Crus Bourgeois may not be the grandest of Bordeaux classifications. But behind the distinction lies a world of family-owned M\u00e9doc estates that make delicious wines at affordable prices.\r\n\r\nThe history of the Crus Bourgeois dates to the Middle Ages. The English rulers of Bordeaux allowed middle-class merchants, called the Bourgeois, to buy land and make or sell wine without being taxed.\r\n\r\nBy the 15th century, the Bourgeois had acquired some of the best sites in the region, which became known as the Crus Bourgeois. Over the centuries, wineries here aided the development of the M\u00e9doc\u2019s vineyards and their reputation as producers of high-quality wine.\r\n\r\nUnlike other classifications that either never or rarely change, the Cru Bourgeois title is earned, not given by default. Each year, aspiring estates send their wines to be tasted and judged by an independent panel.\r\n\r\nFor the 2015 vintage, 271 chateaus from across the region, including the M\u00e9doc, Haut-M\u00e9doc, Listrac-M\u00e9doc, Moulis-en-M\u00e9doc, Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Est\u00e8phe Appellations d\u2019Origine Prot\u00e9g\u00e9e (AOPs), earned the distinction. Saint-Julien, another appellation eligible for the classification, was not represented in the 2015 selections.\r\n\r\nThis is the real Bordeaux: wines made with the same care as those from the famed Crus Class\u00e9s, by families that have often been in the same place for generations.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Mongravey, Margaux\r\nThere isn\u2019t a long family tradition at Mongravey. The Bernaleau family started the winery from a three-acre parcel that R\u00e9gis inherited from his father in 1981. He and his wife, Karin, built the vineyards up to an impressive 32 acres. Their son, J\u00e9r\u00f4me, now also works at the estate.\r\n\r\nKarin says that the chateau\u2019s style is dictated by Cabernet Sauvignon. Planted in 25 parcels near Arsac, on the western edge of the Margaux appellation, the grape is well-suited to the vineyard\u2019s deep gravel soil.\r\n\r\nOwners: Karin and R\u00e9gis Bernaleau\r\nVineyard: 32 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc\r\nProduction: 7,500 cases\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat I love about producing our wine is the game, the play of different parcels and varieties, along with the range of different barrel woods,\u201d she says. \u201cIt\u2019s all about delivering the very best we can.\u201d\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Mongravey 2015 Margaux; $50, 92 points. Now that this estate has calmed down in its wood aging, it is possible to see the beautiful fruit that is grown here. This wine is structured, firm with tannins and some spice from the wood, while allowing plenty of black-currant fruit to shine through. This ripe wine needs several years to develop. Drink from 2024. Aquitaine Wine Company.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Bellevue de Tayac, Margaux\r\nM\u00e9lanie Fabre works with her brother, Winemaker/Sales Manager Jean-Hubert, in a most unlikely Bordeaux winery: a modern, shiny, mirrored box on the edge of the village of Soussans in the Margaux appellation. The estate is part of the Fabre family\u2019s empire of four chateaus.\r\n\r\nAn agricultural engineer, M\u00e9lanie describes her little garden of a vineyard as a jewel. \u201cOne of my American customers said it is like a telephone box,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\nOwner: Fabre family\r\nVineyard: 11 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot\r\nProduction: 1,500 cases\r\n\r\nLike its facilities, the estate\u2019s history is also unusual. It was created in 1995 and flourished under consultant Jean-Luc Thunevin, the original garagiste and owner of Ch\u00e2teau Valandraud. He shocked the conservative folk of Margaux by applying his Saint-\u00c9milion ideas of low yields, superripe grapes, lots of new wood and a tiny production that could almost be handmade in a garage. Thunevin eventually purchased the property in 2004, and then sold it to the Fabre family in 2014.\r\n\r\nWith this brief yet glamorous past, the wines from Bellevue de Tayac are a fascinating mix of stylish Margaux and rich intensity from the Thunevin legacy. The latter likely comes from the high percentage of Merlot used in the blend.