for 10 years in your cool cellar. If the first one tastes great now, go buy a case and put it away for a while. It will only get better.
You might not get a chance again for many years to put some inexpensive but good Bordeaux bottles in your cellar or on your table.