An exceptional Bordeaux at a reasonable price

These wines, although pricey, are the best at getting the best of the soil, sun and rain every time
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These wines, although pricey, are the best at getting the best of the soil, sun and rain every time
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PuygueraudIn my last post, I wrote about assembling a vertical selection wine from different vintages but the same winery, in order to explore how wine changes from year to year. I’ve chosen France’s Bordeaux region because its best producers are masters at capturing the unique taste of the soil, sun and rain for each particular vineyard on each slice of hillside. Sounds perfect for a vertical – except for one thing.

Have you ever wandered into the Vintages section of some LCBO stores and noticed the French wines that ominously have no price attached to them? Most of them are Bordeaux. These wines are so expensive that if you need to know how much they cost, you are incapable of affording them. And that’s the problem with this region: it’s too damn pricey for the best specimens. Unless you do a little research…

Bordeaux is carved into 57 separate sub-regions, each a microclimate distinguished from its neighbour by its position in the folds of the river, its facing to the sun, its geological paternity and the grape varieties that flourish on its soil. Some of these regions are famous (and therefore outrageously expensive) but others are a little more discrete.

For instance, St. Emilion is justly eminent, but right next door is a less well known region, the Bordeaux Cotes de Francs. Cotes de Francs is small but up and coming. It has only slightly more acreage than Central Park, and because of its diminutive size and distance from the river, rarely appears in any of wine literature. The top wine in St. Emilion is perhaps Cheval Blanc. It comes in somewhere north of $1000 per bottle in a good year. On the other hand, according to a number of critics (such as Oz Clarke and Jancis Robinson), the very best wine in Cotes de Francs is from Chateau Puygueraud, and costs $26.00.

I do not want to claim that Puygueraud (rated 88-91 points, Wine Spectator 2005) is as good as the transcendent Cheval Blanc (rated 95-100 points). But the extra 7 or 8 points for the Cheval will cost you about $150 per point. That doesn’t just break the law of diminishing returns – it reduces it to ash.

Puygueraud is full of fruit, complex and luscious. It is a true Bordeaux. Next week, I’ll discuss how to find Chateau Puygueraud by buying into Bordeaux futures. Trust me; it’s easier than it sounds.


Matthew Sullivan is a lawyer with the Department of Justice in Toronto. He writes a weekly blog entry here on lawandstyle.ca. The Short Cellar column appears in the print edition of Precedent.  Matthew can be reached at matthew@lawandstyle.beta-site.ca.