\r\n\r\n\u201cI see our wines as having roundness and great fruit, without losing sight of the elegance that comes from our great terroir,\u201d says M\u00e9lanie.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Bellevue de Tayac 2015 Margaux; $35, 93 points. This 11-acre property, centered on an ultramodern winery, is the most northerly estate in Margaux. The wine, with its blend of dense tannins and juicy black-currant fruit, is rich, with impressive concentration and minerality. With weight and a firm core, the wine will age well. Drink from 2025. Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Cap L\u00e9on Veyrin\u00ad, Listrac-M\u00e9doc\r\nSiblings Nathalie and Julien Meyre have a long history to maintain. Their family has owned Cap L\u00e9on Veyrin since 1810, which makes it the oldest continuously owned estate in Listrac. They took over from their parents in 2011.\r\n\r\nThis year\u2019s winners of the prestigious Coupe de Crus Bourgeois in Paris for their 2015 vintage, the Meyres love the terroir of Listrac. They make wines that are powerful, with ripe fruit and tannins. In the process, they eschew the appellation\u2019s traditional rustic style in favor of smoothness and concentration.\r\n\r\nNathalie says their wines are \u201clike us: dynamic, complex and profound.\u201d\r\n\r\nOwner: Meyre family\r\nVineyard: 37 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 48% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot\r\nProduction: 4,800 cases\r\n\r\nThe estate\u2019s vines are situated in a number of parcels around Listrac and are an average of around 35 years old. Taste the wines, and it\u2019s obvious that the preferred style is for fine, well-balanced wines that are also rich, dense and concentrated.\r\n\r\nThere are currently three boys in line to take the helm of the historic estate, but that won\u2019t be any time soon: All are under 10 years old. Be sure, though, that there will be Meyres at Cap L\u00e9on Veyrin for many years to come.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Cap L\u00e9on Veyrin 2015 Listrac-M\u00e9doc; $30, 91 points. Continuing the sequence of fine vintages from this estate, this wine is rich, dense and structured. It has plenty of tannins, as well as generous black-plum and spice flavors. Wood aging adds light toastiness and smooths out the fruit. Drink from 2025. Baron Fran\u00e7ois Ltd.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau du Moulin Rouge, Haut-M\u00e9doc\r\nLucie S\u00e9cret is the 13th generation of the Ribeiro family to be involved in wine. A trained wine-estate manager, she took the reins from her father in 2012. S\u00e9cret works with her brother, Geoffrey, and their parents \u201care always around,\u201d she says.\r\n\r\nS\u00e9cret describes her wines as \u201cpowerful, but at the same time elegant and balanced.\u201d\r\n\r\nOwner: Ribeiro family\r\nVineyard: 49 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc\r\nProduction: 11,250 cases\r\n\r\nThe vineyard, with vines that average 40 years old, is close to the Gironde estuary. It\u2019s an ideal location, with the gravel soils that are iconic for the production of expressive wines from the M\u00e9doc.\r\n\r\nFor her, both the fun and the challenge of the job is its variety. \u201cOne day I can be the cellar master, the next day I can be on the road selling our wines,\u201d she says. \u201cThere is no other business like it."\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau du Moulin Rouge 2015 Haut-M\u00e9doc; $20, 90 points. Set in the heart of Haut-M\u00e9doc and close to the 18th-century fortress designed to stop the British attacking through the Gironde estuary (they never tried), this estate has made a firm, tannic wine that has great black fruits and a rich potential. Drink from 2022. Regal Wine Imports Inc.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau du Taillan, Haut-M\u00e9doc\r\nCh\u00e2teau du Taillan is an impressive estate. A French National Heritage Site, its foundations date to the Middle Ages. It\u2019s owned by one of the great families of Bordeaux, and today, the Cruse women run the place.