Bordeaux QPR: Mission Impossible?

A lot of you have told me that you shared my recent despair over how hard it’s getting to find wines of good Quality-Price Ratio (“QPR”) in today’s economy.

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The price floor for wines that are good but affordable seems to be moving briskly into double digits, placing the once-simple process of enjoying quality wine with dinner most evenings a less-than-practical notion for those who wish to control the budget. And who doesn’t?

Now, let’s turn to Page Two: My heartburn over the vanishing $10 bottle of really interesting wine was based on wines from regions and grapes that have traditionally been the heart of QPR: Italy, Southern France, Spain and Portugal, and the less sought-after regions of California and Down Under, just to name a few.

Burgundy? It’s pretty much a lost cause, although I’ll get to that in in another column soon.

But it’s the price of good Bordeaux that really gives me a gut punch, because I remember when it used to be a regular player in my dinner rotation. Those days are gone, and that makes me sad. Back in the 1980s, when I was first writing about wine and a young fellow named Robert M. Parker Jr. was raving about the 1982 Bordeaux in his then little-known newsletter, I could pick up everyday Bordeaux for $5 or less, and grab on to something pretty special for $10.

Once a friend and I thought long and hard before investing in a first-growth – Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, I believe – because its lofty $25 price tag seemed awfully over-indulgent. But we went for it, shared it around the dinner table with our partners, and it was a memorable experience of our growing up in wine.

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux, home of one of the great first growths of Bordeaux. It currently sells for an average $623 for a bottle!

Those days are gone. Most of the top Bordeaux nowadays sell well into triple digits, with the first growths running up to $500 or even $1,000. And that’s at retail, if you can get them at all. Wait, and you’ll be dropped into the auction market at double those prices or more.

Is there any hope? Well, a little. Not much Bordeaux is cheap, and most cheap Bordeaux isn’t particularly good. But if you’re willing to kiss a few frogs in your quest for a princess, you can do pretty well in the $20 to $30 range and, very occasionally, find something good for a bit under $20.

To narrow your search, I suggest sticking with chateau-bottled wines, made by the producer from grapes grown on their property, always signaled by the words “Mis en Bouteille au Chateau” (“Put in bottles at the chateau”) on the label. In the interest of Bordeaux tradition, I mostly stick to wines from the classic Bordeaux regions, such as the first-growth-heavy Medoc and, on the Right Bank, St.-Emilion.

Watch vintages, which can make a difference in Bordeaux’ cool and sometimes rainy climate. A handy pocket guide like Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2016 can serve you well with brief advice on good, fair and not-so-good years. Find a wine merchant you can trust, and rely on his or her advice. And join in an online community like our online WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG), where you can ask questions and share discoveries.

Happy Bordeaux hunting! To get us started, I’ve posted notes below on a surprisingly good $23 Bordeaux, Château Amour 2011 Médoc, from The California Wine Club’s International Series.

How about you? Are you still drinking Bordeaux? Are you willing to pay for the high-end stuff, or would you rather join in the quest for QPR? Let us know your thoughts, and share your finds, in our social media, in our online WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) or on our WineLoversPage Facebook page.

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Today’s Tasting Report

Château Amour 2011 Médoc ($23)

Château Amour 2011 Médoc

Clear dark garnet at the center, dark almost to the clear edge. Attractive if simple, characteristic Bordeaux scents, black currants and black cherries reflect its equal proportions of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh black fruit and a clear sense of Bordeaux cedar/”pencil lead” on the palate, laced up with palate-cleansing acidity, reasonable 13% alcohol, and soft but perceptible tannins. Tart black fruit lingers in a long finish. U.S. importer: Plume Ridge, Claremont, Calif., California Wine Club’s International Selections (Jan. 9, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: A natural with beef or lamb or good cheese; it was excellent with baked Brie with pecans; the wine’s acidity, tannins and black fruit made a great foil for the rich, creamy cheese, with the nutty sweetness of the pecans playing a grace note.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s fine now, but there’s no rush to drink it. Good fruit and balance five years past the vintage suggest that this modest wine might evolve into more complexity over reasonable time (five years?) under good cellar conditions..

VALUE: Competing within the pricey range of Bordeaux, it’s a fine value in the lower $20s, and I would buy it again at this price. If you consider the $20s a price point to reserve for special occasions, however, you might find more QPR in other less lofty wine neighborhoods.

Here is the winery’s fact sheet on Château Amour Médoc.

Check prices and find vendors for Château Amour Médoc on offers only a few vendors for this wine, but you can find lots of affordable Medoc on this link. Click the blue “Cheapest” tab at the top to sort the wines from lowest price upward.

Finally, The California Wine Club has this International Series selection for $23 at this link.


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