30 Bordeaux Under $30
You’ve probably been told many times that Bordeaux makes great value wines. Maybe you don’t believe it. Many headlines tout high prices and auction records.
So here’s proof: The 30 wines described here are all delicious, and all retail for $30 or less.
I reviewed 850 bottled wines from the 2012 vintage, and picked 28 of my favorite values. It’s an attractive vintage that yielded wines to drink over the next two to three years. For the “I can’t wait” crowd, there are two whites from the 2014 vintage.
Many of these wines come from high-quality producers working in top vineyards and renowned appellations. Some are simpler Bordeaux, but produced with just as much care. This is a small cross-section of what Bordeaux is really about. If you check out Wine -Enthusiast’s online Buying Guide, you’ll find many more.
But whatever you do, try some of these wines. Bordeaux does mean value.
-Photos by Allie Gaiter
Château Duplessis 2012 Moulis-en-Médoc; $25, 92 points. It’s said that Duplessis was once a hunting lodge for a nephew of Cardinal Richelieu. Today, it’s one of three chateaus owned by Marie-Laure Lurton, one of six children of Lucien Lurton, who built an empire of Bordeaux chateaus. Wines from this estate tend toward structure and austerity when young, and they blossom into serious wines with age. This Cru Bourgeois is typical of the style. It starts dark and dense and, as it matures, the black fruits start to shine, working within a firm, food-friendly tannic structure. Saranty Imports.
Why buy? Duplessis ages well and has complex, serious structure.
Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux 2012 Moulis-en-Médoc; $29, 92 points. This 79-acre estate is the home of the Cordonnier family, which bought it in 1967. It’s situated on the Grand Poujeaux, a high point of gravel in Moulis. This Cru Bourgeois is turning into an impressive wine, with solid tannins as well as ripe black fruit. It’s juicy, but retains firm tannins, which give it a dense, structured character. Calvert Woodley.
Why buy? Moulis is an underrated source of classic Bordeaux built to age.
Château La Chapelle aux Moines 2012 Saint-Émilion; $22, 92 points. This estate at the northeast edge of Saint–Émilion dates to the 12th century, when it was controlled by Templar soldier moines (monks). The current owners, the Ménager family, bought the estate in 1954. The wine shows structure, density and powerful tannins. Dominated by Merlot, it has delicious, juicy black plum and damson flavors that are full and generous, remaining fruity as it ages. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.
Why buy? Any Old World Merlot lover will enjoy La Chapelle aux Moines.
Château Peyrabon 2012 Haut-Médoc; $25, 92 points. Peyrabon is owned by a branch of the Bernard family (better known for Domaine de Chevalier), which also owns importer Millesima USA. This Cru Bourgeois comes from a 100-acre estate right on the edge of the Pauillac appellation and the powerful, complex wine shows its pedigree. Dark tannins and ripe black fruits are all evidence of its aging potential. A few parcels of the estate are in Pauillac and produce a more expensive wine, La Fleur Peyrabon. Millesima USA.
Why buy? Peyrabon is Pauillac in all but name.
Château Anthonic 2012 Moulis-en-Médoc; $29, 91 points. The 98-acre property is owned by the Cordonnier family, which also owns Dutruch Grand Poujeaux. The vines are on a thick outcrop of gravel, a sure sign of a good estate in the Médoc. One of the many reliable wines from Moulis, this Cru Bourgeois shows a ripe, smooth character. Dusty, ripe tannins underpin red fruits. It’s developing well, although it needs more time. Left Bank Wine Company.
Why buy? Moulis is an exciting appellation with many quality vineyards.
Château d’Agassac 2012 Haut-Médoc; $29, 91 points. A medieval castle with a moat on an island of vines (and now a restaurant) 15 minutes from Bordeaux makes this wine a fairytale pour. Serious money went into the vineyards, winery and castle, and the wine shows it. This Cru Bourgeois is smooth and rich, with black plum fruits and currants giving a ripe feel. The wood aging is already well integrated in this solid, generous wine. MS Walker.
Why buy? The wine is getting better each vintage, and it’s worth following.