\r\n\r\nArnelle Cruse is in charge. She describes her Merlot-dominated wine as \u201ccharming and warm, a wine to give pleasure. A good bottle, which you can drink without breaking the bank.\u201d\r\n\r\nOwner: Cruse family\r\nVineyard: 69 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc\r\nProduction: 8,800 cases\r\n\r\nIt comes from a vineyard in its first flush of maturity, with an average vine age of 25 years. It will undoubtedly continue on to Cruse\u2019s several nephews and nieces, who she says, \u201care already asking lots of questions.\u201d\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau du Taillan 2015 Haut-\u00adM\u00e9doc; $23, 92 points. Leaving Bordeaux for the M\u00e9doc, this is the first estate along the road. The wine is structured and firm, with some solid tannins and generous blackberry fruit. The wood aging and spice balance the blueberry and blackberry flavors. The wine should age well; drink from 2021. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Cissac, Haut-M\u00e9doc\r\nIn the five generations that Cissac has been owned by the Vialard family, women have been in charge for two: Danielle Vialard, and now her daughter, Marie.\r\n\r\nThe family produces a serious, concentrated, Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wine that\u2019s structured and firm when young. It ages slowly and as well as many of the classed growths in neighboring Saint-Est\u00e8phe. Marie Vialard talks of the wines\u2019 \u201ctannic structure allied to the intensity of fruit and acidity.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCissac is an old estate, and the chateau is a classic one-floor, 18th-century Bordeaux country house. It\u2019s said to have been constructed on the site of a Roman villa within sight of the Gironde estuary. Louis Vialard, Marie\u2019s grandfather, built up the property and made it one of the most familiar of the Crus Bourgeois in overseas markets, particularly England.\r\n\r\nMarie has made some stylistic changes to the wine since she took over from her mother.\r\n\r\nOwner: Vialard family\r\nVineyard: 111 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot\r\nProduction: 15,000 cases\r\n\r\n\u201cWe wanted to keep the [Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated] tradition of Cissac, but we knew we needed to modernize the wine,\u201d says Marie. So she emphasized fruit, and the most recent vintages could potentially age more rapidly as a result.\r\n\r\nAsked about the sixth generation, Marie says, \u201cit\u2019s too early to say, but there are three boys and a girl between five and 15. So maybe there will be another woman in charge at Cissac one day.\u201d\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Cissac 2015 Haut-M\u00e9doc; $35, 93 points. This is a structured wine, beautifully perfumed with richly tannic black fruits. It comes from a large 111-acre estate in the village of the same name. Made to age with firm tannins and layers of sumptuous fruit over firm wood aging, the wine will mature slowly. Drink from 2024. Elite Wines Import. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Deyrem Valentin, Margaux\r\nSurrounded by vineyards owned by five of the Margaux classed growths, Deyrem Valentin is run by fourth-generation sisters Christelle and Sylvie Sorge, whose family also owns Ch\u00e2teau Valentin in Haut-M\u00e9doc and Ch\u00e2teau Soussans in Margaux.\r\n\r\n\u201cHalf our work, at least, is in the vineyard,\u201d says Christelle, who trained in oenology at the University of Bordeaux. \u201cThat makes our vinification so much easier and [more] pleasurable, with soft extractions that give the subtlety of Margaux.\u201d\r\n\r\nOwner: Sorge family\r\nVineyard: 32 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmen\u00e8re\r\nProduction: 6,600 cases\r\n\r\nShe believes in wines that are silky and intensely perfumed, a change from the style employed by her retired father, Jean, who favored more structured, tannic wines. To help achieve such an impression for her own wines, she enlisted the advice of consultant Hubert de Bou\u00e4rd from Ch\u00e2teau Ang\u00e9lus of Saint-\u00c9milion.\r\n\r\nChristelle says the family inheritance is both an honor and a responsibility.