Thu 09 Oct 2014

Looking For Value In Bordeaux


For many, Bordeaux is the home of wine, commanding huge prices and receiving unrelenting press coverage with each year’s vintage reports and en primeur sales.

Honestly, I’d never quite understood the magnitude of the hype for Bordeaux. The cheaper wines that I’d had were in my opinion generally overpriced, unapproachable, lacking concentration and just a little harsh, whilst the better wines are sold for crazy sums. I must concede this isn’t the most original opinion to hold. Recently however, I was given the opportunity to represent The Society (along with Matthew Horsley) on a trip run by Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (the Bordeaux wine board) in conjunction with L’Ecole du Vin. This was as part of an educational trip for people from the trade to expand their knowledge of Bordeaux.

Chateau MargenceWe set off from Gatwick to spend three days touring vineyards in a mixture of different appellations around the region. Every step of the way we were to be accompanied by a resident expert of Bordeaux and would be met at each stop by the producer who would give us a tour and then host a tasting with their wines to sample alongside a selection of others from the local area. Over the three days we were able to visit the Entre-Deux-Mers, Côtes des Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion, Graves and on our last day we spent our time in the Médoc.

The days were incredibly busy; we set off at 8 each morning to take in around three châteaux with about 10 wines to taste at each stop! It was fascinating how differently each vineyard presented itself. Prieure-Lichine in Margaux was very professional, polished and commercial – everything you’d expect of such a château. Completely juxtaposing was Château La-Clide in St.Emilion where the owner Edouard would colourfully critique some of his merlot vines, and that he was going to rip them out to plant his preferred cabernet franc.

bbq at la clideEdouard was a breath of fresh air; he spoke candidly and honestly (sometimes a little self-deprecatingly) about his truly beautiful wines before rolling out the five-course lunch and turning the conversation to rugby! This level of hospitality was staggering and seeing how down to earth he and his family were was wonderful.

The opportunity to try the wines straight from the cask was a fantastic experience not soon to be forgotten; the wines were so supple and soft with terrific balance, soft tannins and great concentration.

I started to understand the attraction of Bordeaux a bit more.

st emilionThe trip was a fantastic learning experience, allowing you to step outside the theoretical in simply learning about a region as part of WSET qualifications and tasting them in isolation, but to be able to experience the wines in the area of production.

This has pushed me to try a lot more affordable Bordeaux and I have found countless ones that break my first preconceptions. The Château Pey La Tour Reserve (£10.50) for example is now one of my favourite regular wines, along with the Château Moulin du Bourg (£11.95).

I’ve discovered that there is value in Bordeaux – you just need to look past the obvious to find it.

Hugo Fountain
Member Services Adviser

For more information about Bordeaux, the below video about the region, featuring Basaline Despagne and Fabrice Dubourdieu, may be of interest:

Categories : Bordeaux, France


  1. Gerald Milner says:

    Yes, I agree there is too much hype for the great Chateaux. I have moved over to Bordeaux from red Burgundy after the strict laws were introduced and the old traditional taste disappeared. There are very many worthy producers of decent wines in the Bordeaux area, and all power to the Society’s researchers, who seem to find excellent wines at reasonable prices.

  2. George Gammer says:

    If my calculations are correct, about 90 wines were tasted. Only two recommendations were made, neither exactly cheap. Is this because the Society is doing a poor job of selecting Bordeaux wines? Or are there, in fact very few good value wines in the region after all?

    • Jo Locke MW says:

      The Society’s buyers between them taste hundreds of Bordeaux wines over a year, many of them poor, many of them good, some of them great, some of them great value. We are delighted that one of our own Member Services team has been inspired enough by his recent (and first) visit to Bordeaux to make these new personal discoveries on his return. There are many more on the List and web that we have been happy to hang our hat on and hope that Hugo, with his newly expanded knowledge and enthusiasm, and other Society members will enjoy exploring. You can’t be sure to like everything – part of our job is to offer a range of styles and prices – but rest assured we’ve tasted a lot of wines before making our final selection for The Society’s List.
      Jo Locke MW
      Society Buyer for Bordeaux

  3. Barrie Noble says:

    Yvonne and I love Bordeaux wines, we try many other regions and countries but always come back to Bordeaux. We have never had a bad wine from The Wine Society and most Bordeaux’s seem good value and none disappoint. Looking forward to many more interesting bottles.

  4. Michael says:

    I enjoyed a superb wine society tasting of “undiscovered” Bordeaux a couple of years ago – both white and red, prices typically £8 to £15, and very good value for money. I’m still enjoying some of the wines now. I hope you will re-run a similar tasting in the future.

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