The Austin Chronicle

Weekend Wine: The Best for Less

By Wes Marshall, October 22, 2021, 7:00am, On the Range

As recently as the mid-20th century, the world’s two best red wines were considered to be from France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. In 1855, the classification committee of Bordeaux named four wines as their best, or 1st er Cru Classé. They were Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Haut-Brion.

The classification bureau went so far as to name Château Lafite as the “leader among fine wines.” The winery had many decades of experience for judging. Lafite’s vineyards had been planted in the 1670s.

While having your family vineyard be named one of the world’s top properties was certainly a windfall for the family, their production was very small, and prices were shockingly high. Today’s Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac goes for $750-$1,000 a bottle, and sometimes much more in the very best vintages. Their solution to the problem was to create a series of wines at a more reasonable price that would at least give the buyer a hint of what they were missing. They used several strategies, but in my opinion, the most successful were either going to a different country where the land and labor prices were much lower, or operating in the same general area but using vineyards that hadn’t had the opportunity to develop any historical standing.

An example of the first strategy is their wine called Bodegas Caro Amancaya ($20). It is made in Argentina using the best vineyards and production methods. The blend is more Malbec and less Cabernet than most Bordeaux wines, which leads to a fruitier wine that is generally ready to drink at a much earlier age. Like almost all Argentine red wines, this works wonderfully with grilled meat. Amancaya is available from Twin Liquors, Total Wine, Spec’s, and WB Liquors.

Les Legendes Bordeaux Rouge ($20) is from Bordeaux, but the vineyards aren’t solely in Pauillac like the Lafite. The wine is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the blend is aimed at an easy-to-drink style that you could serve at a party or enjoy with a huge range of dishes from a hamburger to lasagna. The Legendes is available at many HEBs.

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