On the Trail

In Search of Bordeaux Value

David Driscoll

Despite the fact we're on 2012 at this point, we're still feasting on the incredible 2009 Bordeaux vintage—a harvest that produced wines of remarkable quality from the highest of the high-end all the way down to the everyday value drinkers. In fact, the year was so good in the Mèdoc and so bountiful that it's made moving on to overachieving vintages like 2012 difficult to do. With six years of bottle age at this point, some of the second and third wines of the major producers are really starting to come into their own and are still available on the market. Personally, I thought I had put enough of these über-value wines away in storage, yet I still find myself grabbing odds and ends from recent deliveries. First there was the 2009 La Parde de Haut-Bailly from the eponymous château of high-esteem. That wine knocked my socks off, as it did with about 10,000 of our other Bordeaux customers who swarmed on the available inventory. Then there was the 2009 Gressier-Grand-Poujeaux from the folks over at Chasse Spleen—an absolutely sensual wine for about twenty bucks with incredible depth and concentration. The absolute best deal of these '09 overachievers, however, was the 2009 Tronquoy de St. Anne—the second wine of Tronquoy-Lalande. The St. Estephe property taken over by second-growth Montrose and crafted into something truly spectacular. All for $16.99, mind you.

When our Bordeaux team tasted through samples from this year's visit to the region, the 2009 Tronquoy de St. Anne was one of the clear standouts and the gang did their darnedest to secure inventory applicable to what our rabid K&L customers would need. You would think our senior staff would be most jazzed about tasting first-growths and other prestigious cuvées while traveling through the region, but today the guys seem more focused on the price performers. "Today you can get great Bordeaux for $20-$30, and there are so many small producers making excellent wines," our Bordeaux specialist Ralph Sands told me the other day. "That's what I'm filling my cellar with," he added. Not only are the value wines from Bordeaux better that they've ever been, but they're more approachable in their youth. Many of them don't need much maturity, which marks a huge change from the hugely-tannic wines of the past. 

During this past year's visit to Château Montrose our guys spent their time breaking down the complexities of the 2014 estate wine. Hopefully during next year's trip to Château Montrose in St. Estephe the owners won't be insulted when most of our questions have to do with their lovely little property across the street—the Tronquoy Lalande estate with its precocious St. Anne cuvée. We're already planning our visits for April when the team (me included this time around) heads back on the road to taste the heralded 2015 harvest—a vintage already being compared to 2009. Knowing how well we've done with some of the value-based selections, don't be surprised if we spend most of our time tasting through the second and third wines from these various chateaux, rather than the big brands that usually take up most of our attention. 

-David Driscoll