The Lovelies of a Lambasted Bordeaux Vintage

It is such a shame that the wine world these days makes a proclamation on a vintage just as it slides out of its fermenter into an aging vessel. (In fact, it’s often done well before.) Dialed-in wine lovers know it’s absurd, but many still dose-up on the fear of buying the wrong vintage. A fine example is Bordeaux’s 2011 vintage, which is still a bit tight and wound-up, yet it is opening up now to offer some excellent, mid-term drinkability. Here are a few to seek out now, and at under $30 (actually, most under $20!), you’ll not be trading a few drops of wine for other aspects of holiday cheer.

Château de Francs 2011 Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux 14% $20
Château de Francs is the birthplace of the Ségur family. This bottling of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in oak 12 to 14 months. About half of that oak is new, meaning that its residual effects – at least in this wine – are smartly integrated. This wine has a deep, dark maroon color. Its nose is ripe, fragrant and promising, and its palate delivers, too. There are mulberries, blueberries, pomegranate seeds and licorice. The medium finish brings on a touch of forest floor and damp cigar, too. It’s just about all you’d hope for in a young Bordeaux, and it costs less than a Jackson. 88

Château Montaiguillon 2011 Montagne Saint-Émilion 14% $30
This wine has a classic Bordelais nose, what with its cenders, old leather and cigar box notes. It’s impressively full-bodied on the palate with loads of black currants, blackberries and roasted black plums. The fine-grained tannins and kind, round-ish acidity are well-aligned and dissolve into the palate landscape to allow the wine’s fruit to take the forefront. The plump mid-palate with generous but well-balanced alcohol will surely entice those less accustomed to “claret” flavors of more medium-level ripeness. 87

Château Tertre de Viaud 2011 Côtes de Bourg 13% $20
This 82% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon has introverted nose, or at least my bottle did. However, its palate is more forthcoming. It turns out to be delightfully complex from start to finish, and that finish doesn’t hurry away. There are notes of candied boysenberries, freshly-turned earth, dried mushrooms and air-dried beef. The palate is incredibly savory and impressively harmonious, too. The tannins are fluid, the acidity is supporting and integrated, and the medium-plus body has just the right amount of heft to support it all. This is a terrific bistro or house wine for European wine drinkers. Tremendous value! 86 

Château de Ribebon 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur Réserve 13% $18
From Bordeaux’s Right Bank in the village of Pessac-sur-Dordogne hails this wine made from 80-year-old vines planted in the classic clay-limestone soils of the region. Composed of 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this wine is an atypical blend given its Cabernet Franc dominance. It is nonetheless solidly classic in Bordelais aromas. For the moment, both the nose and palate are a bit restrained; however, there are nicely robust and lightly drying tannins and plenty of dried red fruit flavors to keep this palate bustling. The moderate finish is a bit dry but the medium acidity is mellow enough to not accentuate this sensation. The generous finish is nicely nuanced. At this price point, this wine delivers a strong return. 85

Château de Macard 2011 Bordeaux Supérieur Réserve 13% $18
This moderate-bodied Bordeaux is today’s classic bistro carafe wine. It has perky acidity and lightly grippy, somewhat choppy tannins that beg for a main course of steak frites. It is a blend of 100-year-old Cabernet Franc (60%), 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux’s Right Bank near the village of Pessac-sur-Dordogne. It is approaching its drinking peak given its autumn phase of fruit flavors and full maturity in terms of structural approachability. 84

Château Hyot 2011 Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux Réserve 13% $20
This wine is full of nicely ripe blueberries, tart blackberries and licorice. It is reserved on the nose, and even with a few hours decanting, the wine doesn’t fully open up. There’s still some nicely youthful fruit here, and it has just enough boisterous structure to make one sit up straight (in a way that would make Mom proud) and take notice. The modest finish is lightly papery and a touch dry, but with a nice meal, one will never notice. 84