I wonder what you think about bordeaux these days – if you think about it at all, that is. Do you feel you know anything about it? And is it affordable, or out of your reach?
I must confess it’s not a wine I buy with any regularity, but when I do taste it, I’m frequently more impressed than I expect to be. This is partly down to the last few vintages, (2019, 18, 16 and 15 were all good), partly to improved winemaking, and also to the sheer volume of production, which keeps it affordable – 44% of of the region’s entire output is now classified as basic bordeaux or bordeaux supérieur.
In fact, like the French, who tend to drink it younger than we do, I often find inexpensive, unoaked bordeaux more appealing than the mid-priced famous names. “I think it’s tough to find good bordeaux at under £10, but it’s definitely possible if you are looking for immediate drinking,” says Jane Anson, author of the recently published Inside Bordeaux (£60), a magisterial work you should definitely persuade someone to give you if you’re a fan of the region or want to educate yourself about it. “My advice would be not to buy wines from retailers who claim they will get better in bottle if you are buying at that price level.” (In my view, the same goes for older vintages: there are, for example, a lot of bottles knocking around from the 2011 and 2012 vintages that have seen better days. Older is not invariably better.)
Good supermarket hunting grounds for under-£10 bordeaux are the Co-op and Marks & Spencer. How do they do it? “Long-standing relationships,” explains Ben Cahill, who buys bordeaux for the Co-op and who, unlike many supermarket wine buyers. has been in the job for 10 years. The store’s best-selling Vieux Manoir, for example, starts at just £7, while the Castillon below is worth the extra two quid.
Bordeaux is still the bedrock, too, for the member-owned Wine Society, accounting for 28% by value of all the French wine it sells, which in turn makes up half the society’s total wine sales. Impressively, 20% of the bordeaux it sells is less than £8. As you might expect, the over-55s are the main market for that, but we would all do well to take a leaf out of their book, and turn to bordeaux for our everyday drinking, rather than just to impress our friends.
Five bordeaux bargains for under £10
Fleur de Moussas Médoc 2018 £8 Marks & Spencer, 13%. Really appealing, youthful, fruity style that would be great with a plate of charcuterie. Impressive to find médoc at this price.
Château Joanin Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2018 £9 Co-op, 13%. Smooth and supple: a modern style of claret from an appellation just next door to Saint-Emilion. Good for first-time bordeaux drinkers.
Château Le Bédat 2019 £7.50 The Wine Society, 14%. A rich, dark, damsony red that would suit rustic south-west French food such as confit duck and beans.
Château Les Martins 2016 £9.99 Waitrose, 13.5%. Annoyingly just off a 20% discount, but this nicely mature bordeaux is drinking perfectly now (so don’t hang on to it) and is still a good buy. And there’ll always be other promotions.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com