Come on, you know these, right?
The best wines in Bordeaux? That'll be... Well, before you start reeling off your favorite Left Bank collectible, maybe some reflection might be in order.
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Bordeaux's place in the wine world is sans pareil and, in a very real sense, it IS the wine world. Our very idea of wine – or at least one of our ideas of wine – is entirely informed by Bordeaux. The Bordeaux blend is the benchmark for so many winemakers and even entire regions; what would Napa be if it didn't have Bordeaux to base itself on, for example?
Bordeaux is the well-to-do, besuited vigneron, welcoming the great and good to a palatial château, set in garden-like grounds. It is orderly ranks of French oak barrels in the temperature-controlled chai, patiently softening until bottled in a straight-shouldered, discreetly labeled bottle, which will then change hands (it will never suffer the tragic indignity of being merely sold) for a reassuringly large amount of money.
(Of course, the other idea of wine involves wild and sparse plantings on hilly countryside, made in a farmhouse by a vigneron in a torn sweater, with callused hands and a hand-rolled cigarette hanging from the corner of the mouth. This wine will change hands for an even larger amount of money, usually. However, this is Burgundy, so it needn't occupy us too much in this story.)
Expert opinions would have us believe that Bordeaux is a kind of vinous Nirvana, where great wines grow as of right and anything that doesn't have the sage heads of the inner circle of wine's gatekeepers nodding in purring approval simply doesn't exist. And to them, non classed-growth Bordeaux doesn't exist. They live only in a world of cru classés, where châteaux vie to entertain them with luxurious tastings in sumptuous surroundings. Not for them the simpler, less-heralded wines of the basic Bordeaux appellation; those wines are for the plebs.
Contrary to what the cognoscenti would have us believe, Bordeaux wines – even the hallowed First Growths – don't score as highly as wines from Burgundy, for example. There are Napa wines that outscore some of these legendary names, too. However, the wines that outscore these wines also tend to have far higher price tags attached, making Bordeaux home to some of the relatively cheapest "best" wines on earth.
We're not talking about value here, of course, rather quality; but then, are scores really everything? Well, yes, is the simple answer. Or at least it is for our purposes today, where we reveal the top-scoring wines in Bordeaux.
As usual, we are using the aggregated weighted critic scores that Wine-Searcher allots to each wine as our guide. We measure this score to four decimal places (even though we only display the rounded, two-digit total), so even wines with the same rounded score are in strict order.
Best Bordeaux Wines on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Score||Ave Price|
|Château d'Yquem, Sauternes||96||$457|
|Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan||96||$617|
|Château Latour, Pauillac||96||$835|
|Château Ausone, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru||96||$757|
|Château Lafleur, Pomerol||96||$802|
|Château Margaux, Margaux||96||$715|
|Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac||96||$650|
|Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru||96||$693|
|Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac||95||$925|
The big reveal from the list is that, of course, Bordeaux's highest-scoring wine isn't one of the sacred First Growths; it's not even red, which is strangely satisfying. Given the repute of Bordeaux lies firmly upon grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, it's the ripest of ironies that the leading wine from the region is a sweet white classic.
It's also interesting to compare the First Growths (all of which make the list) with the Right Bank wines. Pomerol and Saint-Émilion hold their end up well, with four entries on the list, but they also betray their price pretensions; the four wines have an average price of almost $1400 each, boosted by the lofty average price of Petrus. By comparison, the First Growths really do offer value, if only on a relative level – they average out at a shade less than $750 a bottle.
And it is a little odd, perhaps, that the only wine not to break the 96-point mark is one of the First Growths, and the one with the highest price tag, too. Lafite has been impressive across the past 25 years, but perhaps its score is suffering due to an inconsistent few decades before that.
Regardless, Bordeaux will always cast a giant shadow across the whole wine world. While many regions and producers around the world cite Burgundy as their influence and profess to wanting to make wines like those of Burgundy, none of them are really trying to be Burgundy. With Bordeaux, it is not simply the end-result wines that others want to emulate but the entire Bordeaux system of volume, price and prestige all at the same time.
Bordeaux's best wines might not be the highest-scoring, the rarest, or even the most-expensive wines, but they will always be the benchmark for everyone else.