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Bordeaux on a Budget: My Top Choices Under £10

Talk of Bordeaux reds and wallets start to shudder, but it is not all about the region’s costly superstars.

For sure, a handful of producers create spectacular wines of great complexity and longevity and with price labels to match.

However, there are around 5000 different estates in the region with most of them small and often producing wine that is far from expensive.

The region has over 30 appellations but over half of its output is in the modest Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Superieur AOC categories.

Finding those that excel at everyday prices, though, is not easy.

Some are too lean or too savoury or otherwise struggle to fit what today’s typical drinkers are seeking.  

So, I collected a number of “High Street” examples of basic red Bordeaux and compared them.

Here is the result – which I hope you find helpful.

The images and hyperlinks provided should help you to find them in crowded displays.

 First some context

Although geology is relatively kind to Bordeaux producers, the weather is less generous.  

Ripeness can, thus, be an issue and, despite careful blending activity, vintages do vary appreciably.

Elusive ripeness can mean that savoury factors are more prominent (graphite, tar and earthiness are common examples) and add leafy (slightly vegetal) aromas.

So, we cannot expect exclusively fruit-bomb constituents.

Indeed, the key seems to be balancing savouriness, tannin, acidity and (usually dark) fruit in proportions that make each discernible – but none overpowering.

Since there is well over twice as much merlot as cabernet sauvignon, we can expect that variety to predominate in blends at cheaper price points.

Merot ripens earlier (so less chance of underripe components) and brings the  raspberry, red cherry and plum flavours that are currently popular.

And the classification.

For consistency, all the group tried were in the Bordeaux Supérieur category.

This is the second level up the region’s hierarchy (after Bordeaux AOC).

It imposes specific controls on vine density, yields, alcohol level and aging requirement that do not all apply to Bordeaux AOC wines.

So, what were my top choices?

On the lighter side

2021 Des Tourelles Bordeaux Supérieur (£7.50 at Tesco and 12.5% abv):

This was the runner-up and is the product of the long standing relationship Tesco have forged with Yvon Mau – one of the region's big players.  

Medium bodied and nicely smooth, the wine contains lingering blackcurrant, plum and black cherry flavours.

Its supporting features include floral aromas, limited tannin and sharp acidity with menthol and aniseed touches.

My top choice.

2021 Bordeaux Supérieur (£5.99 at Lidl and 13%):

Ironically, the one that met my criteria best was also the cheapest, and represents tremendous value for money.  

Almost black in colour and full, this has a centrepiece of attractive damson, loganberry and pomegranate flavours.

These are supplemented by balanced acidity, mild tannin and sweet edges with hints of mint, chocolate and tobacco.

And one I sampled earlier.

2021 Best Bordeaux Supérieur (£8.75 at Morrisons and 13%):

This was not part of this comparative tasting (because I had tasted it a few days earlier) but also impresses.

It is slightly lighter than the Lidl option but will win friends with its excellent acidity/tannin balance.

With leafy aromas and just the right acidic support, it has medium bodied cherry, bramble and plum flavours embellished by gentle tannin and suggestions of clove, cola and herbs.


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Comments

11 Comments

Sue

Interesting as always thank you. Your words did leave me wondering how many others you tried at this tasting and what were they? There’s lots out there at all the supermarkets and chain stores…..and of course it would have been good to have a few ” can’t recommend” examples. Like “Which” dies for food.

Brian Elliott

You have raised a good point Sue and one I have thought about a lot. Some commentators do feel it important to warn people where better options are available (and their comments may be fun to read). It can also add a sense of objectivity and, some say, encourages backmarkers to make improvements.
I understand those arguments but decided merely to remain silent about wines I did not score highly. Four reasons steered me in that direction:
• Telling people what NOT to buy “fills no glasses” – in itself it makes no one closer to knowing what to buy than restricting myself simply to recommending what seems good to me.
• I do not believe anyone sets out to make bad wine. For sure, corners may be cut inadvisedly – thus reducing quality – but the absence of repeat purchases is a more potent stimulus for change than any words of mind.
• In addition, it is all down to personal taste. Something I like may repel the next person. Who am I to act as the final arbiter on what is “good” and what is “bad”.
• Rogue bottles do surface especially if they have been on supermarket shelves for some time. Panning everything under that label could be grossly unfair.
Consequently, I simply taste the wine in front of me, assess how typical of the style it is and whether it ticks boxes for me about its balance and on the absence of what I consider adverse factors. Then I simply pass on the good news.

Eddie Walker

Wow! Brian … that’s as good a treatise on cheaper-end, high street Bordeaux availability as we might come to read.

More than that your reply to Sue was such enlightenment about the half-full rather than half-empty glass philosophy when it comes to talking up rather than talking down that which we find less to our taste. Only so much time and space so let’s stay positive eh?