Château de Villegeorge 2012 Haut-Médoc; $25, 91 points. When Lucien Lurton retired, he split his properties among his children. Marie-Laure Lurton accepted three chateaus with the challenge to build up their mediocre quality. She has obviously succeeded. Dominated by Cabernet, this Cru Bourgeois is a powerful and structured wine. With dark tannins and concentrated black currant fruits, it’s in the Marie-Laure Lurton style of firmness at the start, followed by fine structure. Saranty Imports.
Why buy? Almost any wine made by the Lurton family is classic Bordeaux.
Château des Arnauds 2012 Cuvée des Capucins (Lalande-de-Pomerol); $20, 91 points. This 90-percent Merlot wine comes from vines with an average age of 30 years. That gives the wine good intensity, balancing the firm, dark tannins with ripe plums and berries that show strongly through the tannic structure. It’s powerful, concentrated, big and generous. Misa Imports.
Why buy? Lovers of ripe Merlot who can’t afford Pomerol will enjoy it.
Château Devise d’Ardilley 2012 Haut-Médoc; $25, 91 points. In Bordeaux terms, this is a new estate, created in 1991 and owned since 2000 by the Philippe family. Situated in St-Laurent-Médoc to the west of Pauillac, it’s just 27 acres. The wine’s balance is what makes it so impressive. For a naturally fruity vintage, this is ripe and rich. Black fruits are laden with firm tannins without losing sight of their freshness. The structure and solid character of the wine point to good aging. Fruit of the Vines.
Why buy? Even without a long history, the estate is building a reputation for reliable quality.
Château Haut Bertinerie 2012 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux; $28, 91 points. Blaye is on the steep east bank of the Gironde estuary, looking across the river at Pauillac. Though the property is the largest in Blaye, the Bantegnies family’s Haut Bertinerie comes from a little parcel on a hill above the estuary. This rich, concentrated wine is velvety smooth, with tannins enveloped by ripe berry and plum fruits. Wood aging has added to the rounded character. DB Wine Selection.
Why buy? It’s a wine for lovers of ripe, rich Bordeaux that matures quickly, yet can age.
Château Joanin Bécot 2012 Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux; $15, 91 points. The wine is developing into a round, rich wine, with ripe black fruit supported by a solid tannic structure. Owner Juliette Bécot manages the technical side here, and also the marketing at her family’s classed-growth Château Beau-Séjour Bécot in nearby Saint-Émilion. K&L Wine Merchants.
Why buy? Top classed-growth attention to detail at a fraction of the price.
Château La Garricq 2012 Moulis-en-Médoc; $25, 91 points. Here’s another Moulis wine that shows the excellent value from this impressive Médoc appellation. La Garricq is just an eight-acre vineyard. The old Petit Verdot vines convinced the Cazeneuve family to buy the estate in 1993. This Cru Bourgeois has 20-percent Petit Verdot in the blend, almost unheard of in Bordeaux. It gives this wine great color and a rounded, full-bodied blackberry character. This perfumed wine needs to age, so drink from 2018. Millesima USA.
Why buy? The high percentage of Petit Verdot is fascinating in itself.
Château Larose-Trintaudon 2012 Haut-Médoc; $25, 91 points. One of the largest estates in the Médoc, with 430 acres of vines, this misses being in Pauillac by being—literally—on the wrong side of the rail tracks. Terroir trumps tracks, and it gives this Cru Bourgeois depth and richness. The estate had a checkered history, but under the Allianz insurance company’s wings since 1986, the wines regularly show well. This wine is ripe, dark, dense and very structured, showing the new wood that will integrate. Monsieur Touton Selections.
Why buy? One of the most reliable values in the Médoc, Larose-Trintaudon is always good to drink and matures relatively quickly.
Château Mayne Vieil 2012 Cuvée Aliénor (Fronsac); $22, 91 points. Fronsac wines are hard to find in the United States, which is a shame because they are such good value. Close to Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, wines like this are full of Merlot. This wine is the prestige cuvée made from old vines on the Sèze family’s 115-acre estate. New-wood aromas stand out strongly. On the palate, the wood and tannins are integrating well into the rich berry fruits and lush texture that signals ripe Merlot at its best. The wine needs to age, and it will be better from 2016. Vinum Wine Importing and Distribution.
Why buy? Discover an appellation that deserves to be better known.
