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Bordeaux wines that are not out of reach!

WE'VE READ OVER-THE-TOP ARTICLES about over-the top prices for the most famous Bordeaux chateaux, but that doesn't mean that there aren't many really delicious Bordeaux alternatives for you and your customers. Take heart!

When you follow the levels of the AOC/AOP regulations, the broadest area is Bordeaux, followed by a stricter level--Bordeaux Superieur. This is just below the single regions of Bordeaux, where the top chateaux reside. Bordeaux Superieur is sitting in a very nice place. FYI--the Bordeaux designation was established in 1936, while the Bordeaux Superieur designation was established 7 years later in 1943, in response to growing demand for more specific quality designations.

While Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur account for more than half of the total area planted in vines in the Bordeaux winegrowing region, the larger 'Bordeaux' designation may include red, white, rose, a deeper pink clairet, and sparkling (Cremant de Bordeaux) wines, while the 'Bordeaux Superieur' wines may only include red and white wines. What makes them different?

The Bordeaux Superieur wines have lower maximum yields, later release dates including mandatory 12 months of cellaring, and slightly higher minimum alcohols. Often, but not required, these wines are made from older vines. Their goal is complexity and a sense of Bordeaux place. The reds often have a predominance of Merlot. Many come from Entre-Deux-Mers, which has clay and limestone. Happily, the wines are not that expensive.

At a recent tasting in NY, there were 74 wines present, both Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur, white and red. Of those, only about a dozen were Bordeaux Superieur, illustrating the ratio of both categories. In order to avoid palate fatigue, I began by tasting only the Superieurs at every table that had them. At other tables that were only showing AOC Bordeaux wines, I asked each pourer to point me to the single best wine at the table. Those servers had a pretty good idea of which wines they were, and it saved me time and palate bum-out!

Here are my favorite red AOC Bordeaux Superieur:

* Chateau Julian 2010 (BNP)--very floral nose

* Chateau Le Calvaire 2009 (Cheval Quancard)--tannic, still not ready

* Chateau de Camarsac Cuvee Prestige 2011 (Monsieur Touton)--has 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon, grown on gravel

* Domaine de Montalon 2009 (Roadhouse Wine Merchants)--good balance

* Chateau Saincrit 2012, and Chateau Saincrit 'Vieille Vignes' 2011 (Roadhouse Wine Merchants)--good fruit balanced with tannin

* Chateau Argadens 2006 (Sol Stars Wines)--traditional style, from Maison Sichel

Here are my favorite red AOC Bordeaux: (Note: in the hands of a fine producer, these can be exceptional as well)

* Chateau Loumelat Cuvee J-J Lesgourgues 2011 (Baron Francois)--tannic structure

* Chateau Bonnet 2011 (Deutsch Family)--good rich fruitiness

* Chateau Saint-Suplice 2010 (Frederick Wildman)--some earthy notes

* Chateau Tire Pe Les Malbecs 2010 (jenny and Francois Selections)--slightly smoky

* Beau Pere 2012 (Metrowine)--aromatic, modern style

* Chateau Mirefleurs 2010 (Luneau USA)--oaky, from 12 months in barrel

* Quien 2010 (House of Burgundy)--very fresh, stainless with minimal oak

One more AOC Bordeaux wine of note: Clarendelle, named for Clarence Dillon and created by his grandson Prince Robert of Luxembourg (Clarence Dillon Wines), which is a 'top-end' branded AOC Bordeaux collection 'inspired by Haut-Brion.' It is available in red, white, rose, and amberwine (sweet dessert wine). The wines are held back longer than required before release.

Moderate prices vary on all of these wines, especially when there is extra aging, but there is nothing listed here that will scare off your customers.

HARRIET LEMBECK, CWE *, CSS ** is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years.

To reach Harriet, email

(* Certified Wine Educator, ** Certified Specialist of Spirits)
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Title Annotation:Retail EDUCATION
Author:Lembeck, Harriet
Publication:Beverage Dynamics
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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