Attention Snobs: Bordeaux is Exciting and Surprisingly Accessible

Viewpoint Bordeaux Bashing bottle wine

Throughout the last decade, Bordeaux bashing has been all the rage in Paris, New York City and San Francisco. Top Paris restaurants even went so far as momentarily delisting selections from France’s largest wine region in favor of offerings from the Loire, Beaujolais and, above all, Burgundy.

Their claim was that Bordeaux was too snobby, too expensive and too out-of-touch with the new world of natural wines. That was only partially true in the beginning, and now it’s less and less the case.

The effect, however, has been devastating for the myriad of small, less well-known estates that have upped their game in recent years.

Every year, I taste hundreds of these bottlings and they are good to excellent, relatively low in alcohol and well priced.

Despite increases in overall quality, dramatically in some instances, and the use of sustainable, organic and biodynamic techniques that have been aided by a succession of favorable vintages, their reward has largely been a precipitous decline in sales and prices for their wines.

What is the reality? To date, I’ve tasted more than 500 red wines from 2016 and 2017 with excellent scores of 90–93 points. More than half are priced at $30 and under; more than 100 are $20 or less.

Wine-world naysayers love to chide the prices of the top 50 or 100 Bordeaux wines. Yet, my tastings show more than 120 Bordeaux reds from the 2016 and 2017 vintages with scores from 85–92 points at Best Buy prices from $8 to $15. It’s hard for any other region to beat that.

It’s true that future vintage import prices may increase slightly, depending on U.S. government tariff resolution. But once resolved and leveled out, it’s not likely that these value-minded wines would exceed reasonable rates.

Your Guide to Bordeaux's Premium Value Wines

Reports in French newspapers and the French business journal Les Echos suggest that simple Bordeaux wines, or those from Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur, are now selling in barrel for less than bottled water. Oversupply in a falling market and decreased demand have combined in a disastrous way.

Certainly, this is no way to make a living, and many smaller growers are suffering. Worse, it’s not a reflection of the quality of what is being sold, as exemplified by recent ratings and reviews. Every year, I taste hundreds of these bottlings and they are good to excellent, relatively low in alcohol and well priced.

Don’t let the unknowing pretend to know everything about good Bordeaux. Spend hundreds of dollars if you want, as a 100-point Bordeaux can be spectacular, but look at Wine Enthusiast’s scores and especially the Best Buy recommendations—that is where real Bordeaux satisfies the palate and the wallet, and is an absolute pleasure to pour.

Published on March 30, 2020
Topics: Editor Speak