No Money No Bordeaux Not Always

As Bordeaux tries different tactics to uplift the sagging sales in the American market for consumable wines (not collectibles), a specific marketing plan has been assembled and deployed. Enter the new marketing campaign Planet Bordeaux.

There are marketing pros who have convinced some of the  home team players that the American audience would buy more French Bordeaux wine if it was just a little bit better in quality and just a little more competitive in price. I think the vintners (being a thrifty lot) misunderstood when they said just a little bit better in both the previously mentioned categories. It seems they took the message to mean we will not swill down flawed, TCA ridden, oxidized wines just because the bottle says it is from Bordeaux.

If this group is any example of the better wines in the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur category, their message is now ‘as long as the wine is not flawed we will probably like it if it is reasonably priced’. I have to say I think that marketing plan sucks.

As a consumer on the west coast, I have access to a lot of wine from many places. Although some of these wines are rated well, I think if they were blind tasted among America, Argentina, Chile and Australia, they may not fare well if price was a consideration. All wine regions have to quit thinking their competition is just their AVA or varietals. Competition is worldwide and hungry to take down an opponent.  After all, there is only so much space on the retailer’s shelves and the wine list has only so many selections that will fit on the pages. It comes down to getting and keeping your space.

I might be lucky enough to shop for wine like a semi civilized being but that is not who I write for.  I write for anyone anywhere who takes the time to read my words. Possibly, you may not have all the wine choices in the world and you live in a state where they will not allow you to have wine shipped to you.  That is an article for a different time.  Here I was hoping to have a story that would reveal some sleepers and lower echelon rated vintages of Bordeaux.  Instead, I got two wows and two “it was OK” and one real yawner.

The quality to price ratio (QPR) is trumped by wines from regions a lot closer to home–quite a few were trumped to their southern neighbors, including Languedoc-Roussillon, Spain and Italy. The following reviews are a smattering and I do not wish to berate the region. They sought my opinion and to report on anything other than a truthful review would not be fair to you or me. Granted, I have tasted a lot of offerings from this region as it covers over half of the world famous Bordeaux region and enjoyed and championed wines that did not get great reviews nor came from classified growth areas. Here we will focus on what they call the ABC’s of Bordeaux (appellations, blends and color).  Hey, I did not come up with that one.  I thought I would quote the PR release.

2007 Chateau Loudenne Bordeaux Blanc 12% | $20

Find this wine to buy: Vinquire |

A very pleasant representation of this variety from this region of Bordeaux. Subtle Sauvignon Blanc flavors were broad but not extensively expressed, melon was subdued, no distinct minerality. Soft, almost non-existent citrus leads to a wet medium long finish with an aftertaste of juicy fruit not like the gum but lavish fruity flavors with minor sweetness. This dish went very well with the wine—Penn Cove Mussels, Pernod, Shallots, Saffron and Cream with Crusty grilled sourdough bread.  Apple desserts will not be overshadowed by the pear/apple component of this wine.

2007 Chateau de la Vieille Tour Bordeaux Superior
Cabernet Sauvignon 60% Merlot 40% | 13% | $17

Find this wine to buy: Vinquire |

This wine delivers a fair representation of the region just not a very favorable one. The fruitiness of the bouquet was apparent but hardly any nuances that made it intriguing and no bridge to the flavors as the wine went to the mid-palate and finished without any distinction. It is a flawlessly average quality blend from a region that usually makes full-bodied wines of the classic character that has made Bordeaux one of the most well-known and most respected wine regions of the world. The classified growths are a completely different story. That story is not what this story is about so we will not go there. This wine was a bit thin and understated. No flaws, no distinctions, it could just be bigger. A simple grilled chicken palliard, hearty pasta or leek and potato soup will work well with this wine.

2004 Chateau Lescalle Bordeaux Superieur Margaux, France 13% | $15

Find this wine to buy: Vinquire |

This vintage is still holding strong and required almost 2.5 hours of breathing before it fully developed. I would suggest if you want to drink this one for dinner, open and decant at 4PM to be able to fully savor the full flavors this wonderful little gem has hidden in the layers. Château Lescalle consists primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with a smattering of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  It has reached a window of flavor appreciation that may not last too much longer. Intense berry aromas come though after a lengthy decanting period and the spice is heady and intoxicating if you have the patience to wait this one out.  The long wait gives you plenty of time to make an earthy full flavored dish. Well fleshed out flavors integrate with fine tannins that gives this wine the ‘hey you guys were right’ admission when it comes to Bordeaux without rolling up like a presidential motorcade. A sleeper of a wine that should be snatched up if it is available in your market. Seek it out, it is worthy of being tracked down. A Pissaladiere as a starter or beef daube as an entrée will pair nicely with this sleeper from a questionable vintage.

2006 Chateau Marechaux Bordeaux Superior Rouge 13.5% | $25

Find this wine to buy: Vinquire |

This wine is pretty good but there were no exciting factors of spice, presence, terroir or real personality. It has the look of a wine that might carry out its mission to pair well with a meal in a deliberate and distinctive manner but it was sort of like the roller coaster at an old amusement park. It never rose to the thrill ride expectations one might associate with roller coasters or a 2006 French Bordeaux.  Pleasant enough but no distinct personality, the 2006 vintage was touted as no slouch compared to the outstanding 2005. This wine is proof that even in good vintages some wineries will make wines that are only OK. Rustic in structure this one will go well with braised beef brisket, mushroom pizza, ricotta gnocchi and pomodoro sauce or Philly cheesesteaks.

