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Tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Planet Bordeaux Wine tasting Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

Three Bordeaux Wines Under $20

I believe many people in the US are afraid of French wine! I feel this fear is the product of three factors, the inability to pronounce the wine’s name easily, the inability to identify the grapes readily, and the inability to be comfortable with the previous two factors given lofty prices of some French wines. Of course, the first factor, the language, is the most difficult to get over. I’ll give you that one. The second factor is changing, and you’ll see that on at least one of the three wines below, the grape varieties are right on the front of the bottle. The last fear factor of price for French wine given the uncertainty of what’s in the bottle can be overcome by learning that nice French wine can be had for $12.

When I was asked to participate in a recent virtual wine tasting on Twitter by the team at Planet Bordeaux, a group charged with educating consumers about wines from Bordeaux, I was of course interested. I’ve been doing these virtual wine tastings since 2008, and think they’re a great opportunity. It gives me the chance to try wines, and share the results with you. This increases both of our exposure to wines that perhaps we otherwise would not have tried. I knew this event, tasting three wines from Bordeaux, France under $20,  would be a hit.

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012 wine review

Chateau de Bonhoste Bordeaux Blanc 2012

The first wine of the evening was a crisp white wine from Chateau de Bonhoste, the 2012 Bordeaux Blanc with a suggested retail price (SRP) of only $12. A blend of three grapes, 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle, the wine is pale straw in color. It’s bouquet is a soft, pink grapefruit, light floral scents, and a touch of honey. The palate is light, crisp and refreshing. There is nice fruit on the approach, a blend of tree fruit, stone fruit and a good bit of grapefruit that comes and wraps itself around the other fruits quickly. The wine has nice acidity, firm and zippy. This is a pleasant, inexpensive white wine, especially if you like citrus and acidity. There is a little hint of spice that seems to come on the finish, rounding out a very nice palate. For $12, it’s definitely worth trying this value focused white wine from Bordeaux. For the record, you pronounce the name Chateau de Bone-oste.

Tasting notes on Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France wine review

Chateau Bonnet 2012 Rose from Bordeaux, France

The second wine of the evening was a rosé from Chateau Bonnet (Shah-toe Bone-nay) Bordeaux 2012. The wines of Chateau Bonnet are made by Vignobles Andre Lurton, where vines were first planted in 1744. Made with merlot and cabernet sauvignon, two of the most prominent grapes of Bordeaux, France, this simple rosé wine cost only $15. With a dark, rich pink color in the glass, the bouquet is soft strawberry with a spicy floral floating on top. The palate is light and very soft, this is a very relaxed, laid back wine. The fruit isn’t explosive, it’s subdued strawberry and a tiny bit of dried cranberry.  The wine was a tad soft and subtle, but did show a bit more power as it opened.

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos Bordeaux Superieur 2009 red wine

Chateau Majoureau Hyppos 2009

The third wine in this tasting was the Chateau Majoureau (mah-zhohr-oh) “Hyppos” Bordeaux Superieur 2009. A big, bold Bordeaux red wine with 55% merlot and 45% cabernet sauvignon, we decanted the Hyppos for over an hour, and sampled it every thirty minutes for over three hours. There were scents of dark black fruits on the nose, as well as a cedar box component and mixed spice scents. The palate is a lot like the nose – the cedar box and spice is powerful up front, the fruit is really hidden behind the rest of the tastes. Not a “sipping wine”, we paired this with a pot roast, and with the food there is a little more harmony to the Hyppos. However, ultimately, this wine was a bit big, with a zealous amount of oak showing, and it really didn’t have the finesse I was hoping to find. This is a $20 Bordeaux red wine that will appeal to those who really enjoy the nuances that bold oak gives to red wine.

