The days of bragging about a four-figure-or-more bottle of wine you just had are over. Showing off your wealth worked in the Reagan era all the way through the Clinton era, but post 9/11 and 2008 recession the world has changed. Humble is in, elitism is out. Remember how Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment destroyed his 2012 presidential campaign? These days, Warren Buffett sticks up for his secretary. Taylor Swift’s well-honed marketing image is one of humbleness and being in touch with her fans. And Mark Zuckerberg drives a Volkswagen hatchback. 99% of the population who love wine are in it for the taste and the sense of community, not the stature. The wine industry, on the producing side and on the media & trade side, is coming to terms with this inconvenient truth of the new world, and it’s a win for the regular consumer.
Bordeaux wines have long stood as a symbol of elitism. This won’t ever change—and it shouldn’t. The greatest wines of Bordeaux offer a drinking experience that is unrivaled. After prices saw an exponential leap higher for the glorious, stupendous—every superlative in the book—back to back vintages of 2009 and 2010, Bordeaux has had to eat some humble pie as of late. Starting with the 2011 vintage, prices have come way down. Which is to say, prices are now, relatively speaking, reasonable.
For the regular guy and gal who loves wine and has a global perspective when it comes to satisfying their individual palates, the real treasures are found in the US$20-$50 range for Bordeaux. There is amazing stuff to be discovered here. Winemaking technology has taken such a great leap forward that wine houses of all sizes are making better wines than ever in the affordable category. In fact, in today’s economic reality, the affordable category is a category that most producers can’t afford to ignore. Again, the regular consumer wins. Most often, the Bordeaux wines offered in this “sweet spot” of the price range reach prime deliciousness much sooner and are generally ready to be consumed shortly after they are released on the market. The fetish of cellaring wines 10, 20, 30 years—something the most ardent collectors are obsessed with doing—simply goes away. These Bordeaux are for the new generation of wine lover who wishes to live for today.
We at The Corkscrewer Report are enthusiastic consumers of affordable Bordeaux and are committed to seeking out those great wines that provide an unrivaled experience at a price that is within reach for the 99%. The one-percenters are well taken care of, and they know the names of all the wines that achieve the level of status they’re looking for. Meanwhile, here’s some great Bordeaux names we’ve recently discovered that should provide plenty of happiness for the rest of us.
CHATEAU GRAND CORBIN MANUEL St.-Emilion 2009 ($24–$30)
This is what a mom & pop shop can do. Nothing glitzy like the Grand Chateaux that surround this little property. Just earnest, hardworking handcrafted quality. Engaging nose of red and black berries, rose and cherry; layers of complexity in the middle—round, flowing and velvety; and sealed in the finish by earthy authenticity. 80% Merlot. A hero among giants. 93 pts search direct
CHATEAU LATOUR-MARTILLAC BLANC Pessac-Leognan 2012 ($35–$39)
Not too far off from a Domaine de Chevalier white. No kidding. Which makes this a steal. 60% Sauvignon Blanc, the rest Semillon with a touch of Muscadelle. Very nice stoniness and minerality. So fresh and so clean, just like the Outkast rap song goes. Vibrant fruit, elegant swag. Nothing funky, just a slow jam with a groove. Take your time, honey. 92 pts search direct
CHATEAU BARDE-HAUT St.-Emilion 2012 ($29–$40)
Solid structure. All the fundamentals are hit. A combination of everything great about Bordeaux: enticing fragrance, dark & rich estate-grown fruit, earthiness, sappiness, balance, depth, smooth texture, acidity, and length. Nothing over the top, very much in control. 90% Merlot, the rest Cabernet Franc. Let it breathe a while. A can’t-go-wrong red wine. 91 pts search direct
CHATEAU RAYMOND-LAFON Sauternes 2010 ($20–$30 half bottle)
Deliciously syrupy sweet stuff—with perfect acidity in the finish to counter it all off, making for a complete and satisfying Sauternes experience. Lemon, honey and almond in the center, weighty and excessive. Really quite shocking for the price, as it could be mistaken for a Climens or a Suduiraut. An embarrassment of riches. 92 pts search direct
PETIT GUIRAUD Sauternes 2011 ($13–$20 half bottle)
Sunny and golden as a new spring dawn, awakening as the rooster crows to the fresh aroma of white flowers, saffron, honey and ginger. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, and we’re feeling good. A straightforward Sauternes, missing the depth of the great ones (including the regular Chateau Guiraud), but considering the ridiculously low price for such quality in return, this is a winner in every way. 90 pts search direct
There comes a time to splurge. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time for every purpose under heaven. The weight of every penny spent on luxury Bordeaux is measured against the pleasure in return, and—though expensive—these are relatively affordable splurges for a ton of pleasure in return.
CHATEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE Pessac-Leognan 2011 ($75–$85)
A true Phoenix story, the rise of this prestigious Chateau from the ashes of disrepair has entered into the wine mythology. Such an attractive and feminine wine. Sexy silkiness in texture, unwavering beauty and ethereal in quality. Each seductive sip reveals a new detail—boysenberry, sweet spices, fig, blueberry, oak and sandalwood, purple flowers . . . captivating the imagination endlessly, like Aphrodite. 94 pts search direct
LE PAUILLAC DE LATOUR 2008 ($75–$90)
“Latour,” of course, being one of the most hallowed names in Bordeaux. Their first wine, Le Grand Vin, is a rite of passage into an exclusive club of the elite. This is their third wine. In other words, grapes not good enough for first class, not good enough for business class, but darn good for economy class. Thus, this wine is a mere suggestion of what Le Grand Vin would be. And it is excellent. Gotta pay up for the name, though. 92 pts search direct
CHATEAU CANON-LA-GAFFELIERE St.-Emilion 2010 ($119–$140)
Boom. Hits you right there. A big, showy wine. This is a George Lucas epic. With a John Williams movie score playing alongside. Powerful and bold deep purple fruit but with sentimentalism beneath the surface. An epic is not an epic without a big heart and emotion. A large dose of Cabernet Franc in the Bordeaux blend is at the heart of the wine. A fantastic adventure awaits for the one patient enough to lay this down for 10 years, but for the young-at-heart, the time is now. There can be no hesitation. As Yoda says: Do. Or do not. There is no try. 97 pts search direct
These wines were among the selection in a series of Saturday afternoon wine tastings at K&L Wine Merchants, located in the heart of Hollywood, Los Angeles.