Château Métairie Neuve 2012 Côtes de Bourg; $26, 91 points. A métairie is a farm with a family and tenants. This is a co-op wine blended by Alliance Bourg. A ripe and smoky wine, it features great fruit that bursts through the tannic structure. A blend of 70-percent Merlot and 30-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s packed with red plum and blackberry fruit based on solid structure. This will be a fine wine, just wait a year. Misa Imports.
Why buy? Métairie Neuve bursts with fruit and will develop quickly.
Château Phélan Ségur 2012 La Croix Bonis (Saint-Estèphe); $27, 91 points. Second and third labels from a brand are produced from parcels of young vines or parts of the vineyard that don’t make the cut for the top label. For price and quality, this predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon blend is a Médoc second-wine benchmark. It has structure and a dense texture along with ripe blackberry fruits and acidity. As it develops, it will become more generous. Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd.
Why buy? This gives a glimpse of Phélan Ségur’s style without the high price.
Château d’Aiguilhe Querre 2012 Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux; $18, 90 points. Another value from Castillon, the vineyards east of Saint-Émilion. This juicy Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend is balanced and fresh, with ample red fruit and soft tannins. This comes from a high-density, handpicked nine-acre parcel among the Querre family vineyards. Signature Selections.
Why buy? The concentration from high-density planting is trendy in Bordeaux.
Château Féret-Lambert 2012 Bordeaux Supérieur; $25, 90 points. This is a powerful, wood-aged wine from the village of Grezillac in the Entre-deux-Mers. Soft tannins are doing a great job of supporting the natural fruitiness, bringing out good concentration. Warm and ripe, it will develop well. Grantham Distributing.
Why buy? Féret–Lambert is a reminder that Bordeaux outside the box can still be very attractive.
Château Gauthier 2012 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux; $22, 90 points. This vineyard on the east bank of the Gironde estuary delivers a structured and fruity blend that’s solid and has a good future. It has black fruit and firm tannins, along with well-judged wood aging. It’s ripe, with attractive juicy flavors and spice. Misa Imports.
Why buy? Gauthier is a fine wine that just says “Bordeaux.”
Château La Cardonne 2012 Médoc; $25, 90 points. The vineyard is at the highest point of the Médoc (100 feet above sea level) on deep gravel soil, giving both texture and richness. Berry notes dominate, supported by firm tannins and ample acidity. This Cru Bourgeois will age well. Monsieur Touton Selections.
Why buy? A moment of snobbery: The property was once owned by the Rothschilds of Château Lafite.
Château La Grange Clinet 2012 Grande Réserve (Côtes de Bordeaux); $17, 90 points. Big tannins and ripe fruit result in a wine that’s dense and structured. A smoky character from wood aging pushes over the black currant fruit. From vineyards on slopes above the Garonne River, this is a solid wine with a good future. Luneau USA.
Why buy? The Côtes de Bordeaux offers some of the best value in the region.
Château Potensac 2012 Médoc; $25, 90 points. One of the Médoc’s showpieces, this structured and firm wine has strong Cabernet flavors that impart dry tannins and juicy, black currant fruit. Still youthful, this balanced wine is likely to age well. Multiple U.S. importers.
Why buy? Potensac is made by the same team as second-growth Château Léoville Las Cases.
Château Reysson 2012 Haut-Médoc; $24, 90 points. The chateau and the soil are both limestone. Dominated by Merlot, this is a generous and full-bodied Cru Bourgeois that brings out the structure of the limestone. Thienot USA.
Why buy? Reysson is well-made and will be ready to drink soon.
Château Tour de Pez 2012 Saint-Estèphe; $19, 90 points. New wood aging shows strongly at this stage, as does the fruit. That gives a structured wine, firm and also full of blackberry fruit. The future is good for this Cru Bourgeois. Millesima USA.
Why buy? Tour de Pez represents value from Saint-Estèphe, one of the grand communes of the Médoc.
Château Tour Saint-Joseph 2012 Haut-Médoc; $25, 90 points. This Cru Bourgeois north of Pauillac has attractive mint aromas that lead a wine that’s balanced between wood flavors and ripe black currant fruits and firm tannins. Taken together, this is a rich wine that needs to age. Saranty Imports.
Why buy? The style is for lovers of full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.
