Buying Bordeaux Doesn’t Always Require A Home Equity Loan.

Wine Snark enjoys Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte with winemaker Fabien Teitgen. '08 Smith Haut Lafitte and '10 La Petite Haut Lafitte were 2 stand-outs of the tasting.

Wine Snark enjoys Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte with winemaker Fabien Teitgen. ’08 Smith Haut Lafitte and ’10 La Petite Haut Lafitte were 2 stand-outs of the tasting.

On Monday I attended a French wine tasting where many of the classified Bordeaux estates were represented. The line-up included notable wines like the 1996 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, the 2006 Chateau Haut-Brion, and the 1996 Chateau Cheval Blanc. After perusing the prices I realized these wines are referred to as “right bank” or “left bank” because before you buy a bottle you must first go to the bank.

The Cheval Blanc weighed in with a hefty $1,800 per bottle retail price tag but I made use of the spit bucket despite my high expectations. You see when I attend a wine tasting of classified Bordeaux I expectorate the very best.

As I jostled with an assortment of wine retailers and restaurateurs sampling the Cheval Blanc I couldn’t help but think, “Am I the only one who thinks the emperor has a new set of clothes?” I realize we’re in the business of selling the sizzle with the steak but fo shizzle ma nizzle that’s a lot of sizzle.

Sorry – for a second I thought it was 2012 again.

The tasting was held midday so once again I found myself enjoying a liquid lunch. Always on the lookout for outstanding pairing combinations, I discovered that a glass of ‘95 Chateau Palmer pairs beautifully with a glass of ‘05 Leoville-Las Cases.

You don’t need the WineSnark to tell you Chateau Leoville-Las Cases is a pretty good bottle of wine, or maybe you do, but in honor of the emperor’s new wardrobe, the focus of todays blog is Bordeaux values. Now don’t scoff at the idea of value from Bordeaux, after all value is a relative thing. It’s what I look for in wine when my relatives are coming over. Rather than tell you how much I enjoyed wines like Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte I’m going to tell you about wines like La Petit Haut Lafitte, SML’s affordable second label.

Chateau Cap de Faugeres, 2005 Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux
This estate continues to turn out wines of exceptional value. The ’05 displays pretty perfumed aromas of ripe black cherry and spices. This luscious red is rich and fleshy, kind of like Donald Trump without the bad hair. There’s ample fruit that greets your tongue in the attack, fills out the mid-palate and then lingers on the finish. Subtle dark cocoa nuances mingle nicely with the fruit adding dimension. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. $35.
Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Chateau Haut-Chaigneau, 2009 Lalande de Pomerol, Bordeaux
This is a full-bodied blend of 70% Merlot and the rest equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Scents of black raspberry combine with aromas of wet clay in the nose, while the dark, spicy fruits are held in check by oaky barrel notes and firm tannins that gain grip in the finish and linger on like that friend who never knows when it’s time to go home. $30.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

La Petit Haut Lafitte, 2010 Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux
This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot displays rich floral scents with subtle hints of pepper. In the mouth, silky tannins support a core of sweet, ripe red cherry flavors with slightly smoky accents. In a room full of hard wines, La Petit Haut Lafitte was surprisingly easy drinking. There’s great concentration and a finish that goes on longer than an airport check-in line, but thankfully doesn’t end with a body cavity search. $45.
Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Chateau Les Carregades, 2010 Medoc, Bordeaux
This wine has everything you expect in a Medoc wine except an exorbitant price tag. It displays aromas of dark, dried cherry along with nuances of forest floor. It’s a medium-bodied red with a soft, approachable mouth feel, dark fruit flavors and an old fashioned Bordeaux finish brimming with earthy minerals and tobacco. $15. Good value.
Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)

Chateau Roylland, 2008 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe, Bordeaux
This is a smooth, medium-bodied blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sweet oak nuances are evident in the nose and palate, reminding me of Grandma’s kitchen when she made cookies with vanilla, white chocolate and dark berries. Also like Grandma’s kitchen there’s a hint of tobacco smoke to complete the analogy. Not very complex but neither was Grandma and I still loved her. $27.
Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)

Chateau St. Colombe, 2006 Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux
This affordable Bordeaux is as soft as Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t. Flavors of ultra-ripe cherry float on a silky texture that also shows interesting nuances of leather. An elegant and fully mature Bordeaux at a remarkable price. $15. Good value.
Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)