White and red, Bordeaux bargains abound. Here are 12 elegant, affordable picks.
RAY ISLE October 09, 2018
French wine for Thanksgiving? Sacrilege! Why not drink something all-American, like Zinfandel … oh wait, that probably has its origins in Croatia, where it’s known as Crljenak Kaštelanski.
The truth is, almost all of the wine we drink comes from Vitis vinifera grapes—Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, pretty much any grape you know—which originally came to us from Europe.
But then why suggest Bordeaux, the haughtiest, snootiest, priciest wine out there? Short answer: because it isn’t. Most people hear the word Bordeaux and think of grand châteaus and equally grand wines—the multi-hundred-dollar Moutons, Haut-Brions, and Pétruses (Pétri?) of the world.
But Bordeaux is home to more than 6,000 producers, and it’s actually far easier to find a good, under-$30 Cabernet- or Merlot-based wine from Bordeaux right now than from Napa Valley, where prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Affordable red Bordeaux tends to be less overtly fruity than California Cabernet, more savory, with autumnal red- and black-currant flavors bolstered by dry-leaf tannins. White Bordeaux, red’s overlooked sibling, is a great Thanksgiving option, too: Typically made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes, these wines feature bright citrus flavors and vivacious acidity, often accented by light vanilla-oak notes.
The other virtue of Bordeaux? Because of its slightly skewed reputation, you can tell your family you paid $90 a bottle when you really paid $20, and they’ll actually believe you. Just make sure you take away your annoying cousin Bob’s phone before he starts trying to look up whether you’re wrong. (You know, the way he always does, about everything.)
Top White Wines
2017 Château La Rame Sauvignon Blanc Sec ($15) This bright, zesty Sauvignon Blanc–dominated white from the underrated Sainte-Croix-du-Mont appellation is full of fresh grapefruit notes and offers impressively concentrated flavors despite its modest price.
Top Red Wines
2016 Château La Fleur Garderose Bordeaux Rouge ($24) Organic grapes, natural yeasts, and minimal sulfur push this earthy Bordeaux to the edge of the natural wine movement but not so far that it becomes weirdly funky. Instead, its vibrant fruit is impossible to resist.
2014 Château Auney L’Hermitage ($26) Leafy tobacco and black peppercorn are the savory aspects that define this appealingly old-school red, which comes from a family-owned estate in Bordeaux’s Graves region.