Bordeaux or Bor-D'oh?


  • Dave Nelson

Inexpensive isn't the first adjective that comes to mind when one thinks of Bordeaux. Despite the fame and accompanying ridiculous prices of the red, white and sweet wines of the big-name châteaux, France's Bordeaux region actually produces a virtual ocean of wine -- about 150 million gallons in 2009 -- much it released at the "value" end of the market.

Like low-priced offerings from many regions, these come without the pedigree, but also usually with less ripeness, less oak influence, and lower alcohol levels. In a poor year (weather matters more in Bordeaux than in California), this can result in weedy, shrill wines, but in decent years, good values can be found.

Today we'll try a value-priced white Bordeaux with a bit of age on it...

2007 Château Mayne Pargade Bordeaux Blanc ($10 - the Vino Gallery)

The color: pale gold. The aroma: Lime and beeswax, and a hint of flowers. The flavor is intense -- almost creamy fruit cut by razor-sharp acidity, and it lingers long and pleasantly.

This is bracing stuff that practically begs for oysters or mussels, though it would make refreshing sipping for those who appreciate lively, tart wines. Or you could have it both ways: This baby was just as good on the second day -- maybe even better.

The Verdict: Thriil

Like most white Bordeaux, today's wine is a blend of sémillon and sauvignon blanc, with the sémillon making up the majority. On its own, sémillon has a tendency toward unfocused fruitiness, unbalanced by sufficient acidity. It does bring some uncommon floral aromas and flavors to the table, though, in particular a distinctive honeyed character that's magnified by the richness of its body -- and that contrasts nicely with tart sauvignon blanc.

Sémillon is also popular because it is relatively free from disease and pest concerns. In some of the Bordeaux sub-regions it has the ability to attract botrytis -- the "noble rot" that concentrates sémillon into the magnificent star of the great sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.

"Thrill or Swill?" aims to expand wine drinkers' horizons -- including Gut Check's. If you have been curious about a grape or wine and want Gut Check to try it, let us know via the comments thread. If we can find it (and if we can afford it), we'll buy us a bottle, yank the cork and report back.


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