Passion, with a dash of persistence. This is the first criterion one has to take into account when building up a cellar. Not having a Bordeaux wine down there would be ludicrous. Amateur or not. The majority of them are of great value, popular and less “abstract” or speculative than the best Burgundy ones (albeit these can get a bit more expensive). Therefore, investing in a Bordeaux bottle is a straight to the point business. Here are some powerful brands which must fill your cellar, if this is not yet the case.
The Bordeaux wines are shaped by:
- the one ordered by Napoleon III in 1855 (it became a reference);
- the Liv-Ex (the global marketplace for professional buyers and sellers) stock-wine based on more contemporaneous examples.
As for the vintage ones we’re about to recommend, they are usually evaluated by Robert Parker, as well as by Bettane and Desseauve (B&D) – famous oenologists whose criticism is decisive in the price fluctuations.
General note: no matter how enthusiast you may be, it will be difficult to obtain certain vintages. At least for a few years to come. One of the reasons for this is that some vintages are sold in advance. Therefore, you should consider that many will be purchased without you even noticing, so hurry up and book your favourite one soon.
- The prestigious First Growths
- - Red wines
- - White wines
- The 6 essential types
- - The best Margaux
- - For Pauillac-lovers
- - The legendary Pomerols
- - The Cheval Blanc Saint-Emilion
- - The “have-to-have” Saint-Estèphe
- - The Sauternes, without opening an Yquem
- Great references: addresses & contacts
- - Reputable wine selling-points in Paris
- - Buy First Growths online
The prestigious First Growths
Château Lafite Rothschild (label: Pauillac) – this is the most wanted name in the world. The 1921, 1945, 1982, 2000 and 2005 models include exceptional vintage wines, but if you manage somehow to get your hands on one, you’ll pay €1 000 minimum. Maybe it’s not the same case with the 2005, ranked 96/100 by Parker and 19/20 by B&D. In order to get a verdict, wines ought to wait 10 years, so their current situation remains uncertain. If you dream big, make a lovely €150 000 acquisition: a few bottles from 1789.
Aromatic notes: almond and violet.
Château Latour (Pauillac) – the 1945, 1959, 1961, 1982, 1990, 1996, 2000, 2003 and the 2005 editions are the best. The best. Till today. With a couple of remarks regarding the last examples: 10 to 20 years of storage to absorb its tannins (textural elements that make wine taste dry) in the fullest are necessary, indeed. Both the investor and the amateur must be careful when acquiring grand cru wines.
Aromatic notes: red juicy fruit, liquor-taste, tannic final grades. Average price: €4.500/bottle.
Château Mounton Rothschild (Pauillac) – same as the others, 1945 is a famous year in this case also. A mythical one, per se (€8 000). Try to avoid the 70 and 80s (but not the 1982 type) because they can be very irregular and far from achieving the genuine excellence the wine castle brags about. It’s better to opt for the 96/100 Parker rated types: the 2000, 2005, 2006 and the 2010 bottles. With a few doubts, the 2008 wines are promising if reaching that proper complex and mature aromas in the end.
Remember that after 1945, every label was designed differently, generally these were carried out by recognised artists like Miro, Picasso or Chagall. Collectors, pay attention.
Aromatic notes: very strong syrupy blackcurrant liqueur, subtle grades of tobacco.
Château Margaux (Margaux) – in this case, the best years, rated 99 by Robert Parker, are 1996, 2003, 2009 and 2010. The 2005 is slightly different (marked 98) as the 2000, also. Regarding the legendary vintages, here are the 1900, 1928, 1937, 1945 and especially the 1961 one (“built for eternity”, as people say). For those of you very passionate, know that you can still find very rare bottles from 1870, worth around €20 000 each.
A little less sophisticated, the other Château model, Pavillon Rouge, deserves all the compliments coming from the connoisseurs (paying around €2 000 for 6 bottles). The best years are similar with those we mentioned for the first wine, but – in this situation – the grapes come from younger vines (so we can’t talk about a complete maturity here).
Aromatic notes: black fruits, liquor-taste, particularly soft tannins.
