A taste of Bordeaux for less than $20

July 19, 1992|By Michael Dresser

The following Bordeaux, each costing less than $20, were tasted in recent weeks. Some were purchased in Washington, where prices are typically a bit lower. They are listed in rough order of preference.

* Chateau Tour-Haut-Cassan, Medoc, $18. The bouquet is full and generous, with notes of black cherry, blackberry, cedar, earth and spice. With its excellent concentration and structure, it could be mistaken for a top Saint Estephe. It's a delight, and it will be even better in 10-15 years.

* Chateau Cassagne-Haut-Canon "La Truffiere," Canon Fronsac, $15. The lush blackberry and herbal flavors, with hints of chocolate, and the silky texture mark this as a particularly fine wine with a high percentage of merlot grapes. Impressive now, it will probably be even better in three to five years

* Chateau Tayac "Prestige," Cotes de Bourg, $16. The best estate on the "wrong" side of the river has scored again with a superb 1989, with soft, ripe fruit up front but plenty of backbone for future development. Flavors and aromas include black cherry, casis, cedar and that "cigar box" nuance that marks the finest Medoc wines. You can drink it now or keep it up to a decade.

* Chateau du Moulin Rouge, Haut Medoc, $10. This gorgeous, full-bodied wine, moderately complex wine is loaded with black cherry and blackberry flavors, held together by firm but not hard tannins. It's good now but could use a few years. Excellent value.

* Chateau Greysac, Medoc, $10. This is easily the best Greysac I've tasted in years. It's a very perfumed wine, with plenty of lush, sweet black cherry fruit. It has a lot of precocious charm but will probably be better in two or three years. It hits no peaks of complexity, but it's a lovely, easy wine to drink.

* Chateau Pitray, Cotes de Castillon, $7. This price is not a misprint. It was paid in Washington, and the Maryland price might be more like $8, but even at the higher price this wine is incredible. Seldom do you find such concentration and flavor in a wine priced at under $10. It's just loaded with ripe, chunky, grapey fruit -- not enormously complex, but so appealing. Buy it by the case.

* Chateau La Tour Beguy, Cotes de Bourg, $7. This chunky, rustic wine has a lot of burly charm. It's earthy and grapey, with hints of chocolate and charcoal. In no way a finesse wine, it comes right at you. A year would help round off its rough edges, and it will last five or six.

* Chateau Cote Montpezat, Cotes de Castillon, $8. This wine takes a little exposure to air to hit its stride. It opens up gradually in the glass to reveal a good medium-bodied wine with pleasing black cherry, cedar and black currant flavors.

* Chateau Haut-Grignon, Medoc, $14. This pleasant, lightish Bordeaux has a lot of easy charm and appealing cherry and spice flavors reminiscent of Beaujolais. It's a bit pricey though.

* Chateau Haut Sociando, Premieres Cotes de Blaye, $6.49. A lighter-bodied, supple wine with appealing black cherry flavors. A fine choice to pair with grilled burgers on a warm evening.

* Chateau Merville, Saint-Estephe, $11. A chunky wine with some rich, chocolatey flavors. It's not really complex now, but three or four years of age might bring some out. It's a good wine, but you pay a premium for the Saint-Estephe name.

* Chateau Roquefort, Bordeaux, $7. Lean and mean at first, this wine opens up in the glass to reveal a spicy, medium-bodied wine with decent fruit.

* Chateau Perenne, Premieres Cotes de Blaye, $7. Full-bodied and a bit tannic. A good wine, marred by a slight seaweed taste.

* Chateau La Tonnelle, Premieres Cotes de Blaye, $6.49. A straightforward, plummy, somewhat coarse, medium-bodied wine. An honest wine but not inspired.

* Chateau Semeillan-Mazeau, Listrac, $9. A medium-bodied wine that trails off at the finish.

* Chateau Terrey-Gros-Caillous, Saint Julien, $13. This soft, sprawling wine is a real disappointment from a once-promising chateau. There's a big hole in the middle where flavor should be. Steer clear.

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