Back to Bordeaux?

One of the most frustrating things for me over the years I’ve been writing about wine is the way I’ve been priced out of Bordeaux.

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And by “I” I mean “We,” I’m sure, as I expect I’m not the only wine lover who can remember routinely forking over $10 or so for decent red Bordeaux like Chateau Gloria St-Julien (now about $50); less than $20 for Chateau Talbot (now about $84) or even stretching a little to pay maybe $30 for a classed growth like Chateau Cos d’Estournel (now $199).

According to a handy Consumer Price Index inflation calculator, that fivefold increase is roughly double the rate of inflation since the early 1980s, when I was a youngish reporter and wine writer for The Louisville Times, Robert M. Parker Jr. was a youngish attorney in Maryland, buying up 1982 Bordeaux and getting ready to become famous for it; and Wine Spectator was an interesting little newsprint tabloid from California.

To their credit, I guess, those guys helped make wine – including Bordeaux – into a trophy purchase, and the inevitable result in a capitalist world was a gradual but steady increase in price that put the top-rank wines out of the financial reach of many of us.

During the early ‘90s, fate dealt Bordeaux a string of bad-weather vintages that didn’t earn great ratings, but prices kept going up, and that gave me a good reason to offer Bordeaux a fond farewell and turn to other wines that gave me pleasure at a better price. I stopped buying, and in a world where many of the best wines were undergoing similar over-inflation, focused my personal consumption – and thus my writing and reviews – on wines of better quality-price ratio (QPR), the good table wines that I enjoy from Italy, Southern France, California and Down Under.

This dusty nook in Chateau Margaux' chai contains a treasure trove of 19th century bottles. I wanted to try one, but it is securely locked.

This dusty nook in Chateau Margaux’ chai contains a treasure trove of 19th century bottles. I wanted to try one, but it is securely locked.

But doggone it, I’d like to get back to Bordeaux, and our WineLovers forum’s Wine Focus feature this month gives me a reason. I’m exploring again, and I’d be delighted to have your suggestions if you’re doing the same. Understanding that great Bordeaux is off the table at affordable prices, can we find good Bordeaux for about $20 or less, without regretting the purchase?

I’m starting by reviewing Wine-Searcher’s Best Value Bordeaux Blend Red Wine ratings (although as you’ll see, you’ve got to look well down the list to find a few in the $20s). I’m relying on the advice and good judgment of wine merchants I trust. And I’m trolling for the less pricey Bordeaux regions and appellations, including Cru Bourgeois, the appellation on today’s tasting report posted below; Cotes de Bordeaux, Cotes de Bourg, and Bordeaux Superieur.

Want to join me in this quest, this return to Bordeaux with wines we can afford? Check in on our WineLovers forum discussion, February Wine Focus: Back to basics with Bordeaux, or visit the discussion in our WineLovers Facebook Page. Happy tasting!


Today’s Tasting Report

Chateau Blaignan 2015 Médoc Cru Bourgeois ($20.99)

Chateau Blaignan

This classic Bordeaux blend of 49 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 51 percent Merlot is a dark reddish-purple color in the glass, shading to a garnet edge. Good, typical Bordeaux aromas, blackcurrant and a hint of cedar, leading into a firm, acidic black-fruit flavor with good acidity, distinct but palatable tannins and typical alcohol level at 13 percent. U.S. importer: Aquitaine Wine USA LLC, Berkeley, Calif. (Feb. 7, 2019)

FOOD MATCH: The winery suggests pairing it with pasta, barbecue, or any chicken, pork, or beef dishes … a juicy steak or a rack of lamb. That’s easy, and the red meat matches in particular are a natural with red Bordeaux. We wanted the challenge of a working meatless match, though, and found it with the umami-rich flavors built into a bowl of not-too-spicy Mexican-style borracho beans.

WHEN TO DRINK: Cru Bourgeois does not rank by any means as a wine for long-term cellaring or auction value, but this wine’s good balance of fruit, acidity and tannins suggests that a few years under good cellar conditions (55F/13C) might see it evolve into something more complex.

My local price is within reasonable reach of’s $20 average retail; it’s a fine introduction into quality affordable Bordeaux in this range.

I couldn’t find a fact sheet for this vintage on the importer’s website. Here’s a detailed fact sheet on the 2014.

Locate vendors and check prices for Chateau Blaignan 2015 Médoc Cru Bourgeois on


More affordable wines

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10 or less that I’ve told you about during the past year or two. Please tell us about your favorites!

  • Laroque 2016 Cité de Carcassonne Cabernet Franc ($9.99)
  • Domaine de Pouy 2016 Côtes de Gascogne ($7.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Salta Torrontés ($9.99)
  • Alamos 2015 Mendoza Malbec ($9.99)
  • Caposaldo 2014 Chianti ($8.99)
  • d’Arenberg 2012 McLaren Vale “The Stump Jump” ($9.99)
  • Oveja Negra 2014 Maule Valley Cabernet Franc – Carmenere Reserva ($9.99)
  • Côté Mas 2016 “Rouge Intense” Sud de France Pays d’Oc ($12.99/1 liter)

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