The good news is that inexpensive, everyday Bordeaux wines are widely available in the US, ranging from under $10 to $25. The major names to look for on the label are:
- Basic Bordeaux red, rose, white, semi-sweet and sparkling wines, from the greater Bordeaux region. Reds predominantly merlot and whites predominantly sauvignon blanc. Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieure appellations represent about half of the 60 million or so cases the region produces each year. Bordeaux Superieure requires slightly higher minimum potential alcohol, slightly lower yields/hectare and for the red wines, longer minimum ageing of nine months.
- Left Bank: Medoc, Haut Medoc – merlot and cabernet sauvignon blends. The Medoc and Haut-Medoc appellations are on the peninsula in-between the ocean and the Gironde estuary commonly referred to as the “medoc”. “Haut” doesn’t mean that it is higher in any way since the medoc is flat – it refers to how the current runs down-river to the ocean.
- Left Bank Graves: dry whites composed of sauvignon and/or semillon.
- Entre-deux-mers in-between the Left and Right banks: fruity, fresh, everyday whites of sauvignon blanc
- Right Bank: Reds mostly merlot, with some cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon depending on region. Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Saint-Emilion satellites (St.-Georges-, Puisseguin-, Lussac-, Montagne-).
- Right bank Cotes de Bordeaux. Reds primarily merlot, whites of sauvignon blanc. Also roses and semi-sweets.
The Cotes de Bordeaux – as a category – consist of various appellations with the word “cotes” or slopes in it. They are categorized together because they have common terroir. For example, they are mostly on the right banks of rivers with its moderating climatic effects and good drainage of rainfall; they typically have southern aspect and therefore receive good sun; they share a poverty of clayish soils. They also tend to be family-owned with holdings of less than 25 acres. The appellations are Premieres Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Bourg, Cotes de Castillon, Bordeaux Cotes de Francs, Graves de Vayres, Sainte-Foy Bordeaux and Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux.
In another sign that Bordeaux is becoming more demand-driven, the Cotes syndicates decided to simplify the various appellations by consolidating into a single, official “Cotes de Bordeaux” appellation effective with the 2008 vintage which they hope will stimulate an increase in export sales beyond the current 14% of Bordeaux prodution. The appellations participating are Premieres Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Francs and Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. The wines will be labelled as either sub-regional “Cotes de Bordeaux” which will be only red wines and which can be blended from any of these appellations, or “Cotes de Bordeaux” with the communal name preceding it such as “Blaye”, “Castillon”, “Francs” and for Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux, the main town “Cadillac”. For these communal appellations, the wines will include such red, white or sweet wines that were originally authorized and will have higher production standards.