The Best Under $50 Wines From Upcoming Bordeaux Release

How to hop aboard the lauded 2015 vintage and only go a little bankrupt.

September 27, 2018

By Neal McLennan / Photo: Potensac

Bordeaux is really expensive. I know that’s a truism—even more so in a big year like 2015—but I feel like it’s important to re-state because it’s so easy to get caught up in the hype and forget that $50 is a lot of money for a bottle of wine. It should get you an exceptional bottle in almost every wine region in the world. Unfortunately Bordeaux isn’t generally one of those regions—the demand is just too high. Thankfully the BCLDB’s lead buyer for France—Master of Wine Barbara Philips—feels your pain. She doesn’t want to stock the shelves with (only) $1200 bottles of Haut Brion that are out of each for all but a privileged few, so she spends a crazy amount of time searching out value. Here’s 5 (+1) results of her work that may not have the prestige of Chateau Latour, but neither will they require you to sell a kidney.


Chateau le Roudier $25

Okay, first the bad news: the label has one of those cheeseball gold stickers on it that make it look like a bottle of Wolf Blass from 2003 (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But lets’s work through that people. If we do we’ll find a a pretty amazing value for a wine that tastes like classic old-school bordeaux: relatively firm tannins, good structure and nice blast of plummy flavours that is drinking well right now and might be even better in 5 years.


Chateau de France $39

First off, how early an adopter do you have to be to get to call yourself “Chateau de France”? It’s like calling yourself Molson Canadian! If anything this wine is more Bordeaux-y than the Roudier with even firmer tannins that will require a few years to chill the F out. But when it does you’ll have an elegant, balanced wine with very classic red berry notes.


Chateau Jouanin $35

First off, this is a lovely looking bottle, which I appreciate is like describing a blind date as having a good personality…but isn’t having a good personality really important? This is a bit of an oddball wine—DJ Kearney, the Chief Wine Judge at the VanMag awards sniffed this and said “River bank.” I have no idea what that means but this was a riper wine than either of the two above so its good for people who want to drink Bordeaux without tasting Bordeaux. And we know you’re out there. But really, it’s quite a nice bottle, with a little stronger desire to please with its ripe fruit.


Chateau de Bel-Air $45

Well this is just a goldarn treat of a wine. It comes from the Right Bank of Bordeaux, which generally means it is merlot dominant and this translates into quite an opulent lush wine with lovely notes: ripe blackberry and other dark fruits balanced out with some recognizable tannins and some focused acid. This drinks nicely now, but will be really pleasing in a few years. And the name and label sound more impressive than, say, “Jouanin.” (And also might be confused for the $220 Chateau Belair Montage and that wouldn’t be so bad, would it?)


Chateau Potensac $60

I know it says under $50, but dammit Jim I’m a writer, not an accountant. The fact is that all the above wines are, for lack of a better term, no-names. Pull them out in 5 years and while the juice will be great, no one is going to wowed by the labels. No one is going to wowed by Potensac either,but at least they’ll recognize it and make no mistake my friend, recognition is a biiiiiiiiig part of the Bordeaux game. So how’s the wine? Really good. It has a nice freshness (a phrase rarely associated with young Bordeaux) and balance and all the elements seem to be operating in concert. You could say the same about the Haut Brion and you’d be right and while it’s an order of magnitude more concentrated and focussed than this wine, it’s also $1200. I’d take 2 cases of this any day.


Domaine de Chevalier Blanc $200

Calm down; I know I’m colouring outside the price lines but bear with me. Do you want to find the best deal on Saturday? A wine that’s not only an exquisite example of the highest elevation of winemaking—power, tension, citrus, and can age for an eon—but will impress the patricians and the 2025 meeting of the high snobiety club? This is it. No kidding I could stroll into a tasting of 2015 where people brought the Cheval Blanc ($1500) the Ausone ($1500) and the Lafleur ($1500) and hold my head high with this bottle. White Bordeaux is a steal – they make less, charge more and if you love wine it will grab your soul.



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