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat\u2019s my passion?,\u201d she says. \u201cIt\u2019s everything to do with the vineyard and the winemaking, but it\u2019s also meeting visitors, treating their taste buds to our wines and giving them a good time.\u201d\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Deyrem Valentin 2015 Margaux; $35, 93 points. This dense and impressively ripe wine comes from a Sorge family estate in the northern part of the Margaux appellation. With black fruits and generous tannins, it is a big wine with considerable richness. This complex wine will age. Drink from 2025. APS Wine & Spirits. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Labadie, M\u00e9doc\r\nJ\u00e9r\u00f4me Bibey may be only the second generation at Ch\u00e2teau Labadie, but he understands the importance of family, both for his estate and the Crus Bourgeois.\r\n\r\n\u201cYou must respect the family tradition, and, at the same time, you need to pass on a passion for wine to next generation,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nOwner: J\u00e9r\u00f4me Bibey\r\nVineyard: 91 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec\r\nProduction: 26,250 cases\r\n\r\nBibey is also a vanguard of organic viticulture and high environmental standards in the vineyard and cellar. The chateau has earned the ISO 14001 certification, an international standard for an effective environmental management system.\r\n\r\nHis wines are soft, generous and well balanced. They\u2019re a fine testament to the awareness of and respect for nature.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Labadie 2015 M\u00e9doc; $24, 89 points. With a high percentage of Merlot, this is a ripe, juicy and red-fruit-flavored wine. It is soft, with the tannins already well integrated into the plush fruit. This rich, generous wine will be ready to drink from 2022. David Milligan Selections.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Paloumey, Haut-M\u00e9doc\r\nWhen the Cazeneuve family purchased Paloumey in 1989, there was nothing. No vines. No cellar. Just the right to plant where vines had once been. That once-blank canvas now flourishes under the direction of Pierre Cazeneuve.\r\n\r\nOwner: Cazeneuve family\r\nVineyard: 84 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc\r\nProduction: 10,800 cases\r\n\r\nSituated in the southern part of the M\u00e9doc, close to the city of Bordeaux, the estate welcomes 6,000 visitors per year. It\u2019s typical of the shift in attitude toward visitors that changed the former closed-door mentality of many Bordeaux chateaus.\r\n\r\nCazeneuve\u2019s wines are generous, rich and structured. He loves to work with material that he calls diverse and complex. \u201cProducing wine needs great precision, and I really enjoy that.\u201d\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Paloumey 2015 Haut-M\u00e9doc; $25, 92 points. From a grand estate whose owners also have vines in Margaux and Moulis, this wine is well proportioned and dense. Rich tannins and concentration are just part of what will become a generous, full wine. With great black-currant fruit and acidity to match, this structured wine will need to age. Drink from 2024. Fruit of the Vines Inc.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Fonbadet, Pauillac\r\nCompared with the grand chateaus of her Pauillac neighbors, Pascale Peyronie\u2019s house at Ch\u00e2teau Fonbadet is a low, modest range of buildings, with the cellar right next door. She grew up here, her earliest wine memory the smell of harvest-time fermentation as she returned from school and walked through the cellar.\r\n\r\nNow 52, and with a young son to eventually take up the inheritance (\u201che is already checking out the state of the vines,\u201d she says), Pascale guards her estate from the powerful neighbors.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy father took back the property in the 1960s,\u201d she says. \u201cHe could have sold to [neighboring] Mouton and Lafite, but he wanted to have [a] little piece of land he could call his own.\u201d\r\n\r\nOwner: Peyronie family\r\nVineyard: 50 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and Malbec\r\nProduction: 2,100 cases\r\n\r\nWith the magnificent terroir of the deep gravel soils north of the town of Pauillac, it\u2019s no surprise that Fonbadet makes powerful wines, especially in recent vintages. Yet, everything is traditional.