Affordable Bordeaux has to be one of the most exciting things happening in the wine world today. Some synergies have had to occur in order for smaller-name Chateaux (the Bordeaux wine estates) to be able to provide wines both at an extremely competitive price and at such high quality today. Advanced vineyard practices and technology are big factors, and global warming produces grapes that are riper, contributing to the approachable character of modern Bordeaux wines. No longer is it a requirement to store away the bottle for 20 years before it becomes drinkable. Affordable Bordeaux are intended for consumption upon release, where aging is ideal but optional. That’s very exciting for non-wine snobs. Another synergy is that Bordeaux has fallen somewhat out of favor among the wine elite—high-class pretention has strongly moved towards rare Burgundy. And for many professionals in the food industry, Bordeaux no longer carry that mystique or eclecticism to satisfy the cutting-edge artisanal crowd, so these bottles are largely left off restaurant menus. At the same time, in a converse synergy, aggressive price increases by the establishment Chateaux over the last decade or so has left a bitter taste in the Millennial to Gen-X consumer demographic, who have come to believe that Bordeaux is something that is out there and out of reach for the regular person.
That was then, this is now. A wine like the superb-for-the-price 2009 CHATEAU LA TOUR DE MONS Margaux represents a strident challenge to the establishment. At a 2.5 times markup from retail, this would show up as a $75 bottle on a restaurant wine menu. That would be perfectly acceptable, as diners would enjoy from this wine everything there is to enjoy in a classic Margaux—abundant fruit, great balance, unmistakable structure, smooth texture, eminent food friendliness, powerful complexity and a rarified sophistication. Quite a bargain when you consider a Chateau Palmer from this same vintage would cost upwards of $600 on the menu. Granted, affordable Bordeaux can never match the superlative and nonpareil wine experience that is a Lynch-Bages, Pichon Baron, Clinet, La Conseillante, Leoville-Barton or Figeac—all great Chateaux whose wines I’ve consistently rated 96 points or higher in recent vintages and are very expensive, yes, but still within reach for the middle class.
A revolution is taking place along the banks of the Gironde. The beautiful thing is, there’s no weapons being used and nobody gets hurt. It’s a coming-together of humanity from all economic classes embracing a promising new vision for Bordeaux. –J.M.
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