With wines like Chateau Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux and Latour, France's Bordeaux commands some of the world's highest wine prices. But in an outstanding vintage like 2010, the exceptional quality of the grapes carries through to lesser known, more affordable estates. That said, the wines the panel sampled were initially a little disappointing and seemed rather reserved. But when I re-tasted the top three picks one day and two days later, they had really opened up. This is a vintage that needs at least a few years to come around. If you want to try them now, decant and let them breathe for a couple of hours or more.
2010 Chateau Le Pey, $17.99
At 55 percent, cabernet sauvignon edges out merlot in this Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc. An eclectic mix of cola, wet brick and berry comes through on the nose. It's a beautifully structured wine with sweet red fruit nicely balanced by crisp acidity. Licorice, Anaheim pepper, ripe tannins and soft oak color the lingering finish.
2010 Chateau Mirefleurs, $14.99
The lower price tag on this wine reflects the less distinguished pedigree of a Bordeaux Superior (versus the narrower appellations of the other two wines) but the proof is in the bottle. Creamy cassis and berry aromas are colored by creme brulee and kirsch. The lush fruit flavors are dominated by berry and plum, finishing with soft acidity and ripe tannins. This wine has a lot of bang for the buck.
2010 Chateau Tour Bayard, $25
This is a merlot-dominant blend at 70 percent, with 25 percent cab franc and 5 percent malbec from an appellation just outside St. Emilion proper. It offers a classic Bordeaux nose with deep, dark berry fruit complemented by hints of cedar, pencil lead and oak. The palate is filled with ripe plum and tart berry, backed by licorice and spice. You get a bit of smoke on the finish, along with smooth, silky tannins.