Let’s get back to those three factors that I believe cause Americans to shy away from French wine: language, unable to discern the grapes in the bottle, and price. Again, there isn’t much I can do about the language. As a matter of fact, I had to reach out to the PR firm who supplied these wines as samples, to ensure I was pronouncing them right. I wasn’t, for the record. It’s a matter of learning a different language, to whatever extent you are comfortable with. However, the second item, the grapes in the bottle, that’s changing.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild wine from Bordeaux, France

It used to be the case that unless you studied the wine regions of France, you had no idea what grapes made the wines. If you didn’t learn that Burgundy reds are largely pinot noir, and Bordeaux left bank is predominantly cabernet sauvignon while right bank is predominantly merlot, you had no idea what you were drinking. That, of course, could cause  someone very particular about what they’re drinking to steer clear of these enigmas. However, recent changes in french wine labeling laws are allowing the grape variety to be printed on the label. While you probably won’t see them on all of the wines of France any time soon, you’ll definitely see them more often. And, if you’re ever wondering what grapes are in a bottle, feel free to ask me! I’ll do my best to answer right way!

The last factor, the price of French wines being prohibitive, is likely no longer a concern. Sure, you’ve heard of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild going for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. And I’m sure you’ve walked into a store and seen the bottle of Petrus for $2,500 and more. However, you’ve now seen how French wine can be found under $20.  There is a wide array of wines coming from France, and they span the price spectrum. And  I hope we can explore that wide world of wine together! Let me know the last French wine you had by leaving a comment below, as I’m very curious about your experiences!


A toast – to #Champagneday

Matthew Horbund with some Veuve Clicquot

Matthew Horbund with some Veuve Clicquot

If you aren’t a user of Social Media platforms, such as Twtter, you probably have no idea why the pound sign, #, is in this article title. Likewise, you probably have no idea what #Champagneday is, or why I’m toasting to it. First, that pound sign is called a Hashtag, and allows twitter to aggrigate tweets or posts about a specific topic, in this case #Champagneday. Anyone who tweets with the word #Champagneday will be shown if you search for that hashtag.  More importantly is what Champagneday stands for. It’s sponsored by the Champagne Bureau, the PR firm for the region that produces amazing bubbly, and it’s purpose is to promote Champagne, as well as raise awareness that true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France.

Now, a good friend in the wine business said “If they spent more time talking about Champagne, instead of worrying about the name and where it comes from, more people would drink it. Then we wouldn’t need a day about it.” That may be true, as Richard Auffrey points out that America’s Champagne consumption lags behind other sparkling wine consumption, The US drinks about 17 million bottles of Champagne, out of about 127 million bottles of sparkling wine in total. I find it hard to argue that perhaps more energy should be spent promoting Champagne as a whole, rather than protecting the name.

The Champagne Region Of France

The Champagne Region Of France

However, it does make sense to note that true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. The soil, or terrior in wine geek speak, as well as the micro-climate of the Champagne region of France produces great conditions for growing the three grapes that go into Champagne. Those grapes are pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier, the last poorly pronounced as pee-no moon-yay. And while some sparkling wine made in other parts of the world have carried the name “Champagne” in the past, I believe agreements on labeling will have that coming to an end.  Branding is big business, and protecting the name “Champagne” has definite business impact.

Enjoying Pol Roger Champagne

Enjoying Pol Roger Champagne

Now, lets get to the business of #Champagneday. On Friday, the 28th of October people around the world, or at least in my house, will be enjoying Champagne and sharing their thoughts on it. We will write blog posts about it, post about it on Facebook, and of course, tweet about it.  You can always follow me on Twitter, to see what I have to say. You can also follow the #Champagneday Hashtag to see what everyone, worldwide, is saying about Champagne.

I’ll be tasting at least 7 different Champagnes with friends on Friday evening, and will do my best to capture notes about them. I’ll share tasting notes, as well as general food pairings for Champagne, along with educational tidbits about Champagne in general. I hope you connect with me via Twitter or Facebook, as I love talking about wine,  and Champagne is indeed wine! I also hope you participate in the event. Champagne is a fun adult beverage that should not be reserved for special days and celebrations. Life is short, celebrate Friday with Champagne. You’ll thank me.