Château Haut-Brion (until 1986 – Graves, Pessac-Léognan henceforth). The best wines are those of 1926, 1928, 1945, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1986, 1989, 1998, 2000. As for the most recent 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 (100 Parker rate) and 2012 ones, they are definitely outstanding, with a great ageing potential (they are already sold for several thousand euros). Avoid the ’70 vintage bottles if you are planning to keep your wines unopened for a long time.
In comparison with the other First Growths, this is something else due to its silky tannins and aromas of leather.
Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan). Since 1971, almost every year has created an excellent vintage, most notably should be maybe the 1990 one (rated 99 by Parker) and the 2000 bottle (100). An older recommended wine can be the 1955, with a €2 000 starting price.
Aromatic notes: red fruits, liquor-taste, spices and, sometimes, truffles.
We must mention a very distinguished white wine from Bordeaux and from the 1855 category: the famous Château d’Yquem, a fantastic Sauternes regarded as the best sweet wine in the world. The great vintages are rare and the lowest prices exceed €40 000: 1784, 1825, 1847, 1865, 1870, 1893, 1904, 1921, 1937, 1947, 1949, 1967, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010. Other years offer a tasty Sauternes, but they won’t have the full extent of power and subtlety given by the saffron aroma. To enjoy a bottle at its peak, one must have 15 years. Minimum.
An interesting fact is that some years ending in the number “2” (1952, 1972, 1992, 2012) have not been commercialised. But buying one now and selling it in 20 years looks like a great investment. Same idea applies to the 1910, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1964 and 1974 samples.
The 6 essential types
A respectful wine cellar cannot consist only of Château Latour and Haut-Brion bottles. Alongside these 1885 and Liv-Ex wines, you must collect other Bordeaux wines like Cheval Blanc or Pétrus, at worst. Scroll down to see your options.
The best Margaux
Leaving aside the famous Château Margaux for a minute, here are the second best First Growths of 1855:
- Château Brane-Cantenac;
- Château Durfort-Vivens;
- Château Lascombes;
- Château Rauzan-Ségla;
- Château Rauzan-Gassies.
Naturally, they all deserve the attention of either the amateur, or the investor. If you have to choose only 2, think about the tannic Château Lascombes or Château Rauzan-Sléga with violet notes (belonging to the Chanel house). Ideally, they’ll be a great companion for a gourmet meal.
Let’s say that the third position would be occupied by Château Palmer, known for its elegance (the year 2010 year was ranked 98/100 by Robert Parker). Just wait 12 years before tasting it.
If you want to sip a second First Growth, Pauillac has 2 other proposals:
- Château Pichon-Longueville
- Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
As with the other Pauillac bottles, 2000, 2005 and 2010 are a good choice also if you are planning to invest or to grow. The 1978 and 1982 won’t fail you down either.
There is no third First Growth position here, but the 4th is the Château Duhart-Milon Pauillac.
The legendary Pomerols
One cannot claim to have a great cellar if there is no way to find a Pétrus in there. The ultimate great years of Pomerol are 1929, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1961, 1962, 1982, 1989, 1990, 2000 and 2005. The starting price is €600, but the average is somewhere between €3 000 and €15 000 (for a 1962 vintage). And to think that Pétrus is the most expensive Bordeaux wine within the average-price category.
You must taste the other Pomerol Bordeaux wines as well: Château Le Pin is a private cuvée (just over 2 hectares of vineyards) highly regarded by collectors and wine lovers: €1 500 per bottle is just the starting point. Its great years are substantially the same as of Pétrus’, whose area is nearby. Interestingly enough, the latest innovation is a microchip integrated in the cap of each bottle to verify the authenticity of it. And to keep the fight over fraud ongoing, naturellement.
Château Lafleur is a beautiful mixture of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with the 2009 and 2010 vintage samples that offer a 40-50-year of romantic vows. Rated 100 out of a 100 by Parker, the 1947 edition costs €12 000 and the 1982 – €6 000.
