November 2005                              


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

Bordeaux WannaBes

Wine shelves are full of them; Cabernets, Merlots and Malbecs, all grapes that go into the making of red Bordeaux. These wines are from anywhere and everywhere; California, Australia, South Africa, South America, you name it. And every wine critic waits with bated breath to taste the latest incarnation in order to release their pontifications before their competitors can. The results of this exercise are almost always the same; “Great Buy, tastes like Bordeaux”, “Best Buy, Reminiscent of a Classified Growth”, “Drinks like a Fine Claret for One-Third the price”. Yes, these are Bordeaux WannaBes. One would think after reading these heralds again and again that Bordeauxs were the only fine red wines in the world and the WannaBes were the only non-Bordeauxs worth drinking. This notion is absurd, but Bordeaux has a legendary reputation steeped in tradition and British “literary” works on the subject, as well as ballyhoo. The region also makes their best wines in larger quantities than other top notch wine regions, so the good stuff is never in short supply. Of course, ever rising prices sometimes prevent these wines from flying off the shelves like hot cakes and have given the WannaBes many followers. The demand has gotten so great that many WannaBes that were once cheap, such as Napa Valley Cabernets, nearly rival Bordeaux in price now.

So where should one turn to get a taste of what the longstanding hoopla is all about and get it at a reasonable price. Listed below are some of my favorite “Bargain Bordeaux WannaBes”. I have concentrated here on full-bodied wines that “resemble the fine Medocs of Bordeaux for only a fraction …”, well, you know. Feel free to direct any questions or comments to me at

• Rustenberg John X Merriman (South Africa) ($27)
• Tikal Amorio Malbec (Argentina) ($27)
• Pesquera Ribera del Duero (Spain) ($25)
• Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia) ($21) *
• Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon (California) ($22) *
• Chateau St Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard (Washington) ($21) *
• Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva (Spain) ($16) *
• Veramonte Primus (Chile) ($15)
• Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) ($15)
• Clos la Coutale Cahors (France) ($12)

* indicates available in Montgomery County