When someone says, “Bordeaux”, what do you think of? Is it the shockingly well-structured cabernets, or the lush merlots that have the same mouth feel as the word ‘Bordeaux’–or perhaps the ‘iron fist wrapped in velvet’ that its pinot noirs embody?
Regardless of your particular favorite red Bordeaux–and whether or not you can drop $35,000 on a case of Château Pétrus–one does not think of white Bordeaux.
But this is the inaugural post of a weekly series, Thrifty Thursdays! Thrifties are going to focus on wine that can generously be described as ‘inexpensive’; bottles that cost under $10 each, as much I can manage. The purpose is twofold: one, to remind myself that bottles above $30 are not normal for most people, and two, to show how to find good (well, drinkable) wine when the budget is tight!
The bottle in question:
The pertinent info:
Full Name: Château Allégret, Entre-Deux-Mers, Entre-Deux-Mers, 2013.
Grape(s): Sémillon (90%), sauvignon blanc (10%).
Price (to the nearest $5): $5. And I want to clarify here, this wasn’t $6.5, or $7. This bottle was five dollars.
That’s the shocking thing about this bottle. Seriously. Five dollars. That’s absolutely fluffernutters. Just guessing here, if the warehouse I bought these from put a 30% markup on, which is fairly low for wine, you’re looking at a $25-30 case of wine. That’s ridiculous.
How can you get a French white for $5, in New York City? That’s actually a great question, and I assume it was because the store got a good deal with their importer. But! There are also historical reasons why white Bordeaux is cheaper than its darker siblings.
The first thing to know Bordeaux wine is that its classification is incredibly complicated. There are people who can label every cru and sub-cru, who know why Château Palmer is pronounced ‘Pall-MER’, instead of ‘pall-MAY’ (named after a British general under Wellington), and can name the fourteen preeminent châteaus–point is, it’s really complicated and would take an ungodly amount of time to explain. That being said, Entre-Deux-Mers is a large forested AOC between the rivers Garonne and Dordogne. Its soil is largely alluvial, or a mix between sand and dirt. This is not the most ideal soil for growing wine in, and thus the AOC does not have as vaunted reputation as the other more-well-known Bordeaux AOCs.
Incidentally, though Entre-Deux-Mers does make red wine, it is classified as ‘Bordeaux’ or ‘Bordeaux Supérieur’–the most generic, and least specific classification of Bordeaux. Wines labelled Entre-Deux-Mers (such as the one above) are always dry white wines. In fact, you cannot make sweet wine in E-D-M; all white bearing that label must have less four grams of residual sugar per liter (that’s another thing about Bordeaux, to be able to use the name of a given appellation, you must follow extremely strict guidelines for your wine).
I’ll draw a bit on The Wine Bible here:
Although it is a large wine region and a picturesque one, the wines are generally very simple and never as high-quality as the wines of the Médoc, Graves, Pomerol, or St.-Émillon (MacNeil).
That’s a succinct way of putting it. The wines of Entre-Deux-Mers are often simply la plupart du temps inoffensifs.
This particular wine caught my eye because it was in the ‘bargain’ section–always a chance at finding a diamond in the rough. I tend to stay away from wines that are always cheap, because that means that they are necessarily produced cheaply.
Additionally, I tend to stay away from grapes that I don’t know, or sound like off-brands of more common grapes. For instance, at the store today, I saw several bottles that were made entirely from ‘pinot blanc’. It turns out, per the Great Grape Grimoire, it’s actually a perfectly respectable member of the pinot family, primarily known in Alsace, Germany and Austria (in the latter, it is especially respected as a good grape for trockenbeerenauslesen, the legendary sweet wine). Regardless of me actually doing my research, you’ll see grapes like ugni blanc, which is largely used for flabby, uninteresting jug wines.
One of the many qualities of really well-known grapes such as cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay is that they have a cultural character–’this is what this wine is supposed to taste like’, which discourages winemakers who are making inexpensive wines from experimenting too much. Thus, inexpensive wine tends to be predictable–which I would argue is its best quality. As with the bottle I’m drinking right now, I wasn’t expecting it to be amazingly innovative–and it wasn’t. But that is vastly preferable to a wine that attempts to be interesting and ends up … simply bad. With inexpensive wines, my bar for success is, ‘drinkable and predictable’. That is the ideal space for inexpensive wines to occupy.
With that said, I’d say this bottle of Entre-Deux-Mers absolutely qualifies. I was actually shocked at how good this wine is. It’s not incredibly complex, but it embodies the character of the grapes, and is more than drinkable.
I would like to reiterate that $5 for a decent bottle of wine is crazy prices pretty much … anywhere. Honestly, especially in the city. That is shockingly cheap for more-than-okay wine.
– Quite subtle. Fresh. Very quiet yellow fruit.
– A bit tart–green apples, perhaps?
– The tartness evens out–definitely green apple, maybe a hint of pineapple/citrus?
– Long, tart fruit. Good acid. Very dry and mineral.
– That is a shockingly good wine for the price. Like, I’m shocked that it’s this good, and not mind-numbingly boring. Capital job.
I was a bit taken aback at the quality-to-price ratio when I was tasting, thus the tone.
Seriously. Search your bargain bins. Sometimes it’s just the last few bottles of expensive wine that need to go, but sometimes it’s a bottle that the owner got a great deal on and can drop the price by a solid 25%. That’s nothing to shake a stick at. There’s value at looking at the bargain bin even if you don’t need to buy at that price point. It’s always such a joy to find a good wine at a great price.
Macneil, Karen. The Wine Bible. 2nd edition. Workman Publishing Company, October 13, 2015.
Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.
Wikipedia contributors. “Entre-Deux-Mers.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 19 Jan. 2018.