The 2005 vintage of Bordeaux set record prices for name-brand bottles from Pétrus, Margaux, and Haut-Brion, but excellent alternatives abound. Note: All Bordeaux wines are varying blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
Château Landat 2005
Landat is an unpedigreed — but always available, affordable, and reliable — standby from the middle of the Médoc, the primary wine region on the Left Bank. The Médoc has dozens of these "petite châteaux," good-value properties from out-of-the-limelight communes such as Moulis, St.-Laurent, Listrac, and, in this case, Cissac, wedged between Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. This blend leans heavily on Cabernet and displays hints of dark fruit, edges of fresh herbs, and a touch of licorice in the finish. (About $18)
- Meaty Pairing: Lamb burgers with red-and-green tomato chutney
This is a perfect pairing for a summer cookout: Fruit and herbaceous notes mingle in the wine and in the chutney.
- Meatless Pairing: Fig focaccia with gorgonzola cheese
This focaccia combines fruitiness with an underlayer of spice and earthiness, echoing the wine's top notes.
Christian Moueix St. Emilion 2005
This is a regional wine from a négociant — a winemaker who gets his grapes from smaller growers (a middleman, some would say) — but what a négociant! The Moueix family owns the fabled Château Pétrus, among other properties, so it's not surprising that this wine has good cherry fruit, touches of chocolate, and light tannins, and a finish of pencil lead (a noble characteristic) of Cabernet Franc, which makes up 15 percent of this Merlot-dominated blend. (About $23)
- Meaty Pairing: Roasted magret duck breasts with black truffles
Rare duck is a staple in the Bordeaux diet, and the earthy truffles will echo the dusty tannins of this young wine.
- Meatless Pairing: Holiday biscotti with cranberries and pistachios
In this sweet pairing, the tart cranberries and nuts hold up to those tannins and the truffle flavors in the wine.
Château Ormes de Pez 2005
For years, the Cazes family gave us the delightful Lynch-Bages — a wine from the Pauillac appellation of Bordeaux, priced much less than Bordeaux of equal quality. They also own Ormes de Pez, which is being groomed as a successor to Lynch-Bages (nicknamed "Lunch Bag"). This is a food wine, with big, bold flavors of ripe cherries, a nip of cream, lean tannins, and good acidity. (About $33)
- Meaty Pairing: New York steak with boursin and merlot sauce
Cabernet's fruitiness and mouth-puckering tannins always match a bloody steak; the wine's chalkiness also works with the creamy cheese.
- Meatless Pairing: Cheese, herb, and sun-dried tomato phyllo rolls
The flavors of this dish — earthy ripeness, spice, and creaminess — resemble the flavors of the wine itself.
Château de Fieuzal 2005
A grand cru classé from Graves, de Fieuzal has gradually improved in quality over the past two decades. Some of the best bargains for top-quality Left Bank wines (known for a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends, as opposed to Right Bank wines and their heavy Merlot concentration) come from the Pessac-Léognan region of Graves, and de Fieuzal helps lead that parade. This is a big wine with a nose full of aromas (raw meat and cured olives) and a mouth full of dark fruit, bacon fat, and big tannins, yet at its core are flavors of velvety dark chocolate and hints of violets. (About $35)
- Meaty Pairing: Grilled spiced-rubbed flank steak
Bavette or flank steak with a glass of red wine from the château’s vineyards is a typical harvest meal in Bordeaux.
- Meatless Pairing: Green emporium pasta with puttanesca sauce
The combination of garlic and kalamata and Spanish green olives gives the puttanesca an earthiness that pairs well with the meatiness of this red.
Château Corbin 2005
Annabelle Cruse-Bardinet, an up-and-coming winemaker in the Saint-émilion region, has been restructuring this top-notch property by rebuilding the cellar and increasing the amount of new oak in the aging process. The vineyard itself is located just down the road from the legendary Cheval Blanc. Combine these factors, and you get a terrific wine with flavors of cassis, spicy berries, and dried herbs, and a lean finish of mineral chalkiness with a touch of cedar. As with most Bordeaux, decanting for an hour will improve the taste of this young wine if you plan to drink it soon. You should also be able to age the bottle for a decade or two. (About $43)
- Meaty Pairing: Grilled leg of lamb with tomato fennel vinaigrette
Lamb is a classic match with the Saint-émilion Merlot in this blend, and the tangy vinaigrette should bring out the wine's herbal notes.
- Meatless Pairing: Cedar plank salmon with maple glaze
The glazed salmon has enough big flavors and texture to stand up to the wine's cassis and tannins.
Roger Morris writes about wine, food, and travel for a variety of publications including Robb Report, Beverage Media, Saveur, and The Wine Enthusiast.