Of all the wine regions in the world, Bordeaux is the only one that is simultaneously accessible and out of reach; terrible and wonderful; haughty and pedestrian.
While upper level bottles cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars apiece, the bottom tier is practically given away.
Personally, I find Bordeaux terrifying! By nature of career choice and not pocketbook, I've had the luck to try a few of those
outrageously priced bottles and must admit: I understand what all the fuss is about. It is magic when an older bottle of wine leaves you in awe of its power, complexity and fruit. However, I believe that Bordeaux falls into two categories: ones I can afford and ones I cannot.
Bordeaux is a blend of primarily 5 grapes: Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and occasionally, Petit Verdot. The Garonne and Dorogne rivers meet in a "Y" to form the Gironde River, which splits Bordeaux in two. The right bank of the Gironde is Merlot dominant, while the left bank is Cabernet dominant; creating the famous “Left Bank & Right Bank” categories.
A recent sampling of current wines on the market found these bottles in a range of prices from more affordable to less:
2005 Mouton Cadet Rouge:
($6.99 to $9.99/btl) This wine was simple yet perfectly juicy and yummy. Widely available throughout Manhattan, probably even at your neighborhood liquor store.
2004 Château Fontenil Fronsac:
($25/btl) Fronsac is located within St. Emilion, a region that tends to be very approachable. This bottle was powerful, dark and structured with beautiful notes of coffee and chocolate. Available at: Sherry-Lehmann
(679 Madison btwn 60th & 61st St.)
2004 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte - Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé:
($43.95) Simply stunning, this was a favorite of the tasting with dark & concentrated purple, inky flavors with plenty of interesting cedar spice. This bottle is worth the splurge! Available at: Sherry Lehmann
& Grapes, the Wine Company
1990 Châteaux Latour
($1199/btl) If you really want to splurge
While it is not necessary to spend the world in order to get a good bottle of wine, try to avoid purchasing bottles under the $7 mark; our panel agreed that these bottles were not worth the expense.