While the elite wines of Bordeaux are selling for outrageous four-figure prices (per bottle), it’s still possible to find delicious, under-$20 bottles that some would contend are even under-valued.
Bordeaux, the cradle of storied wines in southwest France, is home to more than 9,000 growers — not just the First Growths.
But if you’re just an average wine lover, how do you navigate all the chateau names and locations?
The easiest way is to head to a well-stocked wine shop and ask the sales associate for help, or better yet, ask for a Bill Blatch wine. His wines can be trusted.
His name won’t be on the label, but an informed sales associate should know it.
Blatch is a Brit who has worked in the wine trade for 40 years and specializes in the wines of Bordeaux. He has spent a lifetime as a wine merchant, or “negociant,” buying up the wines of the lesser-known chateaux in the less famous areas and selling them under their own names. And he is equally noted for his Bordeaux vintage reports, considered the most detailed and significant in the trade.
He was in Detroit for tastings this week and fielded questions during a stop at Elie Wine Co. in Royal Oak.
What’s the better vintage in Bordeaux — the equally high-rated 2009 or 2010? That’s the raging debate.
“The 2009 and 2010 have in common they are very powerful wines,” Blatch said. “I prefer the ’09 — and I’m going against the grain a bit. Growers have more faith in the 2010 because it is more tannic.”
And that’s a message that the everyday wine buyers can take to the store — look for the 2009 and 2010 French vintages. They are fabulous. Some affordable examples, shepherded by Blatch and available in Detroit, include the 2009 Chateau Du Pin ($10.99), an almost equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc; or the 2009 Chateau Guillou, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The 2010 Chateau Puynard and 2010 Chateau Vieux Dominique are two more. They sell in the neighborhood of $20 or less.
Blatch adds that the everyday wines of Bordeaux are simply made better today, that growers go to more trouble in the vineyards and the cellar to produce good wines — “not the stalky, green wines of the old days.”
As for Sauternes, his favorite Bordeaux wine, he has a 50-50 blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc called La Fleur D’Or, produced with the noble rot botrytis, that sells for $20 for a half bottle — a bargain in the sweet dessert wine category.
“This bottle is phenomenal,” says Larry Shade of Gibb’s.
For help in finding these wines, head to stores such as Plum Market in West Bloomfield, Gibb’s in Detroit, Champane’s in Warren, Holiday Market in Royal Oak, Cose di Lusso in Rochester and Elie Wine Co. in Royal Oak.