I don’t drop lots of dough on Bordeaux futures and I don’t collect a lot of Bordeaux — but I sure do like drinking it. Of course, most of the really good stuff is very expensive. But there are a range of lesser-heralded appellations producing more approachable, and affordable, Bordeaux.
The four Côtes de Bordeaux appellations were created in 2009, and the rules for the appellations laid out in 2011. These four Côtes de Bordeaux appellations (Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, and Francs) amount to about 9% (about 5.3 million cases) of Bordeaux’s total production. Of the Côtes, Blaye is by far the largest area, comprising more than 14,000 acres, while Francs is the smallest (less than 1,000 acres). Spread across the hillsides of the right banks of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, these appellations are dominated by plantings of Merlot. The grape amounts to 50-70% of total plantings in each appellation, with the rest a mix of other Bordeaux varieties. And even though these are inexpensive wines that most consumers won’t bother to cellar, each of these wines could improve with air, a good decant or even a few years in the cellar.
I recently tasted through four such wines, one from each appellation. They’re all priced between $10 and $16 a pop, so they’re a great way to introduce yourself to Bordeaux without much expense.
2012 Château Lauriol - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Côtes de Francs
Light purple color. Aromas of juicy black cherries and dark plums, rocky soil, sweet violets, chewing tobacco and coffee. A tangy acidic presences keeps this fresh, and the tannins are moderate in strength. Tart black cherries and plum skin, mixed with loam, pencil shavings, violets, and mint. A bit tart but tight at the moment, this will likely improve for more than a handful of years. 100% Merlot. (86 points)
2012 Château Le Grand Moulin Collection Grande Réserve - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
Light purple color. A burst of paprika, white pepper and roasted game hit me on the nose (which I like), but there’s plenty of bright red currant and some darker cherry aromas, too. Tangy and bright on the palate with some dusty but structured tannins. The red and black currant fruit is fresh, a bit compact in its youth, but pretty. I get a whole lot of menthol, grilled steak and paprika flavors. This has me craving barbecue badly. Thing is, it stays quite fresh and lively, although the tannins could use some time to smooth out. 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. (87 points)
2014 Château Paret - France, Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Deep ruby color. Bright red currant and tart plums on the nose along with rosemary, sage and pepper. Medium-bodied with medium-strength tannins and tart acidity. There's a smoky tar note and some pepper, graphite and herbs that accents the juicy plum and currant fruit. Needs some time to open up, but very impressive for a $10 Bordeaux! Merlot with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. (87 points)
2014 Château Lamothe de Haux - France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
Deep ruby color. Lots of dusty earth and red flower aromas on top of tangy cherries and red currants. Tart acidity mixes with medium tannin on a medium-bodied frame. Red currant and bright red cherries blend with potting soil, tobacco and a bit of coffee. Refreshing, simple, the most accessible in its youth of the four wines. 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. (85 points)