We Brits have an extensive, historical love affair with Bordeaux. Since the 12th century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, who had decreed ships sailing from Bordeaux would be exempt from export tax, the volume of Bordeaux imported to the UK has represented a significant portion of total production. With top châteaux, on both the Left and Right bank, experiencing astronomical price rises in recent decades, and for many centuries Bordeaux known as a wine of the upper-class elites, there has been a stark failure by many, myself included, to explore the ‘rest’ beyond the few. Admittedly, for whatever reason, perhaps lack of inclination, poor on-shelf representation, or a blossoming new world ‘stealing the show’ I’ve failed to explore the abundance of keenly priced, equally quality-conscious, producers on both sides of the Gironde. Jane Anson’s wonderful new release ‘Inside Bordeaux’, an exciting new generation of winemakers, and a handful of recently-enjoyed superb bottles have convinced me to revisit the region and shake off my misconceptions. Having recently shared 8 distinctive Burgundies for under £30, in this article I point toward 6 great-value Bordeaux for under £22 that may just encourage you to dive a little deeper into the inspired winemakers of Bordeaux.
Chateau Graves de Pez 2014
Chateau Graves de Pez’s vineyard is situated on some of the most sought-after plots in Saint Estephe, on the gravel plateau shared among parcels from Château Montrose, Cos d’Estournel and Haut Marbuzet. The new generation at Graves de Pez, Maxime Saint Martin, initially made his wine with the help of the late consultant winemaker Jacques Boissenot (his son Eric now managing the consultancy) who has had a hand in quality at 4 of the 5 first growths. Winemaking is done in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with the wine being transferred to oak for 12 months of ageing. The 2014 Graves de Pez delivers attractive aromas and flavours of blackberries and ripe cherries, woven together with spices, tar, and freshly-cut flowers. The medium to full body is well structured and expands well across the palate. This is all capped off by a wonderful round, polished, long velvety finish. £19.95 from Cotswold Wine Trading
Enclos De Viaud 2016
Enclos de Viaud is located on the Lalande bank of the Barbanne river in the lieu-dit Viaud et Maréchaude. The estate is made up of 2.48ha split into two parcels. Merlot is the dominant variety, and the vineyard and soils are managed plot by plot. Winemaker Jerome Aguirre uses a blend of oak, cement and stainless steel tanks for vinification and ageing in order to bring the best of each element to the wine. This is some of the finest terroir and one of the best-performing properties in the appellation. Aromas and flavours of melted toffee, dark berry compote, and spice with a medium-to-full body and a subtle, long plummy, nutty, and leafy finish with fine tannins and moderate oak. A supple Bordeaux with instant appeal. £21.25 from Cotswold Wine Trading
G de Guiraud 2016
Château Guiraud is a large Sauternes property that is the only 1er Cru Classé, with the exception of its neighbour Château d`Yquem, that is located within the commune of Sauternes itself. Guiraud was owned for a short period by the Maxwell family, who invested heavily in the property. In 1981 it was acquired by Hamilton Narby, who has transformed the estate into one of the very finest Sauternes properties. G de Guiraud is the estate’s dry white offering. Château Guiraud is certified organic with a significant focus on biodiversity, having planted hedgerows, cover crops and built several bug hotels throughout the estate, it is in many ways a trailblazer of sustainability. Aged for approximately 7 months in oak barrels G de Guiraud reveals a richness of expression and an assertive personality, with a fresh, dry palate displaying flavours of citrus fruit, peach and white blossom. £16.90 from Hedonism
Château Franc Baudron 2014
The Guimberteau family has owned the Château Franc-Baudron estate since 1923. This is a vineyard on a human scale where each generation has left its footprint on the family heritage. In 2010, the new generation of Château Franc Baudron embarked on converting the entire vineyard to organic farming. The estate hosts beehives on its vineyard and uses herbal treatments, and has been certified organic since 2013. This wonderfully rich Merlot dominant blend, with pronounced aromas of chocolate, smoke and spice. The palate has a good depth of fruit supported by a smooth mouthfeel and long, spicy finish. £13.99 from Cambridge Wine Merchants
Chateau Brillette 2016
Château Brillette is located in the heart of the Médoc, just north of Moulis, a commune situated between St Julien and Margaux. The Berthault-Flageul family, who bought the property in 1976, oversaw re-planting which has now provided them with a mature, well-planned vineyard. The average age of the vines is 40 years. Since 1997 a new cellar has been built to house state-of-the-art stainless steel vats for fermentation and a temperature-controlled barrel cellar. Following harvest and sorting by hand, the crushed grapes ferment for six to eight days followed by six to eight weeks in vat before being aged 18 months in barrel, 30% of which are new. The wine is intensely aromatic, a bunch of red and black fruits, spices, cedar, velvety tannins and a long, balanced, sapid finish. £19.91 from Vinatis UK
Château Merigot 2016
The historic property of Château Mayne Mazerolles is situated close to the town and Citadel of Blaye, a Vauban fortress. The estate is managed by winemaker Jacques Chardat who follows a philosophy of utmost respect for the vines and is in the process of converting to organic status. The vineyard itself, sitting on a beautiful sun-drenched plateau, comprises predominantly Merlot and Malbec and is cultivated according to sustainable philosophies. Dominique is experimenting with part vinification in wooden egg-shaped fermenters, resulting in wines which are intensely flavoured while retaining suppleness and elegance. This wine is part-aged in oak barrels for one year, the remainder in vats with a touch of micro-oxygenation. The finished product is overflowing with vibrant red fruit and gentle oak spices, it is well-balanced with supple tannins and a smooth finish. £14.99 from Strictly Wine
Between a passionate, determined new generation of winemakers, excellent resources like ‘Inside Bordeaux’, and a range of quality UK retailers, it has never been easier to find and buy great-value, choice Bordeaux. Outside of the ambitiously priced ‘top châteaux’ there are a whole host of winemakers that deserve your attention. I hope this article has helped point you in the direction of just a handful of them. And if all this talk of wine has left you feeling peckish, Fiona Beckett has some great pairing suggestions for the wines of Bordeaux, which in the majority of cases are most certainly gastronomic.