2010 Bordeaux – The value is in the exceptions to the rule

by Charles Lea

Following all the publicity surrounding high prices, you might be forgiven for thinking that there is no real value in 2010 Bordeaux. We think there are good reasons why well-chosen Bordeaux can still offer some of the best value available in the wine world, and that there are plenty of wines still worth buying en primeur if you are just looking for solid drinking value.

With the recent bubble-like upward movement of the top few labels, there is a danger that the whole of the Bordeaux region is being written-off by buyers who are looking for a decent drink, when in fact the price rises are confined to a few brands which have been targeted by investors.

Wine markets are polarising. On one hand there are flashing diamond ‘Bond Street’ rings, the ‘First Growths’, where the name attached is at least as important as the thing itself. On the other hand is a plastic piece of tat, not even pretending it is real , the ‘two for a fiver’ supermarket plonk. 

It may be that ‘face’ requires the most obvious symbols of wealth, whether it be handbags or wine, and it seems that there are enough indscriminate, insecure brand-buyers out there to keep these flash brands at gravity-defying prices.

At the same time personal consumption is becoming more and more thoughtless and undiscriminating. Consumers seem ready to be fed whatever knock-offs the mass-market provides at the cheapest price, and ready to accept that this tat really is good value because it is cheap. But the truth is that it is not cool to buy the cheapest rubbish you can get away with. Your friends can tell the difference. The real wisdom is to sort the real weight and value from all this meaningless chaff, and specialists like L&S can do this with you, and even for you.

It is worth taking advice and being discriminating, both in everyday wines and in en primeur.

The polarisation of the market has been catastrophic for the lesser wines Bordeaux. Tarred with the reputation for being expensive because of the Grands Crus, petits Bordeaux are often actually cheaper now than they were ten years ago. Plagued with under-investment as a result of trying to screw down prices to match the supermarkets’ demands, they are also often worse wines than they were ten years ago too.

It is also true that many of the top estates do merit high prices relative to what they achieved in the last thirty years. The second wines of both Cos d’Estournel and Ducru Beaucaillou really are better than many of the vintages of their ‘Grands Vins’ made in the seventies and eighties.

And then of course there are the exceptions. There is a middle ground at price levels right up to around £30 to £40 per bottle en primeur, where these wines are subject to the ‘old rules’. By this I mean that these are prices which the wider market of traditional drinkers of great Bordeaux are prepared to pay to drink them with their friends. And yes they (probably) will appreciate in price and be more expensive later. Maybe not exponential growth like Carruades over the last few years, but this is for drinkers, not pure investors. These are wines which compare favourably for value with wines made beyond Bordeaux. Each of the wines below is in one way or another an exception. A property which has a brillant winemaker, maybe one who has been able to re-invest some of the profits from the up-turn in the top-end prices, to brilliant terroirs which have been re-invigorated by the arrival of a new generation. Here is real value. You have to pay for it, but you get what you pay for. We our have compiled two lists – one for all the appelations of the Medoc, and the other for the right bank and Graves.