Recommend me my first Bordeaux?

I’m a relatively new wine drinker, especially red wine, and I was hoping to get some recommendations for my first bottle of Bordeaux. I’d like to explore the style a little to see if it’s something I want to dive deeper into. I would like to try something with a little age that would be considered a good representation of the region. I’d like to keep my budget between 50-70 USD so I’m certainly not looking for a 1st Growth bottle. I live in Germany so I’m mostly shopping euro websites. I’m planning to visit Bordeaux next year and want to explore the wine a bit before I commit.

So, if you can recommend any particular producers/vintages to seek out for a newcomer, I’d really appreciate it. I also wouldn’t cry if you have any favorite euro sites for ordering from.

Lastly, since I often see people ask for recommendations and the response is “well what do you like already”… I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve enjoyed several wines from the Cotes de Rhone as well as a few bottles of Cru Beaujolais. I recently tried a German red (Markus Schneider) from the Pfalz region that was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot that I really enjoyed. I’ve also tried a California Zinfandel (Mettler) that I really liked. In general I prefer white to red, really enjoy a nice German Riesling, and I usually like something that leans a little sweeter/fruitier than something bone dry and tannic.

It is hard to make a pinpoint recommendation of a specific wine without really knowing what is available to you in Germany, but I will generalize. If you are looking for sweeter, fruitier Bordeaux, I would encourage you to explore the region of Saint Emilion, where most of the wines are predominately Merlot. You might also consider more of the modern-styled wineries, as the wines tend to be more lush and fruit-forward, and approachable at an early stage. Many of these wines from vintages that I would still consider to be young, like 2000 to 2005, could be approachable and enjoyable to you.

Monsieur Loire Valley recommends these two? I have both from the 2005 vintage. Alf, these are just not your style.

Seriously, I would “phone a friend.” See if you can find a generous old soul who is willing to share an older bottle with you. I do not know if you can learn a lot from current release Bordeaux. Many people say never open it at less than 20 years. Probably a bit of hyperbole, but not much. If you were in New York, I would be willing to open a 2005 Monbousquet or a 2005 Haut Bergey that are sitting in cases in my cellar. I bought them on release and have opened one or two of each, no more. They would be instructive, or should I say wood be instructive, because they are modern style and one side of the spectrum. I would expect that Alfert, who has a very delicate palate that is often severely damaged by wines with flavor, would hate both of these. If you like them, that is instructive, and if you do not, that is instructive also.

Jay, I think you know they are not my style at all, but he’s asking for sweeter, fruitier Bordeaux that are mature and around 50 or so USD. The modern St Ems, as you seem to agree, fit the bill.

On the opposite spectrum, I would recommend Sociando Mallet.

Actually the 2009 Cantemerle might be a good bet. While young, it is a riper vintage. Classic but ripe fruit.

Even before reading Robert’s response, I was thinking a well stored bottle of 1983 Cantemerle. You should (may?) be able to source it in that price range. I have within the last year. Idealwine in Europe is a pretty good auction source for those folks on the continent. Check there or use Wine Searcher. I think it has very good fruit and is perfectly ripe. Not tannic anymore. Albeit I wouldn’t call it a fruity style.

Or better yet compare 1983 and 2009.

if you are a fairly new red wine drinker, i think reccomendations might be better if we know a couple of things about what you are drinking now. a very new red wine drinker may not enjoy the tertiary flavors that develop in a REALLY aged bottle of Bordeaux, and something with some age but not a ton may be better. if you like red burgundy for the earthy mushroom notes though, that could be right up your alley. I would suggest starting with two bottles:

  1. a second or third wine from a great estate (Pagodes de Cos? Chapelle de Mission? or do a search there have been some good posts about inexpensive bordeaux recently) from a more recent vintage (2005-2012…decent well)
  2. a bottle with a little more age on it from a 2nd or 3rd growth, or a Premier Grand Cru St Emilion estate. (still decant well!)

i think its useful when exploring bordeaux to see both. one of the reasons Bordeaux is so appreciated is its ability to age. However, its not always easy to appreciate aged reds when starting out. Most of my friends who say they like red wine dont love 30 year old bordeaux. sometimes you have to build into it.

I think this is spot on.

I was thinking 1996 Cantemerle. It has been very good for a long time and it’s widely available in Europe in the OP’s price range.

Drinking the 1983 and 2009 would be fun. I had the 83 this past year, totally love it. I would fear making that recommendation alone to the OP based on his stated preferences. Would love for him to try it, though, next to a Bordeaux that would express some of the fruit-forward attributes that he seeks. Even better yet, toss in the 2010 with the 2009, 1996 and 1983. Killer line-up. And probably the only Classified Growth that would be resonably affordable to line up that way.

Damn do I like that 83!

Gloria is another good one. Older vintages can come up for reasonable prices. I bought some 85s last year and they’re very nice. Their 2009 and 2012 are good as well. I haven’t had others recently.

I agree with the recommendations for the Cantemerle and the Gloria. Another good bottle that we enjoyed last year for less than $50 was the 1996 Du Tertre. It was a lot better than we thought it would be!


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What about Lagrange (St. Julien)? Perhaps not exactly the sweetest flavor profile, but highly representative, ages well, and relatively available. Either '90 or '96 might be findable in the price range (at least per WS Pro), and more recent vintages would make for good comparisons/exploration of aging. The 2009 (or better yet the 2005) should also be available. I’m sticking with riper vintages (though those are the ones that I’ve had the most of).

I really appreciate the thoughtful responses. I’ll start looking up some of the producers that were recommended and see what I can find. I like the idea of getting two bottles, one a little older and one a little newer just to see how things change. I’ll have to see if I can round up a couple of friends a split the bottles.

Right now, and really just because they were the first ones I looked up, I was thinking of the 1983 and the 2009 Cantemerle. Both were available for decent prices. If I were able to get a couple of friends together should I stick with those two bottles or possibly add a third for some variation?

Thanks for all the advice.

There are so many different ways to play this, Jeremy. I say, “the more, the merrier”. The best way to learn is to drink, fun eh? I cut my teeth on Bordeaux as a new grad, getting together monthly with some of my young colleagues, most of whom remain close friends 20 years later.

First, I like the idea of keeping your group small with people you like. I think 5-6 is perfect, as that is one full glass per bottle. Some people seem to make detailed impressions on wines from small tastes at one moment in time. I’m not so gifted. I need more wine and more time. Following a wine over several hours is so ideal.

Second, I like themes. So many different options:

  • For you, consider a broad theme that picks a wine from each major appellation, so you can start to see some differences.

  • One producer, multiple years (Cantemerle, 1983, 1996, 2009, 2010)

  • One appellation, horizontal

  • Compare left bank to right bank (Cantermerle 1983, 2009 and two wines from St Emilion)

  • Compare modern producers to traditional producers (Cantemerle is very traditional)

  • Split the cost of a mature First Growth

  • Sample an array of QPRs

Third, welcome to the site! Tons of information here and wonderful collegiality.

Robert gives lots of great ideas, I’d like to try a few of these myself.

One last thought from me - don’t worry about making your first tasting perfect. Many more will follow :slight_smile:.

Looking at the styles you’ve tried and enjoyed, I reckon the options are quite wide. Add into that some online German wine shops having mature stock, and I reckon you’ll do fine.

Much of St Emilion certainly caught the ‘ripeness/over-ripeness’ bug - its traditional right bank rival Pomerol is generally more to our tastes, but often very approachable. Worth trying a few with Cab Franc in the blend.

Alex R is a good person to query about good values in Bordeaux, the classed growths are very much fully priced these days.

I’ve not bought from them, but Cave du Connaisseur are based in Berlin and have a wonderful range of mature wines e.g. Nice to try some nature bottles to see if you’d like to buy more to keep in the cellar. Vintage-wise, maybe a 1985, 1988 or 1989? e.g. 1989 Cantemerle mentioned above at €55 or Ch Potensac at €39, or perhaps a 2000 Ch. Quinault L’Enclos at €48
(St Emilion, but at moderate alc%). Loads to choose from.

Never been dissatisfied with Caduco. Great service and wines. Bought several cases of mature wines.

Jeremy, 2014 Bordeaux is the vintage that is currently being distributed in the EU and US and many of these wines should be able to offer you a nice snap shot of Bordeaux wines. 2014 Moulin St Georges is drinking nicely ($40) with some air as are Chasse Spleen ($35); Poujeaux (35); Montandrie ($25). Obviously, you can check out higher tier and older vintages as well, but there should currently be a number of 2014s on your local retailers shelves with which you can break the ice! [cheers.gif]

If you can, try your BDX selections with some lamb.

They go well together.

Heartily endorse the Cantemerle and Gloria suggestions too.

Lots of good recommendations here for specific wines. But the best advice in this thread is to get a small group together and open several bottles at a time. Accelerates rhe learning curve dramatically.