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Tannic Panic! Issue #22: All Bordeaux & No Pretentious Chateaux
Zach Reviews 2 Bottles Punching Above Their Weight Class
HERE’S THE DEAL: Cru Bourgeois red wines from Bordeaux are pretty much your wallet's best friend in the under $20 wine world. The term "Cru Bourgeois" translates to "Bourgeois Growth" or "Middle-Class Growth," and it historically referred to vineyards and wineries that were not classified as part of the prestigious Bordeaux Classification of 1855, which ranked the top châteaux in the region, including famous "First Growths" like Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Margaux (which often sell for more than $1000).
The Cru Bourgeois classification process involved a selection of individual estates that met specific quality criteria, with a particular focus on the wines of the Médoc region of Bordeaux. Cru Bourgeois wines come from different spots within Bordeaux's Médoc region and are typically blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and in very rare instances (like this one!) even a dollop of the humble and under-appreciated Carménère (Bordeaux’s lost grape that Chile decided to go ahead and commandeer).
Our first wine for you today is one such Cru Bourgeois, so let’s dive into the juice.
2015 Chateau l’Argenteyre Cru Bourgeois, Médoc, Bordeaux / 92 Points / $12
Profile: Blackcurrant, black plum, cedar, wet stones, tomato paste, Asian spices, forest floor, tobacco
A well balanced wine, with great structure and a long finish. Lots of layers to the profile, black fruits, herbs, spices, even hints of NATURE ITSELF.
This goes for $12 at Wegman’s wine & liquor store, showing mind-boggling complexity for a somewhat aged Bordeaux from the great 2015 vintage at this unrealistic price point. If you can get it, GET IT.
…Our second bottle hails from Saint-Estèphe.
Saint-Estèphe is an esteemed commune appellation in Bordeaux's humble Médoc region on the left bank of the Gironde River (for whoever cares). The red wines of St. Estephe are known for their deep dark color, aromatic complexity, and firm tannic structure. The wines are typically led by Cabernet Sauvignon, but this wine has an uncharacteristically high proportion of f*cking merlot (the good kind!).
Profile: Blackcurrant, blackberry paste, black plums, figs, cedar, crushed rocks, dark chocolate fudge, ballpoint pen ink, dried violets
This is a very modern and ripe style of Bordeaux with huge extraction of color, black fruit and tannin, yet sufficiently well-structured for long term aging. This is an absolute beast of a Bordeaux. It features notes of blackcurrant, blackberry paste, black plums, figs, cedar, crushed rocks, dark chocolate fudge, ballpoint pen ink (the GOOD KIND!), and dried violets.
The 2018 Tronquoy Lalande is widely accessible (unlike me!) and offers an amazing value in the under $40 category for premium red Bordeaux. You can find this bottle all over this place — I found it for $35 at Wegman’s — but if you can’t source it at a grocery store near you, get it online at Total Wine for $45; a little less of a steal than the deal I got at Wegman’s, but you can get it down to $40 if you do the right thing and capitalize on their 6 bottle mix-n-match deal.
HOPE YOU’RE THIRSTY.
If you couldn’t tell by the near incessant writing about it, we love Bordeaux (AND YOU DO TOO, WHETHER YOU LIKE OR NOT).
I am on my arthritic little knees begging you to go out and try these WONDERFUL bottles.
Until next time — E. Pluribus Unum,
Zach & Isaac
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