Bordeaux wines

The prices of its top wines may be prohibitive, but even outside the exclusive labels Bordeaux still produces the world's best wines, says Adam Lechmere

Bordeaux is the most famous wine region in the world not because it is the oldest - the Georgians were producing wine when the Bordelais were wearing rabbit skins. Not because it is the best at marketing either, because the Aussies leave Bordeaux standing when it comes to advertising nous. The main reason is geographical – on the 44th parallel, Bordeaux sits on the limit of where you can ripen red grapes for wine. The vines have to work very hard to produce their grapes, and those grapes are packed with flavour.

At the top level, it’s beyond the means of almost everyone (we’re talking over £1,000 a bottle), but even outside of this, Bordeaux still produces the best wines in the world. You just need to know where to look.

There are two main reasons why Bordeaux has become so expensive: the weather, and China. The 2010 growing season was superb: long sunny days and cooler nights, just the right amount of rain, perfect for grapes to ripen slowly and evenly.

The there are the Chinese, who can’t get enough of Bordeaux. Hong Kong is now the world’s biggest fine wine market. When Andrew Lloyd Webber sold off £3.5m of his wine at Sotheby’s this year, the sale was held in Hong Kong. It’s impossible to know, but Bordeaux insiders will tell you that 90 per cent of Château Lafite-Rothschild goes to China.

An excellent vintage like 2010 will be snapped up by the Chinese, and the proprietors of the properties that sell well out east are perfectly aware of that. As is everyone else: an offer of £145 a bottle for Carruades de Lafi te, the ‘second wine’ of the château, is already on, the wine trade’s equivalent of eBay.

Such prices are enough to put anyone off, but the fact is, at lower levels, where wines are made to be drunk within months rather than years of bottling, Bordeaux produces wines that are delicate, refreshing, velvety and reasonable in alcohol level.

That’s especially true of a vintage like 2008, which is on the market now. It was a dreary summer saved by a great September. At the time critics wrote the vintage off, but many of the wines, especially the merlot dominated, are worth searching out.

Don’t forget the whites; the Graves region south of Bordeaux produces some of the greatest. Made of sauvignon blanc and semillon, they are full, ripe, and lip-smackingly refreshing.

But remember that Bordeaux is a huge region, with upwards of 20,000 producers churning out a quarter of the entire production of France. Such a region is going to produce an awful lot of mediocre wine too.

So choose carefully. Spend more than you would on a New World wine. In a vintage like 2008, the most successful wines were made from the ripest grapes – meaning a lot of manual work picking the best of each bunch. The cost of that labour appears in the price. If a 2008 red costs less than £9 to £10, steer clear. When you get it right, you’ll see why the world’s most famous wine brand is still turning heads from Beijing to Basildon.

Château Boutisse 2008, £19.95

This is a rich, dense wine with a smoky, almost meaty aroma. The fruit is sweet and ripe – blackcurrant with a hint of stewed plum and some balsamic. Drink it with strong-flavoured meat – grouse would be right.

Available at:Roberson

Château Boutisse 2008, £19.95

Château Bois Pertuis 2010, £8.99

Another densely packed wine but with smooth tannins and wonderful bright cherry flavours along with oak and herbal notes. Merlot-dominated, it is rich and almost voluptuous. Drink with red meats like lamb and rare steak.

Available at:Waitrose

Château Bois Pertuis 2010, £8.99

Grand Enclos du Château de Cérons 2006, £14.99

A lovely white, with a strong, spicy nose. Spice, complex citrus, grapefruit, tropical fruit and oak flavours. Modern in style, drink it with strong-flavoured fish dishes. It would go perfectly with bouillabaisse.

Available at:Marks & Spencer

Grand Enclos du Château de Cérons 2006, £14.99

Château Caronne Ste Gemme 2006, £13.99

Uncomplicated and not particularly sophisticated, but full of fruit and spice, and with a nice acidic freshness. A solid, workable everyday Bordeaux to enjoy along with a weekday-night pasta supper.

Available at:Majestic

Château Caronne Ste Gemme 2006, £13.99

Château Ducluzeau 2006, £17.95

Wonderful spicy, plummy nose with a hint of game. Velvet tannins and superb blackcurrant and blackberry flavours, and above all, juicy, mouthwatering acids. Long and fresh – try it with fatty rack of lamb.

Available at:Lea and Sandeman

Château Ducluzeau 2006, £17.95

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