Except if we as punters … not professional reviewers like yourself, do come across something we’ve had that doesn’t suit I think it incumbent on me anyway, personally, to say what I think. I have no problem with anybody disagreeing as long as they are constructive and objective and not just dismissive of another opinion.

Of course it does come down to whether we want the specifics that Bordeaux offers in the first place. I love it all, the place, the culture, the château, such accessible terroir, and the style and cuvées that feature all the usual suspects including Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

So who could ever argue with a take that you offer in an objective way in this case the Lidl bottle here today. I’ve had it before, not the 2021 vintage, and I see only different vintages as possible impediments to continuing quality. So from one year to the next, buyer-beware except the 2020 certainly hit the heights too!

In the meantime I’m out to Lidl to stock up at that incredible value of £5.99 for a prestigious French vin.

Just to mention that we have before discussed the merits of the Aldi Pierre Jaurant 2021 Merlot-Cabernet AOP at £5.29 that I’d always throw in the mix.

Brian Elliott

Good distinction there Eddie., it is an important part of comment sections like this that subscribers honestly report back what they find – good or bad. Such contributions are part of a lively community of which the brilliant people who regularly post here are a good illustration. There is quite a large group though who do not participate in (or even access) the comments page, but who simply want to know what to buy – and negative assessments do not help them fulfil that aim at all. The fact, I guess, is that slightly different approaches apply to a chat with friends in the pub than to a one-way communication that appears as a poster on a billboard opposite the pub doorway.
Agree about the Pierre Jaurant but Aldi could not supply a sample (possibly between vintages).

Phil Bradshaw

Not sure how much vintage matters at this level but I checked local Lidl this morning and they had (mainly – see below) the 2022 vintage of the BS. Even if comparable I suspect it will need a bit more bottle age. My local Lidl however seems to have no stock rotation policy for wine (unlike fresh goods – fortunately) and leaves old stock at the back when filling shelves. A quick rummage and a few odd glances as I moved 8-10 bottles found a 2021 at the back which I will try soon. Learned this trick with their Chianti Riserva where the 2018 was much better than later years.

Brian Elliott

As others have suggested, vintage is significant in Bordeaux where summers can very appreciably. In years when cabernet sauvignon ripen fully, blends will differ from those when the weather necessitates a Plan B.
If you can stand the embarrassment, rummaging is often useful. Although it does not apply to typical Lidl displays, a look behind what is on the shelf next to the one in question can sometimes deliver what you are looking for.

Eddie Walker

Phil hello … I’d suggest even with cheap end stuff vintage still matters.

I dug out my review at Cuveereserve for a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that gives mention to a 2015 Lidl bottle available in both this country eventually, and France where I first bought it on the suggestion of a French woman shopping next to me who said …. you like the best and the cheapest that all my friends drink … here …. €1.99!!! But don’t tell anyone I said so.

It was excellent and I recommended it to the group. But a year later shopping both here and in a France Lidl for the next ”vintage” and it was hopeless!

And you are right about the Lidl Riserva Chianti. The 2018 was terrific at £4.49 WOTW … comparatively it went off the boil.

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/cuveereserve/montepulciano-d-abruzzo-biologico-cantina-tollo-do-t2504.html

Brian Elliott

Good tip Eddie., thank you.

David Cronin

Hi Brian, good post as always.
I for one still struggle finding a decent affordable Claret especially some of the supermarket offerings, it’s almost like going on a quest for the ‘Holy Grail’ only harder.
I’m hoping one of the ones you feature here ( not tried them yet) may hit the spot.
Don’t get me wrong I do like Bordeaux but as you say it’s that savoury , green, leanness that can be off-putting. Perhaps the ‘Right bank’ Merlot dominant bottles are a little more approachable with their fruitier and softer style.
But even further up the price bracket, a lot of Bordeaux’s still leave me wanting more, although a recent one I found around the £10 range was pretty decent….. the Co op’s ComTesse Saint Hilaire Montagne Saint Émilion.
I agree with Eddie about Vintages even with the cheaper offerings, it can vary a lot, I’ve often bought a bottle I enjoyed (different Vintage) and it’s like drinking a different wine.
I will continue my ‘Bordeaux Quest’ with your help and the knowledgeable Midweekers, maybe finding that affordable gem, but more likely I’ll probably come across the ‘Holy Grail’ first.

Brian Elliott

You are right about the “lean, green and mean” deficiencies of some Bordeaux reds. I can find myself saying “what fruit taste-alikes am I discovering here?” and have to answer “None”. Good luck with the quest, though, and I shall look out for a newspaper headline saying “Hertfordshire Man Finally Locates Holy Grail”

Paul Davies

Still in Italy,trying a Susumaniello for the first time.But back to Bordeaux,I have enjoyed the TWS Château Canada ,Bordeaux Supèrior,which is a well priced Claret at £8.95.Not quite the Holy Grail,but an unfussy friendly drop.


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