Planet Bordeaux makes affordable pitch to U.S. consumers

Image courtesy of Chateau Argadens)

Image courtesy of Chateau Argadens)

This is the second blog about France’s affordable wines. Check out yesterday’s blog about the Languedoc.

A bunch of topnotch growers in Bordeaux is trying to dispel the notion that their fancy address is just about $900 bottles.

They are touting Bordeaux Superieur wines for less than $20 as part of a campaign called Planet Bordeaux to acquaint American consumers with the the ABCs (appellations, blends, color) of Bordeaux.

These wines offer the classic character of the most famous wine region in the world. The goal, according to the Syndicat des Bordeaux et Bordeaux Superieur, which is promoting the Planet Bordeaux campaign, is to show Americans that Bordeaux is about more than costly classified growths — “it’s about the people who make the wine, the land that grows it, and the lifestyle that surrounds it.”

Five tips from Planet Bordeaux

1. The Bordeaux wine region is 310 miles southwest of Paris.

2. The Romans planted the first vineyards 2,000 years ago to make wine for their soldiers.

3. Today’s industry is made up of roughly 10,000 winemakers, 400 wine merchants and 130 brokers.

4. Superieur on a label denotes affordable wines typically produced from selected vineyard plots and older vines, with complex fruit (cherry, raspberry, black currant), floral and earthy aromas. They are often more concentrated with structured tannins as a result of aging in oak barrels.

5. Reading a Bordeaux label is like learning your ABCs.

Five Tastes of Bordeaux Superieur Wines

Chateau Reyon Bordeaux Blanc 2011, $13: This blend of 87 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 13 percent Semillon takes you back to what a Bordeaux white is all about — grapefruit, lime, herbal tones and minerality. It’s clean, crisp and dry — perfect for fresh seafood. The chateau is located in the Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux appellation where red wines are more the norm. Chateau Reyon is one of the top estates in this district.

Chateau de Lugagnac Bordeaux Superieur Rouge 2009, $13: This blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, half and half, speaks to modern winemaking that lets the grapes and the soil speak. Ripe plums, brown baking spices, and tiny currants give a shout on the palate. Tannins are dusty and coat the mouth and acidity gives the blend good structure. Old World … New World: It seems to be a good mix of the two: austere, but not too much. The estate dates back to the 14th and 15 centuries. The personality of the wine is mainly due to the diversity of the soils — from clay to chalk.

Chateau Argadens Bordeaux Superieur Rouge Grand Vin 2009, $14: This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc makes a New World impression — the fruit is bright and ripe, it’s not austere but not sweet and flabby either. Good acidity gives it structure. The nose erupts with stone fruit and brown cooking spices, the palate is structured with acidity and tannins, the finish is long. It has good weight in the mouth. If you had to guess its origin, I would have to say Michigan, Pennsylvania or Washington if it were domestic. Indeed, it’s from the Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux. Chateau Argadens is owned by Maison Sichel. Michael Korn is the distributor in Metro Detroit. I found a bottle of the Bordeaux Superieur Blanc at Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn last week.

Chateau Couronneau Cuvee Pierre de Cartier Bordeaux Superieur 2010, $14: Now this is what Bordeaux Merlot is all about — dark as midnight, packed with ripe dark berries, plums and brown cooking spices all woven with smoky oak. It’s Old World in style — austere, earthy, rustic — but it’s made in the most modern of cellars inside a 15th century castle in the Gironde. The grapes are organically grown. The Cartiers lived in the chateau for three centuries and were descendants of the famous French explorer Jacques Cartier who claimed Canada for the French. This wine is 100 percent Merlot. Learning tip: Bordeaux Superieur AOC wines are typically from select vineyard sites and older vines.

Chateau Tayet Cuvee Prestige Bordeaux Superieur 2009, $11: This approachable blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon comes off a 24-acre vineyard neighboring Margaux. It has ripe, supple tannins, and a blast of dark cherry, berry, plum fruit woven with spicy, smoky oak. It’s so accessible now, but has the fruit, tannins and acidity to let it age with grace. The Cuvee Prestige is aged a year in oak, half of which is new each year.

Visit Planet Bordeaux, especially if you plan to travel there. If you can’t get there, ask your local wine merchant for tips to explore this region at your kitchen table.

Chateau de Lugagnac dates back to the Hundred Years War. (Image courtesy of Chateau de Lugagnac)

Chateau de Lugagnac dates back to the Hundred Years War. (Image courtesy of Chateau de Lugagnac)