The Cheval Blanc Saint-Emilion
The Château Cheval Blanc is a must-have from the Saint-Emilion family. From the 2012 catalog, you can enjoy the A-class grand cru premiers such as Château Angélus, Château d’Ausone and Château Pavie. At the border of Pomerol-land, the Saint-Emilion steps up with a 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot partnership. Everybody confirms this truth. The 1900, 1920, 1921, 1929, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1953, 1959 and 1961 exemplars are as rare as a wine can get. Honestly. Having thousands of euros in your wallet won’t be enough. You’ll have to do an exhaustive research. Quality will find itself at home with the 1967, 1982, 1990, 1998, 2000 and the 2005 bottles. The good news is that you can buy the last two for less than €1 000 per bottle.
Oh, please don’t be easily discouraged. A 2010 Château Pavie, marked 98/100 by Parker, is something worth considering in the future. It clearly has potential.
The “have-to-have” Saint-Estèphe
Château Cos d’Estournel, a quiet neighbour of Saint-Estèphe in the Château Lafite Rotschild area, has an emblematic quality, a typical Medoc. This spicy very first Saint-Estèphe makes your mouth watering. The no. 2 position in the 1855 First Growths’ contest is occupied by a Château Montrose (signed by Martin Bouygues) with yummy vintage bottles from 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2009, in specie.
The Sauternes, without opening an Yquem
Leading the First Growths’ Sauternes team in the 1855 classification, Château La Tour Blanche allures the sweet wine addicts. Much less prestigious than the Yquem – certainly – some samples must be tasted: the 1947 or the 1982? But since 2000, Sauternes, more delicate back in the days, has become more accessible for the uninitiated, and it can be explored earlier. Have a pass at investing in a few carafes before the prices will explode. In time, who knows, you can get very lucky.
A 100/100 Parker ranked Château Climens from 2001 can be yours, right away.
A Barsac alternative can be another Sauternes wine: the Castle Stone, for instance: exotic fruits and citrus notes are awaiting you.
Great references: addresses & contacts
Reputable wine selling-points in Paris
The surest way to get your hands on a good bottle of wine is to go straight to its castle, at Château Latour, for starters. Unfortunately, some properties are closed to the public, but knowing a wine-consultant will be of a great use. In the cellars of Fauchon and Hédiard Place de la Madeleine, you will find some second crus incredibly-delicious bottles.
However, it is always safe to visit a specialised place, where experts can guide you through the old-fashioned wine world. If you wonder on the streets of Paris, make sure you stop at:
- Lavinia (3 Madeleine Boulevard);
- Caves Augé (116 Haussmann Boulevard);
- Caves Legrand (1 Rue de la Banque).
Don’t be to shy to go at Christie’s or Sotheby’s auctions, because you’ll miss out on some very rare editions.
And, finally, if you ever get hungry and crave for a heavenly meal, the Parisian La Tour d’Argent restaurant is the place to go to. Or Le Taillevent, with its stupendous winery opened to the public.
Buy First Growths online
Despite the popular belief, you don’t have to participate in an auction or go to a wine castle to savour a glass of olden wine. Multiple bottles are just a click away:
- K&L Wine Merchants – was labelled by The Wall Street Journal as “the best wine website in the U.S. Visiting it is like dropping into an outstanding wine store with plenty of time on your hands to browse.”;
- Cavissima – this is the right place to discover or invest – (almost) any of the above mentioned brands;
- JJ Buckley – with over 6 000 fine wines at competitive prices, you might want to keep a close watch on this website for profitable deals;
- Millésima – a specialist when it comes to high-quality wines, especially of those with an optimal ageing condition, such as the magnum bottled ones;
- iDealwine.com – an online auctioning platform dedicated to hard-to-find wines, such as Château Lascombes.
1855 was a website closed for quite some time now, but back in the days, it played a very important role in the wine industry. Even today, specialists are inspired by their methods: good storage conditions, high attention payed to packaging and logistics (wines were permanently maintained at a certain temperature and under ideal moisture circumstances).
Regardless these recommendations, don’t hesitate on comparing prices from one site to another, before buying a specific bottle. Also, inquire about the storage and delivery conditions, and keep your eyes wide open: just because it’s a great deal, it doesn’t mean all is good. If a Château Margaux is stored in a warehouse at 20ºC, you’ll wish you have bought the bottle at its full price.