So what exactly do we know about Bordeaux? With the Médoc formerly being nothing more than a swamp...…this marshy land was first drained in the mid-17th century by the true kings of the waterways, the aquatically savvy Dutch.
Afterwards, Bordeaux would eventually grow to become a region with quite a prosperous merchant class that unsurprisingly fostered an elite wine region to match. A bit later down the line, in the year 1855 came a historic classification for Bordeaux’s so-called ‘finest wines’ that would inevitably influence the entire industry as we now know it. Even today, many of the world’s most expensive and highly collected wines are the result of these designated growths from this historically infamous classification.
Petit Chateau: Bordeaux Diamonds in the Rough
But do you happen to have $800 sitting around to spend on a bottle of Lafite? I certainly don’t, maybe in another lifetime. But for now, what I can afford are the plethora of smaller estates, often referred to as Petit Chateau, that produce some absolutely fantastic quality wines at uber-friendly prices. A far cry from the notoriously overpriced growths, these affordable bottlings allow delicious Bordeaux to be enjoyed on any weekday with a nice home cooked meal. Coming from all over the Bordeaux region, these wines can be found labeled with classifications like Bordeaux Supérieur, Cru Bourgeois, or simple appellation-specific designations – for example Fronsac.
Although typically easy-drinking and value driven, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by the amount of complexity and sheer balance that these wines can often express. And considering that these wines mostly range from about $10-$30 a bottle, what is there not to love about these hidden gems of the wine world? I, for one, have definitely been enjoying the uprising of Bordeaux’s Petit Chateau producers becoming more and more available here in the US.
Just to name a few, here are some bottles I’ve tasted recently from the Côtes de Bordeaux that made both my palate and wallet very happy.
Chateau Carignan 2009 – Cadillac
Côtes de Bordeaux $20
Beautifully bright with notions of blackberry, huckleberry, iris and a hint of black olive. Elegant with incredibly supple tannins, it beefs up the structure with intense notes of espresso bean and black pepper that linger for a lengthy finish.
Château Côte Montpezat 2009 – Castillon
Côtes de Bordeaux$18.00
A gorgeously deep hue unveils ripe aromas of blueberry, black plum, rose and cinnamon. On the palate, it is both ripe and round with velvety tannins and a notable precision with lots of spice and a bold undertone of cigar box to see it through to the end.
Chateau de Francs “Les Cerisiers” 2009 – Francs
Côtes de Bordeaux $18.00
Flirtatiously full-bodied with utter finesse, it unravels perfumes of black cherry, redcurrant, violet and fresh mint leaf. Refined silk-like tannins lead the way through a midpalate of fennel seed and a long finish of dark chocolate.