Classic Bordeaux That Won’t Break the Bank

A wise man once said that before one can understand anything properly, one has to learn how to love it. For me, this holds true with both wine and women. It seems that the bulk of my time is spent with the pleasurable task of trying to understand the qualities and complexities of wine and women. Perhaps that is how I found myself hosting a Friday evening wine class with six charming Ukrainian women.

For this evening’s tasting we will be covering some classic French Bordeaux. What makes the wines I have selected so special? Not just because they are wines of quality and distinction, the wines we will be tasting won’t break your bank.

Many of the notable red wines produced in Bordeaux are actually blends of different grape varieties. Why blend? Many wine makers are attempting to produce wines that are more rich in flavor and enhance the wine’s overall profile. The goal of most vintners is to produce noble wines that are distinctive of the region. For the French, wine making is all about terroir (the unique characteristics of the local geography). The three grape varietals that are most widely planted in Bordeaux are, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the vintner’s dream. In many aspects, this varietal can reflect the desires and personality of the winemaker, while maintaining familiar flavors that are expressive of the variety. Since Cabernet Sauvignon takes a bit longer to reach maturation, allowing their flavors to mellow, it is ideal for blending with other grapes. When blended with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon softens, and adds appealing fruit tones without sacrificing its innate character. Cabernet Franc adds to the seductive allure of a Bordeaux Blend by enhancing the bouquet. The resulting wine is more aromatic and fragrant. Wines that are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon are primarily produced in the sub-regions Graves, Medoc, Saint Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux, Saint Julien, and Sauternes. These areas lie on the left side of the Gironde River, hence the term “Left Bank.”

2010 PauillacWines produced in the appellations of Saint-Emilion, Fronsac, and Pomerol are renown “Right Bank” wines. They contain very little Cabernet Sauvignon, and make avail of Cabernet Franc. These wines tend to have greater fruit concentration and softer tannins. It is also somewhat popular to blend with varying amounts of Petit Verdot.

Our first selection, Chateau Grand Pulay Ducasse Paulliac 2010 is 60% Cabernet Sauvigion and 40% Merlot. In the glass, it is a deep purple in color. On the nose, the aromas are of intense fruit, with subtle hints of of licorice and spices. On the palate, the texture is subtle with loads of cassis fruit. This is a succulent wine that is both seductive and elegant. It can be enjoyed now or cellared for another 15 plus years. Definitely a must buy at only $55.

“Mmm,” Iryna’s face filled with a smile. “I loved the oodles of cassis.”

” I also found notes of white chocolate,” Nadiya was quick to add.

Lena quietly swirled her glass then drew a deep breath. “I also found hints of mocha.”

“This is a stylish and finely structured wine.” Zhenya said with calm finality.

Our next selection, La Grave Pomerol 2009 is a most inviting wine. In the glass, it is a deep ruby purple. On the nose, the bouquet is a compeling array of aromas. It is filled with red cherry, raspberry, minerals, spice, and cake. On the palate, this full-bodied wine is opulent with velvety tannins and juicy fruit. The finish is long and well textured. Ready to drink now, the bottle price of only $65 makes it feasible to stock your cellar. La Grave Pomerol

“I love the depth of color,” Iryna paused to collect her thoughts. “At first sight, I felt that something special was about to happen.”

“The bouquet was inviting,” Zhenya smiled softly. “It is generously filled with ripe fruit.”

“I also found the subtle scent of sweet tobacco.” Nadiya was quick to add.

“Simply a delicious wine,” Galya said flatly. “I especially liked the flavors of fig and fresh baked cake.”

“That’s it,” Ilona chuckled softly. “The fresh baked cake was calling to me.”

“A delicious wine indeed,” Lena nodded approvingly.

2006 Beau Sejeur BecotUp next, a Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot Saint-Emillion Premier Grand Cru Classes 2006. The Becot family is dedicated to quality and this wine is representative of their efforts. It is a blend of 70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. In the glass, it is deep purple, striated by purple hues. The nose is filled with sweet fruit aromas of black currant and black cherry. There are also pleasing hints of graphite and charcoal. On the palate, it is full-bodied, with generous amounts of fruit. This nicely concentrated wine finishes long, and filled with ripe fruit. Once again, the Becot family has produced a wine that is indicative of Saint-Emilion. The bottle price is $65 and the ready is ready to drink now and up to 2025.

“I love the wine’s deep ruby color.” Galya was first to speak.

“I especially liked hints of graphite and charcoal.” Ilona said softly as she savored her wine.

“Agreed,” Nadiya gave a quick nod. “There is a nice smokiness.”

“This is a well-structured wine with god tannins,” Lena remarked.

Iryna nodded in agreement. “Definitely opens up beyond its youthfulness.”

“This is why I like French wines,” Zhenya sighed happily.

