Bargain Bordeaux is conspicuous on the retail floor, like a panther in the pea patch. There it sits, confused, unexplained. Immediately the thought strikes, “What’s a value-priced Bordeaux taste like? Can it be good?”
A pair of 2005 red blends were recently spotted in the Philly region: Chateau Haut-Gacherie and Chateau Maine Turon, available for $10.99 in some area state stores.
It’s not highly common to spot an ’05 under $15. It was a humdinger vintage hailed by those in the know – the wine-logged swillers, spitters and trophy collectors. Prices swelled out of the gate, helped along by fawning reviews.
Is it worth spending the 11 bucks, if only to sample a junior varsity nip of the celebrated crop? Or is the money better spent on a product of less dubious quality, from a wine area with a track record of offering good to very good bottles in the value price zone?
For you, fellow wineheads, I brought the bargain Bordeaux home where they were poured and aired out for about an hour. I drank them solo and with food, and sampled again on day two. Both are medium bodied and nearly identical in color. Much about the Haut-Gacherie is muted. There’s barely a nose and it lacks flavor. With food, it barely budges. The Maine Turon, at 12.5% alcohol, is more promising. Its aroma is more expressive – spice and earth – and there’s a slight funk and hints of fruit in the mouth. Actually, it feels like a Burgundy.
Both elude the front-and-center presence associated with their origins.
Some regions (France included) fare better than others in the ultra value category – that is, under $12. Argentinean Malbec, Aussie Shiraz or Washington State red, for example, can deliver more for the small money.
This leads to the question of why Bordeaux isn’t more invested in the value game. From a marketing standpoint, the long-term benefit of attracting younger and/or less experienced consumers through attractive pricing and commendable quality is a blind spot for the region. The history of Bordeaux is steeped in tradition and elitism that cemented its singular purpose: To craft the finest, most exclusive wines, period.
It’s well known that recent economics turned the tables and demand for premium wines has seriously waned. Just like the so-called cult wineries of Napa, Bordeaux is scrambling to redefine its identity – whether vignerons admit it or not. It won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, beware the basement bargain.
Contact Jeff Alexander at jef[email protected] / On Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffal66