Grand Crus – Identical Twins
Many of the Bordeaux chateaux produce what is said to be the best wines in the world. Powerful, elegant and long-lasting, the wines from the Left Bank of Bordeaux produce the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in the world, and the Right Bank is the ruler of Merlot. Together these make up the Bordeaux blend, with each bank being somewhat dominant in their respective grapes. But the rules that have made these wines the pinnacle of red wines are now rather outdated. What we have now is a new class called ‘Super Seconds’, and this means wines ranked ‘Second Growth’ or slightly lower on the scale, but that produce identical – if not sometimes better – wines than the kings and queens, the ‘First Growths’. More than that, below the Super Seconds you will find the little siblings of the kings and queens, made from the same grapes and often the same vineyards, but only a fraction of the price!
‘Super Seconds’ to look out for include:
Cos D’Estournel, Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Las Cases, La Mission Haut Brion, and Palmer.
These wines make up what is effectively a second ‘First Growth’ group. But these often have similar price tags to the actual First Growths. So where is the value? Read on!
The value can come from the grapes of the First Growths that did not make it into the Grand Vin or flagship wine. This can be for a number of reasons – perhaps they were not the correct ripeness, or balance, or they had some small defect that made them less desirable than other grapes. Due to their youth they might also have less complexity, and be too fruity and tannic. But the way you can think of it is, if you asked for a 5 Carat diamond ring and received a 4.5 Carat diamond, would you exactly be complaining? I thought not!
Another interesting thing to remember is that the same love and care, and the same expertise, has been used on these wines as it has on the flagship wines. Due to whatever reason, the grapes may not go into the flagship wine and so might be able to be consumed sooner than the more expensive versions. That’s a win in anyone’s book. With that in mind, here are some great value juniors to look out for, from the vineyards of the kings and queens of wine. I’ll give you the name of the flagship wine, then the great value relative!
Chateau Cheval Blanc (Premier Grand Cru Classe A, St. Emilion, Right Bank)
Great Value Relative: Le Petit Cheval, and get a hold of years 2001 and 2010 if you can.
Chateau Haut-Brion (First Growth, Medoc, Left Bank)
Great Value Relative: Le Clarence de Haut Brion, and you might be able to find the 2010 for this. It used to be known as Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion, but has been renamed to this.
Chateau Margaux (First Growth, Margaux, Medoc, Left Bank)
Great Value Relative: Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, the three years I have discovered being the 2000, 2005 and 2009 (as everyone knows, a wonderful Bordeaux year!).
Chateau La Mission-Haut-Brion (Classified Red, Graves, Left Bank)
Great Value Relative: La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion, is the second wine of this famous house, and now receives many parcels that were formerly included in the flagship wine, with the 2010 (the second consecutive wonderful year after 2009) being the one to get.
Chateau Montrose (Major Second Growth/Grand Cru, St. Estephe, Medoc, Left Bank)
Great Value Relative: La Dame de Montrose, with the years 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010 being the best to grab for this one.
Chateau Palmer (Third Growth, Margaux, Medoc, Left Bank)
Great Value Relative: Alter Ego de Palmer, and the recommended years are 2000, 2004, 2005, 2009.
I hope that has shed some light on the alternatives to the kings and queens of wine, that might otherwise be out of your or my price range, or maybe you just want to try a new great find. Drink away and let me know what you think! I have gathered all these from Sotheby’s wine retail, and the prices are there for you to have a look at in the sources.
Good Drinking to you!