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Bordeaux' Dry Sweet Spot

It would be a bit of a misstatement to say that Crus Bourgeois du Medoc have a “sweet spot,” as Bordeaux’ Left Bank is best known for its food-friendly dry reds.  So, let’s just say that Crus Bourgeois have several great “dry spots:”


If I were a sommelier looking for affordable classic reds for my wine list that have well-regarded places of birth – Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Estèphe or even Moulis and Listrac-Medoc, I would have my distributors pulling corks on a batch of Crus Bourgeois for me to sample.


If I were a young man or woman with great tastes and modest means looking to start a wine cellar, I would begin with Crus Bourgeois.  There are few red wines that age as well Left Bank Bordeaux, and I still pull 20-to-30 year old “petit châteaux” from my cellar that cost me little but reward me greatly every time I want a wine for a steak or a plate of red pasta.


If I were a person who had a few Lafites or Haut-Brions in my cellar for special occasions (or display purposes whenever friends drop by), I would be drinking Crus Bourgeois as my everyday wines.  In spite of their ageability, most have been made with mild, supple tannins that will allow them to be drunk with great pleasure within the years immediately after their release.


Great classified Bordeaux are arguably the world’s best red wines as a class, so it is not surprising that their prices make the headlines and serve as barometers on the state of the world economy, the political health of China and the gap between the incomes of the 1% and the 99%.  Frankly, I have little interest in arguing about whether First-Growth owners are greedy people with death wishes or shrewd economic oracles.  There are consumers out there, folks, who want to pay astronomical prices, whether their bottles turn out to faux or auction-worthy, so who am I to try to “protect” their interests?


The real fun of Bordeaux is looking for almost-great wines in the economy bins of wine shops. Recently, I attended a tasting event at the University Club in New York featuring 40 châteaux of the 260 producers who are official Crus Bourgeois du Medoc members pouring their wines. 


(Parenthetically, the club itself is an amusing place to visit and should perhaps be on the city’s museum tour.  Where else can you see businessmen in bespoke suits huddled in the club’s phone booths – whose hard-wired sets are virtual relics – furtively talking on their cell phones, which are forbidden in the club’s lounge and “public” private places?  And don’t try to buy a drink.  But I digress.)


In spite of these frosty surroundings, it was fascinating to taste among the 40 offerings of recent vintages, mostly poured by their proprietors.  There were a few Merlot-based wines, but most were Cab-heavy and carried a similarity of taste while offering enough variety to make the tour interesting – differing degrees of tannin, fruit, savory characteristics or not and elegance versus rough edges.


Finally, it was gratifying to see the event sponsored by the well-regarded Commanderie de Bordeaux, which usually is pouring at the other end of the spectrum.  The Commanderie’s participation is further recognition that while the First Growths are the rising tide that raises all ships, the bulk of the cargo in those ships is Crus Bourgeois.

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