As one of the world’s premier wine regions, Bordeaux’s main focus is Cabernet Sauvignon- and Merlot-driven blends. While Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot make regular appearances, the region is also known for producing small amounts of white Bordeaux, as well as the lusciously sweet wine known as Sauternes.
Bordeaux is divided into three regions — the rival Left Bank and Right Bank, and Entre-Deux-Mers — each with its own distinct terroir. As a result, deciphering Bordeaux’s many variations can be tricky. Add Bordeaux’s often intimidating prices, and it’s not hard to understand why oenophiles on a budget often shy away from its wines. However, a great bottle of Bordeaux doesn’t have to break the bank.
To ensure that approachable Bordeaux is on the radar for every drinker, VinePair asked wine professionals around the country which bottles of Bordeaux present the very best value.
As bars and restaurants continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and reopening phases, VinePair asked the bartenders and drinks professionals below to provide a virtual tip jar or fund of their choice. More resources for helping hospitality professionals are available here.
“Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France 2016. One of the great values, especially when great older vintages can be found. An elegant Bordeaux with the technical expertise of the team behind Château Mouton Rothschild.” — Jhonel Faelnar, Wine Director, Atomix, NYC
“I think the wines of Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste have been getting increasingly better without huge jumps in the price for some time.” — Rusty Rastello, Wine Director, SingleThread, Healdsburg, Calif.
“This is an easy one… if you are looking for well-known, high-end Bordeaux — best bang I’d suggest [is] Brane Cantenac. If you want lesser-known Bordeaux at a more accessible price point, Chateau Biac or Haut Bailly.” — Carrie Lyn Strong, Wine Director/Sommelier, Casa Lever, NYC
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“If you are a fan of Bordeaux, I recommend looking to Southwest France for value wines. Buzet, a small appellation known for its Merlot and Cabernet blends, offers really great wine for a fraction of the cost that you would pay for great Bordeaux. [The] 2016 Mary Taylor Wines Buzet punches above its weight. You get those wonderful aromas of tobacco, black fruit, and leather that invoke Right Bank comparisons. It retails around $18.” — Etinosa Emokpae, Wine Director, Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia
“Château Beauséjour ‘Pentimento,’ Montagne-Saint-Émilion. This wine tells a story. It’s made by the first American female making wine in Bordeaux. I had the pleasure of working with the winemaker, Michelle D’ Aprix, at Bin 14 wine bar when she was traveling to France several times in the year to produce her first vintage. It is named Pentimento after one of her favorite books, “Pentimento,” by playwright Lillian Hellman. Just like the memoir muses on the people and experiences that have had a profound influence on her life, Michelle felt the same with her first wine label. The wine is farmed and made using little to no intervention for each vintage. [It’s] a wine that can be enjoyed upon release — no aging required — while pleasing Old World and New World palates alike.” — Madeline Maldonado, Beverage Director, da Toscano, NYC
“Château Haut-Segottes Saint Emilion Grand Cru (Cabernet Franc, Merlot). [Chateau Haut-Segottes is] owned and operated by Danielle Meunier. Smoked cherries, cigar, and peppercorn make it feel distinctly Bordeaux. Great with rich and rustic food but still light enough for other cuisines.” — Emmanuelle Massicot, Assistant General Manager, Kata Robata, Houston
“White Bordeaux. Probably not what you were expecting, I know. But if you haven’t spent time drinking the white blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle from Bordeaux, you’re missing out. Graville-Lacoste Graves Blanc is a delicious blend of mostly Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with just a touch of Muscadelle.” — Theo Lieberman, Beverage Director, 232 Bleecker, NYC
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“This is a little tricky because the casual wine drinker tends to equate Bordeaux with unrivaled decadence and sophistication, which isn’t entirely untrue, but it’s certainly not the case across the board. The Cabernet-driven wines of Margaux aren’t the cheapest, but they’re consistent in texture, intensity, and quality.” — Kyle Pate, Sommelier, Tinker Street, Indianapolis
“2019 Château Le Bergey, Bordeaux, France ($12). Biodynamic and Bordeaux aren’t two words you often hear in the same sentence, unless you’re talking about this wine. It has everything you could want from a classic Cabernet-dominant blend and tastes like it should cost three times the amount — but doesn’t, which is great.” — Luke Sullivan, Head Sommelier, Gran Tivoli & Peppi’s Cellar, NYC
“Château Larruau, Margaux 2015 is an elegant and sophisticated Bordeaux that offers exceptional value. [The] estate is located next to Chateau Margaux, but the Larruau is a fraction of the price.” — Marsella Charron, Sommelier, The Harbor House Inn, Elk, Calif.
“Château La Garde from Pessac-Léognan in Bordeaux. Roughly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this wine explodes from the glass with violet, blackberry, and smoky notes. It’s structured and full with great minerality and firm tannins. Retails around $25.” — Matthew Pridgen, Wine Director, Underbelly Hospitality, Houston
“For value Bordeaux, I often go to the Côtes, but customers in the restaurant are often more familiar with Medoc, so I generally steer people to Château Castera. I’m fascinated by its history, dating from the Middle Ages, and I think being Merlot-predominant, it’s much more versatile [than] many Cab-based Bordeaux wines for pairing with multiple dishes. I generally can find this wine with a few more years on it than the current release of other wines, which customers appreciate.” — Jeff Harding, Wine Director, Waverly Inn & Garden, NYC
“Clos du Jaugueyron (any bottling). Bordeaux is big business. Dealing in large quantities can lead houses to make choices that sacrifice long-term vineyard health for short-term financial assurance. However, there are some winemakers who are doing things in a more old-school way, focusing on sustainability and rejecting chemical use — perhaps none better than winemaker Michel Théron of Clos du Jaugueyron. His entry level Haut-Medoc can be found for under $50 most places, while his top-of-the-line Margaux bottling will run you just shy of $100.” — Andrew Pattison, Beverage Director, Sushi Note, Los Angeles
“Château Biac is located in Cadillac, in the Entre-Deux-Mers. When the Asseily family acquired and revived the estate in 2006, the vineyards were rethought and now have dedicated old-vine blocks for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. The wines are full-bodied and juicy! The structure and complexity definitely rival the growths of the Left Bank. For more bang for the buck, go for the Felix de Biac, the little sister to the flagship.” — Stefanie Schwartz, Sommelier, Portale, NYC
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