Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Drinking a classified Bordeaux

It's Friday, and that means it's free tasting at the local wine shop.  The theme today was "A tour of Bordeaux," so the wines were, as one would imagine, from Bordeaux.  One blanc, two right-bank (Merlot-based reds), and three left-bank (Cabernet Sauvignon-based reds).  In fact, one of the wines was the 3em Cru Château Langoa Barton.  Admittedly, it was the 2004 -- not as good of a year as 2003 or 2005, both of which are excellent years -- but it was quite good nonetheless.

What's 3em Cru?  Well, in 1855, Napoleon III basically asked the Bordealais "give me a list of the best wines of the Medoc peninsula in Bordeaux, ranked basically on price."  And they did -- the top 4 producers (a fifth was added in 1973) were called "first growth" (premier cru), the next 14 were "second growth" (deuxieme cru, or 2em cru), et cetera.  People still to hold onto this list, sometimes doggedly so, and that pushes the prices up on the top of the food chain.

My tasting note for this "third class" wine:

Ruby-red. Highly aromatic nose of earth (truffle/loam), bing cherry, roses and cassis. Powerful flavor of intense, elegant cherry and cassis, with dark notes of cocoa, earth, coffee, and tobacco/cedar tannins. Very tasty. Perfectly balanced, with just enough acidity to counterpoint the medium body of the wine. Long finish.  Drink between 2011 and 2019.  90 points.

All in all, it's a very good wine.  This is the classic example of finding a good wine that doesn't cost a fortune... in comparison.

See, this is a $50 bottle of wine.  However, this is a third-tier wine, according to the 1855 classification, and that means that people who only shop "by the list" will ignore this in favor of the much more expensive Premier Cru and 2em Cru wines, as they're more prestigious wines.  Now, will the Premier Cru wines be better?  Possibly.  But a Premier Cru wine will also set you back $300 to "hey, how much do you want to spend," depending on the vintage (and, unfortunately, the rating from Spectator/Advocate/etc.).  So, the real question is, "is this one-sixth the wine?"


So, if we may presume that $300 for a top-tier Bordeaux is "reasonable," as some people do, then $50 for a wine that's most assuredly only marginally behind...  well, that's a bargain!

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