Tim Atkin\’s 10 Most Underrated Bordeaux Chateaux

This entry was posted on August 19, 2013 by Nick Cheremeteff.

A Ma

ster of Wine looks beyond the blue-chip estates.

How many châteaux can you name in Bordeaux? Even the most passionate consumer of the region’s wines would surely start to run out of suggestions somewhere around the 120 mark. Take the 61 properties in the 1855 classification, add a few more from the Right Bank, Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes and then what? Unless you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the area’s petits châteaux, I reckon you’d be stumped. I certainly would.

But guess what? At a rough estimate (no one seems to have a precise figure), there are something like 8,000 châteaux in Bordeaux. The name is slightly misleading, as it covers everything from a tatty warehouse in the middle of a field to the palatial glory of Château Margaux, but you get the point. Bordeaux is a large region, most of whose producers are struggling to sell their wines. For every Lafite Rothschild (the estate was valued by Liv-ex at 3.7 billion euros/$71bn in 2011), there are thousands of châteaux that are on their uppers.

Most consumer and media attention is focused on the 50 or so properties at the top of the pile. These are the names that drive the en primeur, auction and fine-wine markets, effectively dividing Bordeaux into two camps: the haves and have-nots. And yet even among the leading names, there are different hues among the blue-chip châteaux. The first growths, super seconds, and leading Pomerols and St.-Émilions are first among equals.

I don’t need to tell you that the majority of these wines are very expensive, even in supposed “bargain” vintages like 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012. Indeed, you could argue that they are traded (or purchased as investments) more often than they are drunk. As recently as 2000, these were comparatively affordable. Now they are luxury brands. We may complain about the prices, but it’s a simple question of supply and demand. The one consistently outpaces the other.

This raises a more interesting question. Are there still bargains to be found in Bordeaux? I believe there are, even among the classed growths: wines that deliver more bang for your bucks, yen, dollars or euros. What do I mean by a bargain? Well, good value is not the same thing as cheap, obviously; otherwise we’d all be drinking Bordeaux Rouge. These are 10 châteaux that, in my opinion at least, are under-priced. At least for now…

Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $60

Sometimes seen as the poor relation of the Mouton-Rothschild clan, this Pauillac fifth growth can taste like a mini-Mouton in good vintages, albeit a little less concentrated. It’s enjoying a rich run of form right now.

Château Calon-Ségur, St Estèphe

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $115

The château may have changed hands following the death of the redoubtable Mme Capbern-Gasqueton, but under talented cellar master Vincent Millet it continues to produce the most aromatic and polished of St Estèphes.

Château Feytit-Clinet, Pomerol

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $84

Since Jeremy Chasseuil took over this small family property in 2000 it has been making increasingly impressive wines: richer, oakier and denser. At less than a quarter of the price of its neighbor, L’Eglise-Clinet, this is a steal.

Château Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $109

Essence of refined, yet concentrated Pauillac, this is a wine for people who appreciate classic, drinking claret. Unflashy and consistently excellent, François-Xavier’s fifth-growth property deserves to be much better known.

Château Teyssier, St.-Émilion

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $29

As any self-respecting garagiste should do, Englishman Jonathan Maltus makes smaller quantities of much more expensive wines, but this is his bread and butter, as it were. It’s consistently one of the most enjoyable St.-Émilions around.

Château Olivier, Pessac-Léognan

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $34 (red); $39 (white)

There aren’t many properties in Bordeaux that make a red and a dry white to the same high standard (Haut-Brion, La Mission, Domaine de Chevalier and Smith-Haut-Lafitte are the others). These wines have been on a roll since 2004.

Château Potensac, Médoc

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $29

Owned by Jean-Hubert Delon of Château Léoville-Las-Cases, this cabernet-based blend would not look out of place in a line up of crus classés. Despite its lowly appellation, it often confounds experts in blind tastings and ages well, too.

Château Poujeaux, Moulis

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $36

Always in the top rank of crus bourgeois, this wine has got even better since Philippe Cuvelier of Clos Fourtet in St.-Émilion acquired the château in 2008. It has none of the occasional rusticity of Moulis.

Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $88 (red); $116 (white)

The white wine from this brilliant property is rightly recognised as one of Bordeaux’s best, but the red is every bit as good. This is a classic red Graves: balanced and built to last, rather than showy and overoaked.

Château Les Cruzelles, Lalande de Pomerol

2010 bottle price excl. sales tax: $40

Denis Durantou of Château L’Eglise-Clinet says that he makes this Lalande de Pomerol with just as much care as his celebrated Pomerol. It has plumpness, sweet fruit, subtle oak and haunting perfume. Merlot time!

Originally published at www.moncharm.co.uk on August 19, 2013.

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