Will it become a new trend in Bordeaux? A famous chateau in Pomerol creates a delicious wine without a fancy name, or appellation, for a very affordable price.
Recently, at a time of budgetary constraints, increased prices partially due to Trump’s new tarifs on French wines and cheeses, I have been drinking more Côtes du Rhône and Languedoc wines than Bordeaux. I could find very decent ones for less than 8 dollars a bottle, especially at Trader Joe’s. But I was longing to be able to renew my 50 years old love affair with Bordeaux wines. So I started to systematically read newspapers ads, and articles in specialized wine magazines, searching for potential bargains and specials for affordable drinkable “every day” Bordeaux. My father was a BDX drinker, my brothers and sister too. I have been myself an addict to the wines of that whole region since 1959.
Since we moved to Chicago from Paris, I explored most independent wine shops that offered a reasonably well chosen selection of Bordeaux, since generally chains of grocery stores did not offer such selections. The best wine merchants when I arrived in Chicago in 1970 were House of Glunz, whose ancestors established themselves as a beer and wine retailer in 1888, Schaefer’s in Skokie, founded in 1936, and Zimmerman’s. Glunz had, and still has, a very good selection of good Bordeaux and Bourgognes. Over the years I also established personal contacts with several importers and distributors of French wines who brought small but very interesting Bordeaux that would be retailed in the Chicago area for less than 12 or 13 dollars.
But it was only when a family-owned chain of liquor stores, called Gold Standard Liquors (created in 1948 by Harold Binstein who I met a few times), expanded to 12 stores in 1995, that I started to find a wider choice of decent Bordeaux at reasonable prices. The chain nowadays, called Binny’s Beverage Depot, is comprised of 44 stores all over the state of Illinois, including 7 in the city of Chicago and 32 in the suburbs. It is the largest retailer in the Midwest of the United States. The bigger ones sell more Bordeaux that you would fine in any French supermarket or “caviste”.
My search is always based on 5 parameters: Zone of Production, Terroir and Vintage year, Price-Quality ratio, good Reviews in France and the U.S, wine Bottled by the winery not a distributor or bottler.
The name of the wine does not necessarily implies that it was produced by a well-known winery. In fact, I am always excited when I find a Bordeaux from “secondary zones of production”, for example “Côtes de Bordeaux”, made by serious or up and coming small wineries. It is a plus if it offers a great value for under $12.00
For special occasions, such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter, or New Year’s eve, I usually look for a special treat, meaning a Bordeaux costing between 15.00 and 35.00 dollars.
In this range I recently found some great ones at Binny’s, for very decent prices such as a “Moulin d’Issan” 2018, a Bordeaux Supérieur from the famous domaine of Chateau d’Issan in Margaux for $15.99. It has become my regular “medium priced” treat. In fact this wine is one of the best pleasant Bordeaux I tasted over the last 2 years. Very smooth provides a good balance of fruit and acidity. The nice freshness of the dominant Merlot grape and the aromatic nose of blackberry is a plus. But I loved the good equilibrium of cassis and subtile oak. This is a very sensual wine.
My biggest discovery of 2020 was a red wine called RONAN by CLINET 2016. Yes, this wine is made by the same team of oenologists and wine makers that produces the famous Château CLINET, one of my favorites POMEROL. It has been produced in the same vineyard for 450 years.
Ronan Laborde is in fact the owner of this family-owned domaine. And this wine is the result of one of his oldest and dearest dreams: to create a new type of Bordeaux with the same techniques that those used in producing the great Château Clinet wine. They apply to all stages, from harvesting, fermentation in stainless steel, maceration, aging 12 months in French oak, to bottling at the winery. All this operations are tightly managed, with great care, by the same professional wine makers.
The first edition of RONAN was launched in 2009, and the quality did not stop to improve in the following vintage years.
BUT: the biggest difference is the price. I paid $10.99 for a bottle of excellent 2016, a great year.
The grapes come from neighboring other zones on the right bank such as Côtes de Castillon, Bourgeais, and Lussac Saint-Emilion. They are practically 100 % Merlot, except for about 5% of Cabernet Franc,
The result is an incredibly elegant but rich mix of olfactive and tasty sensations in the mouth that blend harmoniously. Fresh but structurally complex, with smooth tannins, the aroma is redolent of little red fruits, but assures a long finish.
I will tell you: For that kind of money, this wine offers an incredibly satisfying moment of pure pleasure. I hope other Bordeaux châteaux will imitate that example of a perfect association of quality and value.