There Has Never Been a Better Time To Buy, Enjoy and Cellar Wines from France's Premier Red Wine Region
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96
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Pomerol's Lafleur, No. 11, is everything but a bargain. However, it remains one of Bordeaux's most momentous wines. Made of equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Lafleur seduces you with its exotic, wild fruit character. About 1,000 cases are made each year, with bottles going for about $140 to $200 each.
In comparison, you could buy four bottles of the No. 12 wine, Cos-d'Estournel, for the same price and it would be nearly as good. Cos is one of the most consistently fine wine producers in Bordeaux. Even in very difficult vintages, such as '91 and '92, it made very good wines.
The tiny Pomerol estate of Le Pin, No. 13, is one of the most sought-after reds from Bordeaux, due to its tiny production and unique style. Made almost entirely from Merlot, only about 600 cases are available each year. If you can find it, buy it. With the exception of the '92 vintage, Le Pin has been making superb wines each year. Bottles sell for about $150 to $300.
My 14th wine, Pichon-Longueville-Baron, has long been a favorite in Bordeaux, although it wasn't until the late 1980s that the property made truly great wines. Owned by the AXA Insurance Group since 1987, the estate has undergone a metamorphosis. Nothing has been spared to create the best wine possible. Try to find the '89 Pichon-Baron, which was Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 1992. More recent vintages sell for about $30 to $40 a bottle.
The two estates in my 15th spot are nearly as impressive and are making excellent wines. The chateau of Pichon-Longueville-Lalande is directly across the street from Pichon-Longueville-Baron, although the former's wines tend to be softer and more elegant. May-Eliane de Lencquesaing is a devoted owner and one of the most dedicated wine producers in Bordeaux. Look for the '90, '89, '86 or '85. They are all outstanding, especially at about $40 to $50 a bottle.
Lagrange, by comparison, is a more recent standout. Since Suntory Ltd. bought the property in 1983, the Japanese wine and liquor giant has invested millions of dollars to produce the best wine possible, and the results have been impressive. Look for the '90, '89 or '88. They are all terrific quality and sell for $30 to $35.
My top 20 would not be complete without a great St.-Emilion, so it is fitting that Ausone comes in at No. 17. Most of the small estate's vineyards are located on a beautiful hillside at the entrance of the medieval town of St.-Emilion. With only about 2,000 cases made each year, Ausone offers one of the most collectible wines from Bordeaux. Look for the '90 and '89, although the recently released '93 is also super. Recent vintages sell for about $110 a bottle.
La Mission Haut-Brion, a long-time classic and my No. 18, is equally collectible, and the Pessac-Léognan estate makes bold and powerful wines. La Mission has been particularly good since the '80s--in large part due to a change in ownership in 1983, when the owners of Haut-Brion bought the property. New releases cost about $45 a bottle.
No one could be considered a serious Bordeaux wine lover without a bottle or two of Palmer in the cellar. No. 19 on my list, Palmer never bowls you over with powerful wines, but instead seduces you with its finesse and suppleness. New vintages sell for about $40 a bottle.
The final estate in my top 20 is L'Angélus. I can't think of another Bordeaux estate that has moved to the top more quickly. Hubert De Bouard de Laforest, a cigar lover and manager of the estate, has redefined the boundaries of quality for his family's estate and the region of St.-Emilion. He makes rich and wonderful reds with layers of ripe fruit and fine tannins. Even in weak years such as '92, L'Angélus made very good wines. Young wines sell for about $35 a bottle.
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