RICHARD ESLING: Bordeaux that doesn’t break the bank

A selection of AC Bordeaux Wines

In the light of auction prices of some Bordeaux wines in the hundreds of pounds per bottle (even for recent vintages), together with reports that some Bordeaux wine prices have increased seven-fold in the past ten years, one could be forgiven for avoiding wines from this region, believing that a second mortgage would be necessary to try some.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

These outrageously expensive wines only represent a tiny fraction of the 7,000 producers of wine in the Bordeaux region. Among the rest, there are some exceptionally good value for money wines, both red and white.

Bordeaux is the largest producer of Appellation Contrôlée wines in France and represents 1.5 percent of the world’s total vineyard area. Red wine, with a small amount of rosé, accounts for 88 percent of production.

There are some 60 different appellations, producing an average of 900 million bottles per year, with a revenue of over 2 billion euros. It has been estimated that one person in six of the working population of the Gironde department, is involved in the wine industry. However, very little wine sells for a lot of money, with only around 3 percent selling for over 15 euros per bottle.

Producing 15 percent of all French wine, the influence of the region goes far beyond its home country, with effects on wine production being worldwide. With advances in new technology in recent years, together with enhanced management techniques in the vineyard, very enjoyable wines are now made in all the different Bordeaux appellations, a great number of which are great value for money. Provided the wines attain a certain quality level and the production follows certain rules, they may be given the Appellation Bordeaux Contrôlée in any part of the Bordeaux region, North, South, east or west. Wines from this generic appellation are very reasonably priced, but full of flavour, character and elegance.

A perfect example of red Bordeaux at this level is Chateau Pey La Tour 2014, from the house of Dourthe, which is now considered as one of the standard setters for winemaking in the Bordeaux region. Founded in 1840, the company bought this chateau in 1990, and with the introduction of top level vineyard management, it is now a highly regarded estate.

Made from 90 percent Merlot, with 5 percent each of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, the wine has mellow, red fruit, is aromatic and very attractive. Find it in Waitrose at an equally attractive price of £9.99.

Wines made by some of the top chateaux, but which don’t make it into their top prestige batches, can also be very good value. Chateau Maucaillou in the Moulis appellation of the Medoc, produces prestigious red wine in its own appellation, but also produces ‘second tier’ wines called ‘ Le Bordeaux de Maucaillou’, which are AC Bordeaux, both red and white. The white is made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, and is fresh and flavoursome with a crisp, refreshing finish. The 2015 vintage is available online from Vinissimus, great value at under £8 per bottle.

Some other areas of Bordeaux can also produce wines of particularly good value in comparison to the top Grand Cru Classé wines, such as the Cotes de Bordeaux from the hilly districts and the small villages around the famous town of Saint Emilion. Dourthe again produces a Montagne Saint Emilion, which is velvety and full-bodied with good juicy fruit from the Merlot grapes, mixed with some Cabernet Sauvignon. Waitrose again comes up trumps, with the Reserve 2015 currently on offer until the end of the month at £8.99 per bottle.

Look out in the wine shops and supermarkets for Bordeaux Appellation Controlee red and white, especially chateau wines, which are of great value and elegance, with perhaps a little more character than some of their counterparts from the New World at this price level.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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