Discover Bordeaux Wine Region with 4 Tips


November 19, 2012 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » Discover Bordeaux Wine Region with 4 Tips
Pro Tip
A wine labeled Bordeaux Superieur AC is a great place to start when trying Bordeaux wines.

Learn the Tricks to Getting Cheap Bordeaux

Chateau Cos D'estournel by rufino lasaosa bordeaux wine

Nothing says out-of-my-price range like a castle. Chateau Cos D’estournel rl


Not all Bordeaux wine is out of reach. In fact, the majority of Bordeaux wines are sold from $15-$25 a bottle. So how do you find great cheap Bordeaux wine? Here are four simple pieces of advice that will hone your wine knowledge and help you find Bordeaux for less than $20 a bottle.

1. Cheap Bordeaux Wines Are Often Right Next Door

The Bordeaux region is sliced into 38 sub-regions with 57 different appellations. Expensive regions in Bordeaux are often right next door to cheaper areas. Why is that? The price variation is affected by regional micro-climates, i.e., the “terrior”, but more importantly prices are out of whack because of the Cru Classification system. Take a gander at the most expensive regions in Bordeaux and learn about their neighboring appellations.
 

Region High-Priced Region Cheap Neighboring Bordeaux Wine Region
Médoc Saint Julien, Saint-Estèphe, Margaux Moulis (aka Moulis-en-Médoc), Listrac, Haut-Médoc, Médoc
Pomerol Pomerol Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac, Canon Fronsac
Saint Émilion Saint Émilion Côtes de Castillon, Lussac-St-Émilion, Puisseguin St-Émilion, St-Georges-St-Émilion
Sweet Wines Sauternes, Barsac Loupiac, Cadillac, Sainte-Crox-du-Mont, Cérons

 
Bordeaux Wine Map by Wine Folly

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2. Seek Out Good Vintages When Buying Cheap Wine

Vintage variation is a big deal in Bordeaux. There are many vintage charts on Bordeaux available. However, we decided to make one too for the sole purpose of picking cheap Bordeaux wines.
 

Good Vintages for Cheap Bordeaux Avoid Bad Vintages
2010, 2009, 2008, 2005, 2003, 2000 2012, 2007, 2002, 1997, 1994

 
 

3. Discover Clues on the Wine Label

Reading in between the lines on Bordeaux wine labels is a skill that every wine expert learns through years of tasting/testing wines. Here are the tips that wine sommeliers look for when picking out Bordeaux wines by the label alone. Something wine buyers have to do everyday at the store,

Reading Bordeaux Wine Labels

The differences between the basic Bordeaux appellations


The Difference Between Basic Bordeaux Appellations

What’s the difference between Appellation Bordeaux-Superieur Controllée and Appellation Bordeaux Controllée? Bordeaux-Superieur AOP wines have a minimum of 10.5% ABV (versus 10%) and must be aged for a minimum of 12 months prior to release. The difference, although technically small, is a symbol of quality for many wines with the Bordeaux-Superieur AOP label. Many producers who classify their wines as Appellation Bordeaux-Superieur Controllée age their wines much longer than the minimum.

Check the ABV

This is a bit of an odd hint, but it works. Look for a slightly higher ABV in cheap Bordeaux red wines. Unless there is something particular about the wine (ie. it’s a rose or a unique style of red Bordeaux), then a slightly higher alcohol level usually indicates higher quality grapes. 12.5% – 13.9% ABV is usually a good place to start. This technique doesn’t always work because some Bordeaux wines are manipulated with Chaptalization.

“Mis En Bouteille au Château”

The literal translation is “Put in Bottle at Winery.” Which means that the Producer listed on the label is the one who made the wine. This handy little statement helps screen out poor quality negotiant-blended supermarket swill. Look for “Mis En Bouteille au Château” or “Mis En Bouteille a la Propriete”
 
 

chateau de fonbel chateau ausone saint emilion grand cru classe

Made by the same producer in the same area… The one on the right is classified as a Grand Cru Classé “A”.


 

4. Classifications Usually Make Wine Cost More

In addition to the different regions in Bordeaux, there are also several classification levels for producers. Suffice to say that Bordeaux classifications only exist to increase demand and cause prices to rise. Perhaps the best takeaway is to realize that the Bordelais use the word “Cru” rather unstintingly; the word means “growth” and not “the best”. Saint-Emilion, Graves, and Médoc all have different classification systems. Médoc even has two!

Suffice to say that Bordeaux classifications only exist to increase demand and cause prices to rise.

Heads up!
The Bordeaux Cru Classé of 1855 is a 5-tier selection of the 62 top Chateaus from 150+ years ago. Today wines labeled with “Grand Cru Classé” cost $45-$1,700.
Pay Attention!
Some wines are labeled “Grand Cru” but are unclassified.

Conclusions

Drink more cheap Bordeaux and experiment with lessor known regions to find new favorites. Want a recommendation? Find me on twitter..
 
 
Sources
Bordeaux Appellations
Graves Classification
Information on Cru Bourgeois
List of 260 Cru Bourgeois Producers of 2010 (pdf)
Bordeaux Classification of 1855
Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe


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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified wine geek with a passion for meeting people, travel, and delicious food. You often find me crawling around dank cellars or frolicking through vineyards.