Our last selection, Château Rauzan-Segla Grand Cru Classe Margaux 2004, is the most expensive of the wine we selected, but well worth the price. In the glass the wine is ruby red and welcoming. The bouquet is laced with the soft aromas of blackberry and vanilla. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine showed polished tannins giving an overall silky mouthfeel. The flavors of black currant enticed into a delightful and memorable finish. Ready to drink now, the half-bottle price is afordable at $65. 2004 Margaux

“Good wood balance.” Iryna was the first to comment.

“I liked the wine’s lightness.” Ilona saluted with her glass.

“Very pleasant to drink.” Lena added with a soft smile.

“Good fruit.” both Galya and Nadiya chimed in harmony.

“A very polished wine that should be added to every cellar.” Zhenya concluded matter-of-factly.

Bordeaux, just the name conjures up all sorts of extraordinary wine expectations. In the future we will continue to explore the priceless wines from the Gironda sub-region.

“But that my friends, is another story … “

Comments (14)


  1. Tim says:

    An excellent selection of Bordeaux and La Grave Pomerol is one of my favorite wines. It is complex with good fruit and a wonderful finish.

  2. Karina says:

    Bordeaux blends are the creme de LA creme. Of the wines you reviewed my particular favorite would be the Chateau Grand Pulay Ducasse Paulliac. I like the subtle succulence of the wine and drink it regularly.

  3. Daniel says:

    I know you are a Californian and I mean no offense but French Bordeaux is the best. I hope you do more reviews on these fine wines. For anyone who doubts the quality of Bordeaux, the Chateau Rauzan-Segla Grand Cru Classe Margaux 2004 wil make you a true believer.

  4. Lino says:

    The Château Grand Pulay Ducasse Paulliac is a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wine. Not only is the aroma fruit filled, the palate has generous amounts of ripe fruit and nicely balanced. You have picked a wine that is very popular in France.

  5. Elena says:

    Very informative. I know nothing of French wines. I look forward to trying these. Just curioud, do you speak French? The names are so diffucult.

  6. Christian says:

    Bordeaux has definitely masterd the art of blending wines. I would also add that Italy makes some exciting blends. I like their Super Tuscans, especially those that are Sangiovase based. In California, your Meritage wines are very interesting and enjoyable to drink.

  7. Michael says:

    I’m a big fan of Bordeaux wines of the wines you reviewed I like the Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot Saint-Emillion Premier Grand Cru Classes. I especially like the fruit concentration.

  8. Richard says:

    I learned a lot from this article. I am not all that familiar with French wines. I tend to stay with Italian. I have just started playing around with French Burgundy so I hope you review some of their wines.

  9. Raul says:

    La Grave produces some very fine wines. Pomerol is definitely my favorite. The 2009 has good fruit and minerality.

  10. Yves says:

    It is always nice to hear when a foreigner truly appreciates our wines, especially when he is a Californian. I hope you also review wines from our lesser known regions like Languedoc. I am from this area and we are now producing some lovely wines for the international market.

  11. Beatrice says:

    It is always nice to read your column, especially when you promote French wines. I liked the piece you did on Super Tuscans and I hope you do a follow up. Recently I have begun experimenting with these wines. I was reading the comments and I have no idea what is an American Mertage blend.

  12. Timi says:

    La Grave Pomerol is one of my favorite wines. Everything from the depth of color, inviting boquet suggests an opulent and delicious wine that I would whole-heartedly tecommend.

  13. Lari says:

    I am fairly new to wine so I did not realize how different one type of wine can be from region to region and country to country. This blog is so helpful in explaining all of these facets in wine. You all cover such a wide array of topics and wines. Mr. Alonzo, I envy your lifestyle. Will you cover Russian wines in the future. We actually do grow wine in the Sochi region.

  14. Gregory Alonzo says:

    Thanks for your comments and questions. Unfortunately, I speak only a smattering of French. The names can be difficult and lengthy, but well worth it. As for Langedoc, some wonderful wines are coming into the USA from this region. Check out Jenny and Francois’ catalog, they have some very nice wines from Languedoc. When it comes to American Meritage wines, I am by no means the expert. My friend and colleague, Rusty Sly and I have had some intersting conversations on Meritage wines. The name itself is quite interesting. The word “Meritage” comes from Merit and heritage. Many American winemakers had become frustrated with varietal labeling requirements, and this was an attempt to curb limitations. Perhaps an interesting topic to cover in more depth, and I will discuss this with Eve. As for Russian wines from the Anapa/Sochi region, I have been there. Unfortunately, I do not visit Russia as often as I once did. I have a friend from the UK, James Brown. He is an English journalist working in Moscow. James recently did a piece on these wines. I found it most interesting that many French winemakers have been employed by Russian wineries. Feel free to contact me direct and I’ll put you in contact with James.

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