Aug. 10, 2012 at 3:39 PM ET
When it comes to wines under $20, Bordeaux is well worth a new look, offering significant value and many hundreds of choices exported to the United States, including the wines of Château Lamothe de Haux, which I visited a few weeks ago.
But first, just what is Bordeaux? In case you need a refresher in terms of the grapes, the region is all about merlot and cabernet sauvignon for the reds (with cabernet franc and malbec playing supporting roles), and sauvignon blanc and semillon as the main white varieties.
Bordeaux is arguably the world's most famous wine name and its top examples are still in great demand by connoisseurs and collectors, sometimes fetching thousands of dollars a bottle for the best vintages at wine auctions. But on the value end, where there is much more competition these days, Bordeaux doesn't have the buzz or the buyers it once did.
Among those under $20, many wines are simply called some variation of "Bordeaux," and that's the case with the wines of Château Lamothe de Haux, a charming property with about 200 acres of vineyards. Nestled on the outskirts of the tiny town of Haux in the large Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, the château is run by Damien Chombart, his wife Maria and her mother, Anne Neel. The wines, which I tasted with Chombart on the patio of the old house overlooking the vineyards, are widely available in the U.S. and consistently over-deliver for the price.
Lamothe’s 2011 Bordeaux Blanc is an elegant white bargain for summer drinking and beyond. At $12 to $14, it is marked by bright acidity and delicious fruit, including pear, apricot and grapefruit tastes and a subtle herbal note. “My target is really to keep freshness, a wine that’s easy drinking,” Chombart said of the wine, which is a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle.
The château makes a Bordeaux Clairet, a throwback in style that can be thought of as lightly colored red wine or a deep rosé. You drink it chilled, and the 2011, a blend of 80 percent cab franc and 20 percent merlot, is full of ripe raspberry and a floral note. It’s a great food wine, which Chombart suggested serving with barbecue. I can also see it with cold steak sandwiches, BLTs, Thai food and all kinds of appetizers.
Among reds, Lamothe’s 2010 Côtes de Bordeaux is young and fruity, made without oak and shows plum and blackberry notes along with touches of cinnamon and milk chocolate. At $15 or so, it offers good complexity and will go well with grilled chicken, burgers and pork chops.
A reserve wine, the 2009 Côtes de Bordeaux Première Cuvée, receives a year of oak aging and is a bit richer in style with deeper, more concentrated fruit. It sells for about $20. If you haven’t thought of Bordeaux for a while, the wines of Château Lamothe de Haux make a persuasive case why the region deserves renewed attention for its value wines.
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