2007 Chateau Thieuley Bordeaux Rouge 12.5% | $14
70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Find this wine to buy: Vinquire |

A really good wine that surprised me when tasted side by side with a NW Merlot-Cab blend. The complexity of this wine led with structured maturity that is not tasted in vines here in the New World. Complexity in the bouquet of aromas and subtle nuances were a treat. Expressed in the fragrance are dark blue very ripe blackberries along with hints of vanilla partly from the oak regimen using 20% new barrels.  The opening flavors expressed similar traits. On the mid palate the wine had had great texture and a respectable finish.  It went very well with white cannellini beans, artichoke hearts, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil in a garlic white wine sauce with a little Italian sausage.  This wine had a great acidity to body balance. It should do well in most dessert rounds too with anything except citrus flavored dishes.

So we have five reviews with two “wows” a couple of “yeah that was pretty good “and one real yawner. I would say this was a pretty successful mission all things considered.  I hope the Planet Bordeaux campaign flourishes and as always, we are just trying to keep it honest, spirited and interesting.

No matter where in the world your wine comes from, if you would like us to taste it and make comments, send us a sample and we will probably write about it.  These wines are all worthy dinner companions—a few are just a lot better than others.  It is almost spring. Take a chance.   Put some French wines into your rotation. Yes, I did not say your collection, I said rotation. Remember the joy of discovery.

Eat well, Drink well, Live well.


About the Author:

Marc has held almost every position in the food & wine industry and is committed to Celebrating Hospitality with Pride. In addition to being the co-founder and editor-at-large for Enobytes, Marc is a wine blogger contributor to (Wine Bytes) and writes the Wine Knowledge column in the print magazine About Face. The Contra Costa County Times, San Jose Mercury News, Tacoma Times Tribune and Washington Post have either interviewed or quoted Marc on his viniferous and culinary opinions. Marc has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. While continuing to tenaciously search for what he may finally proclaim as his favorite wine Marc is relentless in his quest for the ultimate food and wine experience.


  1. Italian Wine Blog - Wine90 March 17, 2011 at 5:53 PM - Reply


    Just came across here from Twitter and was just discussing which Bords had any value as having a gander on Majestic for a case or two “cheapies”.

    Will read this on the morrow though cos its 1am here. Bookmarked.

    • Pamela March 17, 2011 at 6:27 PM - Reply

      Hey IWB – if you find additional finds, let us know. We’re always looking for a good Bord buy!

  2. Greg S. March 17, 2011 at 6:32 PM - Reply

    Completely agree with the Lescalle and I’ve come across a few other bargins: Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc, Château Carignan, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux (both around $15), and the Château d’Arcins, Haut-Médoc is decent at around $20. Good review!

    • enobytes March 21, 2011 at 6:03 PM - Reply

      Thanks for the great recommendations Greg!

  3. Chicago Pinot March 21, 2011 at 10:16 PM - Reply

    Hi Marc and Pamela! I am curious about the details of the Planet Bordeaux campaign. What strategies will they use to introduce wines from this classic region to a new generation of wine drinkers?

    I attended an event last year, sponsored by one of these “Pro-Bordeaux” campaigns. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t put on by the Planet People; just from the way you described them. It was a strange evening. It was held here in Chicago at one of those “Too Cool for the Room” clubs, where part of the ambiance is waiting outside for an hour until you get up to the front of the line when a bouncer eyes you up and down for three or four minutes. Then you get inside and you hear the same techno music you hear at every other club on the block (WHAT? It’s French wine! No Edith Piaf? No Charles Aznavour?) You get four or five samples poured by energetic pourers who frankly couldn’t give you any details about the wines even if you could hear yourself ask a question.
    (And very little in terms of munchies). No takeaways. No flyers, no posters, no shelf talkers you can walk out with so you could remember the next day what you tasted.

    . maybe I am not the one to offer advice on how to get Generation Are-We-Up-To-Z now to experiment with wine. I do know that I woke up with a headache the next day, and it wasn’t from the Bordeaux.

  4. enobytes March 22, 2011 at 7:58 PM - Reply

    "What strategies will they use to introduce wines from this classic region to a new generation of wine drinkers?" Twitter is one area they’ve utilized. I participated in a twitter taste live event that was really good and you can view the feed of the program here. Indeed, the event you describe seems somewhat odd. It sounds like they were trying to reach an untapped audience. Its daring to take chances – some marketing efforts are total failures and others take off. It doesn’t sound like something you and I would enjoy, but I give them credit for trying. Hopefully they captured an audience somewhere amongst the party goers. To each his own I guess :)

  5. […] of Balzac Communications and Planet Bordeaux. You’ll probably recall that Marc wrote about value Bordeaux a few weeks back. It wasn’t that long ago that finding good values from this region were mediocre […]

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