\r\n\r\n\u201cMy aim is to get the highest level of maturity from the grapes,\u201d she says. \u201cWe have old vines, so we can get the concentration. Then I pick up my artist\u2019s palette and make the blend. I see a harmony of colors, so that I can make a beautiful painting.\u201d\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Fonbadet 2015 Pauillac; $40, 93 points. This wine comes from a 50-acre crus bourgeois estate in the middle of some of the greatest crus class\u00e9s estates. The terroir is impressive and produces a rich, structured wine with good concentration, ripe tannins and a sumptuous bed of black fruits. The wine is likely to age well; drink from 2025. Aqui\u00adtaine Wine Company. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\n\r\nClos la Boh\u00e8me, Haut-M\u00e9doc\r\nChristine Nadali\u00e9 has one big advantage when she shops for barrels: She\u2019s in charge of sales at her family\u2019s cooperage, La Tonnellerie Nadali\u00e9. It\u2019s just down the road from her bijou estate of Clos la Boh\u00e8me.\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen I want to buy barrels, I just negotiate with myself,\u201d she says with a smile.\r\n\r\nNadali\u00e9 is a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon. \u201cAs soon as I took over what was my grandmother\u2019s vineyard, I decided to replace some of the Merlot with Cabernet,\u201d she says. According to her, climate change seemed to benefit the richness of the Cabernet Sauvignon and made Merlot too ripe in the M\u00e9doc.\r\n\r\nShe first learned to love Cabernet while working at Duckhorn Vineyards and Inglenook\u00ad in Napa Valley. She especially appreciated the grape\u2019s richness.\r\n\r\nOwner: Nadali\u00e9 family\r\nVineyard: 8.6 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot\r\nProduction: 750 cases\r\n\r\n\u201cI was also impressed by the scientific approach,\u201d says Nadali\u00e9, who believes she sharpened her winemaking skills in California. \u201cWe can\u2019t get the richness of a Napa Cab in Bordeaux, so what I aim for is elegance in my wine.\u201d\r\n\r\nClos la Boh\u00e8me\u2019s vineyard is organic. \u201c[It] makes you understand the place better, the vines and the environment,\u201d says Nadali\u00e9. It\u2019s all part of her fascination with wine production, from planting the vine to selling the bottle.\r\n\r\n\u201cThere\u2019s no business quite like it.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe future of this jewel is assured: Her son, Benjamin, is studying oenology.\r\n\r\nClos la Boh\u00e8me 2015 Haut-M\u00e9doc; $40, 90 points. This wine comes from a seven-acre property in the south of the Haut-M\u00e9doc. Well textured, ripe with black fruits and firm with tannins, this is quite an enjoyable wine. It will develop into a beautiful, rich wine. Drink from 2024. Chartrand Imports.\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Les Ormes Sorbet, M\u00e9doc\r\nThere have been 10 generations of the Boivert family at Ch\u00e2teau Les Ormes Sorbet. Today, it\u2019s run by H\u00e9l\u00e8ne Boivert and her sons, Vincent and Fran\u00e7ois. The family house is a three-story building that overlooks the flat land of the M\u00e9doc, once surrounded by the elm trees that gave the estate its name.\r\n\r\nCabernet is king here, unusual in an area where Merlot dominates. The limestone outcrop that forms the bedrock of the estate\u2019s vineyards seems better suited to Cabernet than Merlot.\r\n\r\nOwner: Boivert family\r\nVineyard: 49 acres\r\nGrapes Planted: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot\r\nProduction: 3,300 cases\r\n\r\nThis used to mean that the chateau\u2019s wines were austere and firmly structured initially. Since 2010, however, the winery has adopted a more open style, and recent vintages are increasingly accessible in their youth.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Les Ormes Sorbet 2015 M\u00e9doc; $30, 92 points. This is a beautifully balanced, rich wine. A core of fine tannins is surrounded by ripe blackberry fruits. The wine seems accessible now, but those tannins will allow it to age well. It will be better to wait until 2022. B&Bs French Wine Club.