Life & Style
The discerning drinker: Affordable claret and Bordeaux blendsAndrew Neather
I don't think I've seen near-hysteria in the wine world quite like that during the past few weeks over the prices being announced for the much-lauded 2009 Bordeaux vintage.Fine claret was already beyond most drinkers' pockets. Now the eagerness of both investors and far Eastern buyers to pay whatever the top chateaux asked means that the fancier '09s will remain the stuff of fantasy for most of us. First growths start at €550 (£460) a bottle plus duty and VAT. But the inflation will inevitably feed through to much more modest bottles. It's a shame, as the '09s I've tasted are very good. Fortunately there are more modestly priced alternatives from other vintages and regions, for those of us without either bankers' salaries or the space and patience to wait for the '09s.
Château Paloumey 2004, Haut-Médoc (Flint Wines, £15.95: mail order only, flintwines.com or 020 7582 2210; you can mix cases; delivery £10/case or pick up free from their Kennington offices)
Bordeaux's '04s just look better and better, both left bank and right. This is deep yet elegant and well structured — showing well now but will last.
Chateau Caronne Ste-Gemme 2005, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc (Majestic, £13.99 or £12.99 each when you buy two; Jeroboams has the slighter leaner 2004 reduced to £12.95 until August 31)
The stage was set for 2009's silly prices by 2005, the last “vintage of the century”. Still, it's a year that's quite hard to go wrong with for claret. This one has nice flesh and purity of fruit, although with solid structure and good acidity. This is 60 per cent cab, the rest mostly merlot.
Chateau Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Nagambie Lakes (Wine Society, thewinesociety.com, mail order only, £9.32)
Chateau Tahbilk is one of Australia's most venerable and respected producers, still in family hands after 150 years. From a high inland Victoria region, this boasts rich cassis fruit with pepper and more structure than many Aussie cabs.
D'Arenberg The Galvo Garage 2006, McLaren Vale (Majestic, £14.99 or 11.99 when you buy any two still Australian wines)
From leading McLaren Vale producer d'Arenberg, this is serious stuff: sweet, rich fruit but with lovely definition and acidity. Just over half cab, plus merlot, cabernet franc and an unusually big slug of petit verdot. Amazing value on the multi-bottle offer.