The Classified Growth Bordeaux featured in the annual international Left Bank Bordeaux Cup tend to be expensive. But if you're in the mood simply to enjoy a Bordeaux without paying a lot of money, look for ones labeled Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux Superieur or simply Bordeaux. Their quality can be uneven, but many of these wines are excellent values.
I couldn't resist throwing in a Grand Cru from Saint-Emilion, on the right bank, as well as a Sancerre, for a white wine change of pace.
Chateau Gontey Grand Cru 2010
Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France, $38
This heady merlot, with 20 percent cabernet franc, is available primarily in restaurants, but it's also worth finding for a special dinner at home or even for your cellar. It is rich, dark and brooding at first, but after an hour or so it comes alive with intense cherry fruit. (I suggest decanting). It's modern in style; the extract and soft tannins grab your palate and hold on. Alcohol by volume: 14 percent.
Cru Monplaisir 2010
GREAT VALUE Two and a half stars
Bordeaux Superieur, France, $20
This blend of merlot with some cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc is fresh and lively in a fashion that most New World wines, overdressed in oak, do not achieve at this price point. ABV: 13.5 percent.
Reflets du Chateau Cissac 2011
Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, $22
In the classic Bordeaux style, it shows some earth to balance the fruit. An excellent partner for simple red-meat meals. ABV: 12.5 percent.
Chateau la Coudraie 2010
GREAT VALUE One and a half stars
Bordeaux, France, $14
It's juicy and straightforward, with a hint of the tobacco-y character that wine lovers like to call “cigar box.” ABV: 13.5 percent.
Three stars Exceptional, two stars Excellent, one star Very Good
Availability information is based on distributor records. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.