Looking for flavor that won’t break the bank? Bordeaux wines mix taste, value

There is an old saying among wine enthusiasts: “The more you drink wine, the more you gravitate toward the French.”

And if you haven’t heard that one, certainly you’ve read and heard people talk about expensive French Bordeaux wines.

The 2010 Chateaux Margaux sells for about $1,000 a bottle. I found it for a paltry $985.

Since the worldwide economic downturn five years ago, you may have even read Bordeaux winemakers and marketers have tried to sell U.S. consumers on the idea of affordable second- and third-label Bordeaux wines.

As the market for those $1,000 wines softened, Bordeaux’s winemakers realized there was money to be made in countries that had, to some degree, turned their backs on the expensive and often snooty French production houses.

When I visited Bordeaux in 2012, the buzz was about marketing and tourism in the lesser-known estates. Bordeaux has embraced marketing and created a “Today’s Bordeaux” campaign that features 100 wines at a price point between $9 and $55.

The campaign is in its eighth year but has taken a higher profile in the U.S. in the past 12 months.

“Today’s Bordeaux brings together wines that are meant to be enjoyed during every occasion — and these value wines can be enjoyed by wine aficionados and novices every day or when they are entertaining their nearest and dearest during the holidays.

The program is a proud reflection of Bordeaux’s diverse terroir and vibrant and distinct appellations,” as stated in a Creative Feed release. The New York firm is marketing the campaign in the United States.

The campaign is targeted in the Northeast, West and, interestingly, Florida, Texas and the Midwest, particularly Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.

The wines were selected by a panel of nine judges featuring wine educators, buyers, sommeliers and wine press.

The real value in Bordeaux

wines is Saint Emilion. Of course you can find good prices on other Bordeaux, but Saint Emilion offers beautiful wines at a wide price range. These wines are always Merlot driven with other grapes added to balance the flavor profile. They tend to be round and full bodied. And if you haven’t enjoyed the French Merlot-driven wines, just forget everything you know about Merlot.

Merlot from France’s famed right bank of the Gironde River is extraordinarily rich, spicy and smooth. Many of the wines can be consumed immediately or cellared for a long time.

Ask you retailer about “Today’s Bordeaux” and seek out a few recommendations. The wines range from $9-$55.

Howard’s picks:

Chateau Lyonnat 2009, price range: $20-$29: Pure Saint Emilion with 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet. The finish wasn’t particularly long on this wine, but it would be good as a sipper or a light meal.

Chateau Phelan Segur 2010, price range: $20-$29: This was certainly a much bigger wine as one would expect from the left bank. It was a 51-49 blend of Cabernet-Merlot with big flavor, noticeable oak and a longer finish.

Chateau Recougne, 2009, price range: $10-$19: This is a Bordeaux Superior, which is the largest classification in Bordeaux and produces 55 percent of all the Bordeaux consumed around the globe. The wines are often quite a bargain. This particular wine certainly had a fresh palate from its 75 percent Merlot, 15 percent Cabernet and 10 percent Cabernet Franc blend. This one has been honored numerous times in French wine competitions for its price point.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for 23 Midwestern newspapers. See his frequently updated blog at www.redforme.blogspot.com.