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Chateau Olivier

Chateau Olivier. (Courtesy photo)

When I think of iconic wine regions, Bordeaux always comes to mind. But when I consider mid-priced wines of good value, I rarely think of Bordeaux. However, a recent tasting opportunity made me realize I’m wrong in ignoring Bordeaux’s affordable wines.

Of course, Bordeaux is renowned for its “First Growths”, including Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Haut-Brion. But at $1,000 or more a bottle, nobody I know finds them affordable.

Fortunately, many very good Bordeaux wines are much more affordable. This was demonstrated in recent tastings across the United States sponsored by the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, an association of 134 Bordeaux wineries.

I was fortunate to receive wine samples from several of these wineries and a few others. Tasting them opened my mind regarding affordability of Bordeaux wines as I discovered fine wines in the same price range as wines from regions of California, Italy, Australia and elsewhere.

By way of background, Bordeaux’s red wines are blends of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, often with lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and/or Malbec. Young Bordeaux reds can be quite tannic; however, serving the wines with red meats and cheeses or aging the wines can soften them.

Bordeaux’s white wines are mostly blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, sometimes with a bit of Muscadelle. White Bordeaux ranges in style from dry, crisp wines to sweet dessert wines. Common food pairings for the drier whites include salads, shellfish, white fish and chicken. Sweet wines are often served unaccompanied by food, although a classic pairing is with foie gras.

Most of the wines I recommend below are available to Arizonans only through online sources such as www.wine.com. They are worth the search!

Exem 2013 red blend “Bordeaux” ($13): Quite attractive with good complexity on nose and palate and only moderate tannins. Fruit dominates at first sip, but the wine soon develops pleasing balance and finishes surprisingly long.

Chateau Bonnet 2012 red blend “Bordeaux” ($15): Purple-tinged color and impressive complexity on both nose and palate. Dynamic in the mouth with forward flavors, fine balance and a lingering finish. Easily outperforms its price.

Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion 2013 red blend “Pessac-Leognan” ($24): Engages with a pronounced purple hue in the glass and an attractive nose. Refined, well-integrated flavors and attractive complexity carry through an extended finish.

Clos Haut-Peyraguey 2013 dessert wine “Sauternes” ($30): Impressive quality for the price, this sweet wine is yellow-gold in the glass and features strength and complexity on the nose. Forward in flavor, smooth-textured and well-balanced, with engaging complexity developing in mid-palate.

Chateau Olivier 2013 white blend “Pessac-Leognan” ($35): This beautifully expressive dry wine shines on the palate with forward flavor and wonderful balance between fruit and crispness. Its lengthy, powerful finish features striking complexity paired with great refinement.

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Chateau Villemaurine 2013 red blend “Saint-Emilion” ($37): Fruit, power and complexity are featured on the nose. A hint of sweetness on the attack disappears as complexity kicks in, accompanied by unobtrusive tannins and impressive refinement that lead to a strong, long-lingering finish.

Chateau de Fieuzal 2013 white blend “Pessac-Leognan ($45): Attractive in the glass with a hint of gold, this wine reveals itself rather gradually. Each sip expresses greater intensity, complexity and personality, and these extend through a powerful, protracted finish.

Chateau Olivier 2010 red blend “Pessac-Leognan” ($45): I loved the forward complexity of the nose, as well as on the palate, where it is joined by fruity, full-bodied, finely balanced, long-finishing flavors. A bit tannic, but not if served with red meat.

Chateau Dauzac 2006 red blend “Margaux ($50): This strong red develops power and complexity in mid-palate. I found it finished rather tannic, but not when paired with steak. It also goes amazingly well with quality milk chocolate.

Cypres de Climens 2007 dessert wine “Barsac” ($50): I was captivated by the strikingly deep gold color this white wine had developed with age. A powerful nose portends strength and engaging complexity, and these pair with thick body and fine balance on the palate, all ending in an extended finish.

Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere 2013 red blend “Saint-Emilion ($60): Fruit, power and complexity dominate the nose, followed by soft, well-rounded fruit on the attack. Then tannins kick in, unless served with red meat, to co-dominate into the lingering finish.

Chateau Malartic Lagraviere 2013 white blend “Pessac-Leognan ($75): This refined white blend is less boldly flavored than those recommended above. I enjoyed how its development of character carried throughout an excellent, complex, lengthy finish.

John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears every month and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday. John can be reached at azpinewine@yahoo.com.

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