As I reported two weeks ago, 2002 has turned out to be a Cinderella vintage for Bordeaux. Because the wines were initially underrated, prices are 25 to 35 percent lower than they might have been, providing excellent quality and value at all price levels.
My May 25 column covered the elite wines; this week the focus is on wines that are more affordable.
In this price category, ranging from slightly under $20 to about $45, Bordeaux has the world beat. The better Bordeaux in this category reach or exceed the quality, complexity and aging potential of $100-plus wines from Napa Valley, Tuscany, Australia and even the pricier elite of Bordeaux. Though not truly inexpensive, they must be appreciated in this context.
The following wines are listed in order of preference within categories. Prices are based on estimated retail prices provided by National Distributing Co., which organized the tasting.
BEST BUYS (under $30)
Chateau D'Armailhac 2002 ($27 to $34; Pauillac): Made by the winemaking team of Mouton-Rothschild (which sells for $150), this wine is superb, exhibiting powerful, concentrated fruit and a Moutonlike bouquet of expensive new oak and fresh cedar. Will benefit from three to five years of cellaring.
Chateau La Gurgue 2002 ($18 to $22; Margaux): Little La Gurgue's postage-stamp vineyard is located amid the best parcels of first-growth Chateau Margaux ($150). La Gurgue displays the classic Margaux commune style, marrying a fine violet-scented bouquet to aristocratically lean, supple fruit. Ready now.
Chateau de Pez 2002 ($24 to $27; St.-Estephe): A stylish bouquet of toasted oak and cedar, followed by robust, savory fruit on the palate.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (more than $30)
Chateau Pontet-Canet 2002 ($35 to $45; Pauillac): Powerful and opulent in the style of its neighbor Mouton-Rothschild, in a blind tasting this would easily pass for a $150 first growth. A star of the vintage.
Chateau Calon-Segur 2002 ($39 to $45; St.-Estephe): Though often humdrum, in its best years Calon-Segur is as exotic as Bordeaux gets. The remarkable 2002 appears to be another classic. Give it five years in the cellar.
Chateau Malescot-St-Exupery 2002 ($49; Margaux): Absolutely beautiful, highly fragrant, plush and ultra-luxurious.
Also recommended: Clerc-Milon 2002 ($42); Leoville-Poyferre 2002 ($42); Montrose 2002 ($60); Beychevelle 2002 ($38); Lynch Bages 2002 ($52); Haut Bages Liberal 2002 ($29); Haut- Beausejour 2002 ($18).