Affordable Bordeaux: a nod to the elephant in the cellar

My goal, when it comes to wine, is to seek out solid age-able wines for not insane amounts of $$. The Bordeaux region of France could not be more antithetical to that aim. But I would be remiss if I passed on the opportunity to explore one of the last great values from a classified chateau.


So enter Chateau Cantemerle, a fifth growth Bordeaux in the Haut (high or upper) Medoc on the left bank of the Gironde. Catemerle is so far one of only two additions or changes to the 1855 French classification of its vineyards, and it was added less than a year later after someone realized it was left off by accident. The importance of classification is an evolving discussion particularly given the Bordeaux merchants success in marketing their products worldwide, leaving any reasonable value in Bordeaux wine to the unclassified producers. Catemerle produces a Bordeaux Superior and a second wine (shown above) that still manage quality red wines from a ranked Chateau for between 30-45$ depending on the reputation of the vintage (don’t get me ranting on the grand silliness of Bordeaux futures).


2009 Les Allees de Cantemerle

Price: 20-25$

Where to Buy: Wine Searcher

Cellar Rating – *2-8 years  90pts

The second wine of this Chateau is an approachable on release, but I had to include this 2009 because it is still readily available and an incredible chance to try a mature good value Bordeaux. It is much less age-worthy and structured than its big brother and as such is now showing some awesome cedar and dried mushroom notes with a fine cocoa finish. Still some dark fruit left but generally old-world. This is a weeknight wine, but it’ll start some conversation for sure.


2010 Chateau Cantemerle

Price: 45-50$ (30$ less for 2012)

Where to Buy: Wine Searcher

Cellar Rating: *** 10+ years (the 2012 is more ** 5-10 years)  93pts


The flagship Bordeaux Superior of this Chateau is a wonderfully balanced and approachable wine that can still age gracefully for 10 years or much more for those who prefer the smoother, less fruit forward characteristics of mature wines. 2010 was a fantastic vintage for age-worthy wines, and for those who want something more approachable should look at the 2012 But its a nice, rich wine today with rich impenetrable blue fruits, jammy yet still with savory streak to balance the palate.

I love Cantemerle because at <50$ it is far far more affordable than most classified Bordeaux, and especially for the 2010 vintage, it is a wine that can go for a long long time. In other less structured vintages its an even better value and the 2012 is currently available too. 2015 is lining up to be an equal to 2010.

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.