Château de Rochemorin 2012 Pessac-Léognan; $25, 91 points. André Lurton owns four chateaus in Pessac-Léognan, home to the greatest white wines in Bordeaux. This wine is 100-percent Sauvignon Blanc, as Lurton loves the grape. This ripe wine is full bodied, but herbaceous. It offers great acidity along with grapefruit and rich yellow fruit. Touches of wood aging have smoothed the wine. Dense in fruit and acidity, yet also structured, this could age for a few more years. Deutsch Family Wines.
Why buy? Only about 10 percent of Bordeaux wine is white. Rochemorin is a reminder of how good these wines can be.
Château l’Espérance 2014 Cuvée Instinct (Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux); $16, 90 points. Made by South Africans who arrived in Bordeaux in 2011, this is full in the mouth, offering ripe yellow fruit and spice. It’s a fruit salad of flavors topped with some wood aging. APS Wine & Spirits.
Why buy? Blaye is a good source for fruit-driven white Bordeaux.
Château Haut Bertinerie 2012 Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux; $25, 90 points. This spicy, wood-aged wine is made from old-vine Sauvignon Blanc. It has ripe apricot and pear flavors layered with toast, and it’s given an aromatic character from spice. The mouthfeel is rich and full; drink in 2016. Pierre Cordurie Selections/Wine Partners.
Why buy? Wood aging and pure Sauvignon Blanc don’t always work. In this wine, they do.
Château du Seuil 2012 Graves; $28, 90 points. When young, there was a strongly herbaceous character to this wine. Now it’s ready to drink—rich, with weight and structure that’s all Bordeaux. It’s a wine from a good white-wine vintage, showing touches of wood as well as intense fruitiness. APS Wine & Spirits.
Why buy? Seuil is a good example of how Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc complement each other.
Château Turcaud 2014 Cuvée Majeure (Bordeaux Blanc); $22, 90 points. This wine is produced close to the abbey of Sauve-Majeure in the heart of the Entre-Deux-Mers region. A touch of spice comes from the wood aging of the wine. This has plenty of fruit as well, promising a good future. Sussex Wine Merchants.
Why buy? Turcaud is an example of good Bordeaux white aged in wood.
Any chateau in the Médoc can apply to be a Cru Bourgeois by submitting its wine to a blind tasting and meeting quality standards set by the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois. Judged two years after harvest, the approved Cru Bourgeois wines (there were 267 in 2012) vary from vintage to vintage. Consumers can verify the wine’s status via the QR code on each bottle.
Red Grape Varieties
These are the main grapes that go into making Bordeaux’s red wines:
Merlot: The most widely planted variety, it provides flesh and supple tannins.
Cabernet Sauvignon: This is the backbone that provides structure and longevity.
Cabernet Franc: Typically used in small amounts to add perfume and elegance.
Petit Verdot: An acid-and-tannin booster, it also boasts floral perfumes.
Malbec: Rarely used, but historically it provided acid and tannin.
White Grape Varieties
These are the main grapes that go into making Bordeaux’s dry whites:
Sauvignon Blanc: Occasionally bottled on its own, but more often blended with Sémillon, it provides crisp acidity and citrusy fruit.
Sémillon: Especially when barrel-fermented, it adds roundness, richness and depth to blended wines.
Muscadelle: Fading in favor for dry wines, although it can add delicate aromas.
Aging Bargain Bordeaux
Although many of the wines you’ll find for less than $30 aren’t meant for cellaring, because of their classic varietal composition and traditional winemaking techniques they’ll often last for longer than you might expect. Drink simple white wines within the first couple of years after the vintage, but oak-aged whites can be held for up to five years. Most oak-aged red Bordeaux in this price range can last up to eight years.
Thinking Beyond 2012
Almost all of the wines listed here come from the 2012 vintage, which is the one most likely to be found on store shelves at the moment, but shoppers will likely find others as well. Here’s a quick guide:
2010 Ripe, structured reds worth taking a flyer on.
2011 Not the ripest or richest year but fresh and crisp.
2012 Pleasant, early-drinking wines, both red and white.
2013 Some pleasant, light reds but more successful whites.
2014 Most reds yet to be bottled; potentially excellent whites.
- 1Delicious Red Bordeaux Values
- 2Bordeaux’s Refreshing Whites
- 3Uncorking Bordeaux Wine Basics