by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
Sometimes, we’ll assemble a group of like wines and taste them as a group. The benefit of this type of tasting is to get a reference point on a particular type of wine and to compare varietals or possibly even wines from a common appellation. In any case, tastings are fun and are an excuse to taste and talk about wines with friends.
Recently, we assembled a group of currently available and similarly priced red Bordeaux wines from 2015 to 2019 to get a sense of how Bordeaux is performing in a competitive world market where prices are often a consideration.
While Napa Valley red wines are soaring past $200 a bottle, much of Bordeaux is maintaining quality while keeping a lid on prices. First-growth Bordeaux still sells for prices that are unaffordable for most people, but there are values to be found in other classifications.
We tasted six wines under $25 that merit special attention from value seekers. Of the six, we will recommend only four, finding one overly tannic and one other somewhat inscrutable and possibly flawed. All of our wines used only the five recognized red Bordeaux varietals, albeit in different combinations.
Our first two wines sampled startled us with the quality, price and true to appellation qualities that you would expect from Bordeaux.
The 2016 Chateau Bire Bordeaux Superior ($14) is a blend of 50 percent merlot, 40 percent cabernet sauvignon and a smidgen of cabernet franc and petite verdot. The nose displayed a bit of herbs, oak and tobacco followed by cassis and cherry flavors in a stylish medium bodied package.
The 2017 Chateau Trois Moulins Cotes -De-Bourg ($17) is another merlot-driven wine with 50 percent merlot and the balance cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon (20 percent), and 10 percent malbec. This wine offered bright, fresh cherry fruit, with some cassis notes. Very clean and drinkable.
The 2019 L’Atypic De Pey Bonhomme Cotes De Bordeaux ($16) was crafted from an atypical blend of 60 percent malbec and 40 percent cabernet franc. The dominance of malbec presented a nice fruity cherry/raspberry experience in a medium bodied and softly tannic wine. Ratcheting up in price a bit, we tasted the Chateau Lyonnat Emotion Lussac St. Emilion 2015 ($25). Originating in one of the lower price St. Emilion appellations, this delightful merlot could have passed as a well-made California cab/merlot blend. Ripe plum and oak elements were accented with herb and eucalyptus notes, creating an accessible and delicious table wine that would match up well with higher priced California wine.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we experienced the Chateau De Pez St. Estephe 2016 ($55), an exception to the under-$25 group. Elevated to Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel in 2003 just a notch below the hallowed Bordeaux Grand Cru level, this wine -- which continues to perform at the highest levels in winedom -- does not disappoint. It is 53 percent merlot and 42 percent cabernet sauvignon with a dash of petite verdot and cabernet franc. This well-structured wine offered classic Bordeaux featured cherry and cassis elements with a hint of tobacco for spice. Absolutely worth the tariff, it is a great example of what Bordeaux is all about.
In a separate tasting we also found Bordeaux values from Chateau Paloumey Haut Medoc ($25) and Chateau Fourcas Hosten Listrac ($23).
Rodney Strong Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Sonoma County 2017 ($25). Wow, this is a lot of pinot noir for the price! A bit of what some critics call “sauvage” with bright cranberry, wild cherry cranberry and spice notes. A great package offering an amazing amount of interest and complexity for the price.
VDR (Very Dark Red) Monterey 2018 ($25). Although Monterey is normally associated with cooler climate grapes, the Scheid family located their vineyards in the warmer, sheltered southern part of Monterey to produce grapes for this terrific, black-as-night, wine. Using the unlikely combination of petite sirah and petite verdot, the winemaker has created a full-throttle, dense wine that fits the need for winter wines. Blueberry and blackberry elements dominate in this smooth package. A higher alcohol of 15 percent doesn’t come off as hot -- it just blends in.
Villa Patrizia Istrico Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG 2015 ($15). A delicious, organic red wine from the relatively new (1998) DOCG of Montecucco, this wine is made entirely sangiovese. Rich almost sweet fruit with dried cherry notes and hints of sandalwood. Very round and agreeable in the mouth.
Geodesy Chehalem Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 ($80). Judy Jordan, who sold J Vineyards & Winery in 2015, founded this new Oregon winery as a means to develop local young women pursuing agricultural careers. Profits go to support WG Edge’s mission. Winemaker Megan Baccitich and grower Scott Zapotoky come from Paul Hobbs Wines to craft an incredible lineup of wines. We love the ripe, textured pinot noir and a delicious, although pricey, Sage Ridge Vineyard red blend.
Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015 ($32). This property was founded by Abruzzo native Gianni Masciarelli in 1981 and is now operated by his widow Marina Cvetic and daughter Miriam. This is an extraordinary, textured wine made entirely of montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes from the estate’s top parcels. Fermented in stainless steel but aged in French oak for more than a year. Herbal aromas with red fruits and olive flavors with a hint of licorice.