Baby-bucks Bordeaux

If fine wine prices are an indicator of economic health, then here’s the correlation: after reaching a peak of $3,500 per bottle in mid 2008, the price of a bottle of Bordeaux’s 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild dipped to a mere $3,300 or so in June of 2009. But by February of 2010 it had topped $4,000. A recent web search turned up bottles of the same vintage at anywhere from $2,000 to $4,800. Happy times are here again?

It’s prices such as these that drive even dedicated drinkers of chateau-class wines to other wine regions and confirm for Bubbas what they knew all along: stick to bottles with a handle. But not everything with the word Bordeaux on the label is absurdly priced. For the B-curious on a budget, we present two wines, both from the Right Bank, each distinctive. (In case you need to know this for Jeopardy one day, rightness and leftness are determined by imagining yourself looking downstream from the middle of, in this case, the Gironde and Dordogne rivers.)

The typical Right Bank Bordeaux is heavy on the merlot component, and the 2009 Plaisir de Siaurac Lalande de Pomerol takes that to the limit: it’s 100 percent merlot. And if it’s any indication, 2009 is destined to be a good year in the region. The Plaisir is made with grapes from young vines of Chateau Siaurac’s vineyards in the Lalande de Pomerol appellation. Unlike many youthful Bordeaux, which can seem mean and astringent, this one throws out the welcome mat from the get-go. Bright red fruits, from stewed cherry to cassis, dominate on the nose, and they’re bolstered by undertones of earth, mineral, and herbs.

The heartfelt howdy continues on the palate as well, with black plum coming to the fore, a mouthfeel that could easily be called plush, and a finish that is, if a little hasty, at least consistent to the end. The back label suggests that this wine should be good up to five years from harvest, but it’s surely ready to drink now.

Another 2009, the Château de Macard Bordeaux Supérieur, is technically Right Bank but is being marketed under the more global Bordeaux Supérieure appellation. Merlot figures in the mix, but at only 30 percent, with cabernet franc weighing in at 50 percent and cabernet sauvignon at 20 percent. The result is an entirely different wine than the Plaisir, one that takes time to cotton up to but is well worth the wait. The initial nose does show bright cherry — but also a little funky, though transient, green olive and herbs. Decanting is counseled here, after which the wine comes to resemble a Right Bank Bordeaux of much greater price, with decent tannins and a relatively long finish. And the price? Around $9 at Costco. (The Plaisir was around $15 and change at Saturday Saglimbeni prices.) Beats the hell out of $4,000.

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