Cru Bourgeois


Cru Bourgeois-
The Best Value in Red Bordeaux

by Geoff Kalish


While red wines from the most revered, so-called "classified" French chateaux in Bordeaux, like Lafite, Latour and Margaux, garner major press coverage, many are outrageously expensive (costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars a bottle upon release) and not ready to drink until 15-20 years after vintage date. On the other hand, products like "Cru Bourgeois" reds - which are generally moderately-priced Medoc wines made from basically the same grape varietals as the “classified” growths (primarily Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc), and provide drinking pleasure upon release or after only a few years of cellaring – usually receive sparse coverage by the press and are generally less well known.


Map of Bordeaux


Actually, the category “Cru Bourgeois” itself is relatively new, compared to the 1855 classification of the most highly prized Bordeaux reds. Only in 1932 did the French government Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture institute the classification, with the wines of 444 properties selected for inclusion. But, because of bickering among the Medoc producers regarding inclusions, ratification of the category was never accomplished. Another attempt to establish the category in 2003 met with even more protest by producers and was eventually annulled by the courts in 2007. More recently, in 2010, a new classification based on the inclusion of individual wines, rather than properties, was introduced with producers opening their facilities for inspections and providing samples of their wines for blind tasting by an impartial board ("Bureau Veritas”). Of the more than 300 wines initially submitted for inclusion in 2008, based on the quality of production as well as a comparison of the wine to others submitted, 246 were awarded the classification “Cru Bourgeois”.

In addition, six properties feeling they make a higher level product – Chateaux Chasse Spleen, de Pez, Les Ormes des Pez. Poujeaux, Siran and Potensac – have formed an organization, “Les Exceptionnels”, to jointly market their wines apart from others in the Medoc. Also, a group of estates representing over almost 200 Bordeaux brands that include some “Cru Bourgeois”, various Grand-Cru Saint Emilion estates, and other bottles not recognized in the 1855 classification, formed a group in 2002 known as “The Grande Cercle” to jointly market their wines.

At a recent tasting held in New York City, more than 50 “Grande Cercle” 2010 and 2011 reds were available for sampling. In general, I found the wines to be very reasonably priced for the quality offered and pretty much ready to drink now as well as over the next 5-6 years.

The dozen brands that follow, (categorized as light, medium or full bodied), were judged as offering the best value. Prices provided reflect typical retail cost for a 750ml bottle, and do not include state taxes.


Château Ramafort 2010 (50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon) - $30.
A fruity, easy-drinking wine to mate with grilled or poached shrimp, scallops and mild cheeses.

Château Ramafort 2010

Château Tour Séran 2010 (Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon) - $35.
A very fruity product with a bouquet and taste of blackberries and ripe peaches. Ideal to mate with grilled salmon or arctic char.

Château Tour Séran 2010


Château Liversan 2011 (50% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) - $22.
Black-currant and distinctive cherry bouquet and taste make this wine an ideal partner for pasta with white sauce, and cheese fondues.

Château Liversan 2011



Château La Cardonne 2010 (50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc) - $25.
The long-lasting flavor of ripe plums and blackberries make this wine a wonderful partner for game dishes, especially duck breast and venison.

Château La Cardonne 2010


Château Patache d’Aux 2010 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) - $25.
This wine has a complex taste of oak and cassis that becomes more pronounced after about a half hour of aeration. Good mate for grilled steak.

Château Patache d’Aux 2010


Château Cap Léon Veyrin 2010 (60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot) - $23.
A complex, yet not overwhelming, bouquet and taste of blueberries and oak with hints of orange and a smooth finish, makes this wine a crowd pleaser with a range of hors d’ouevres like foie gras on brioche, skewered chicken and stuffed mushrooms.

Château Cap Léon Veyrin 2010


Château Grivière 2010 (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) - $18.
The fruity, almost jammy taste of this wine makes it a good mate for hamburgers and barbecued chicken.

Château Grivière 2010


Château Magnol 2012 (48% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc) - $22.
This deep red wine has a bouquet of strawberries and raspberries, with a well-integrated taste of fruit and spice. Try it with grilled lamb or veal chops.

Château Magnol 2012


Château Bel Air (Domaine Martin) 2010 (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc) - $21.
Made from grapes grown in a vineyard with vines averaging over 30 years of age, this wine shows a bouquet and taste of cassis and anise, with a bit of tannin in its finish. Goes great with prime rib and blue-veined cheeses.

Château Bel Air



Château Rollan de By 2010 (70% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc) - $30.
This northern Pauillac wine shows a bouquet and taste of ripe plums, blackberries and hints of olives with a silky smooth long-lasting finish reminiscent of wines from Pauillac selling at over $100 a bottle. It’s perfect to match any lamb or beef dish.
The favorite wine in this tasting.

Château Rollan de By 2010


Château Greysac 2010 (65% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon. 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) - $23.
Another great bargain, this wine shows a rich bouquet and taste of black currants with a touch of spice in the finish. Try it with chicken and veal dishes.

Château Greysac 2010


Château Haut Condissas 2010 (60% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) - $52.
This elegant wine has concentrated, well-integrated bouquet and flavor of cassis, anise and a touch of oak. It compares well to wines double or even triple the price. Mate it with prime rib, rack of lamb and veal osso buco.

Château Haut Condissas 2010


Château Malescasse 2011 (50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot) - $14.
Some may find that this big, fruity wine too one dimensional, but with an hour of aeration the wine shows much more complexity with flavors of chocolate and herbs. Try it with dark veined cheeses and squid ink pasta.

Château Malescasse 2011


Grand Enclos du Château de Cérons 2010 (50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon) - $26.
This wine has a classic Graves bouquet and taste of cassis and oak with a bit of tannin in the finish. This bottle goes harmoniously with grilled steak and prime rib.

Grand Enclos du Château de Cérons 2010