Bordeaux hasn't got where it is today through stupidity. The biggest fine-wine region on Earth is run by shrewd businessmen with a unique mechanism for selling their wines. In essence, the châteaux entrust their sales to specialist merchants who trade them on the Bordeaux place. Which makes it even more mystifying as to why they should have so badly misjudged this year's disastrous campaign to sell the 2012 vintage. Prices were down on the absurdly overinflated 2011s, yet the gesture was too feeble to stop sales from plummeting.
Now that the dust has settled, it's worth remembing that despite Bordelais antics, Bordeaux can delight like no other fine red. I was reminded of this by a recent tasting at Tesco where, to burnish its fine-wine credentials, the supermarket showed tempting offers from Bordeaux's superb 2009 vintage, notably a vibrant Château Sociando Mallet, £195 for 6, a vigorous 2009 Château Talbot and fragrantly cedary Château Gruaud Larose, both £300 for 6, and a black cherry-rich Château Beychevelle, £396 for 6. The Wine Society has Gruaud Larose's excellent second wine, the mulberry-fresh Sarget, at £19 a bottle.
The excellent Sociando Mallet apart, these are all classified growths, wines of proven pedigree, that is, that will improve in bottle over the coming decade. However, if you don't have space to lay them down, there are plenty of options for drinking now and over the next year or two. Sociando Mallet is a cru bourgeois, and such middle rankers can be good if not better value than many a cru classé. Take, for instance, the 2010 Château Lilian Ladouys, a St Estèphe, around £19, Cambridge Wine Merchants (01223 568993), a youthful red of ripe sweet cassis fruit flavours. Or the 2010 Larose Perganson, around £17.25, Fine and Rare Wines (020-7089 7400), slurp.co.uk, a modern, sweetly aromatic Haut-Médoc, that's smooth and generously textured.
Among excellent clarets by the bottle, the 2009 Château Capbern Gasqueton, £25.99, Waitrose, second wine of Calon-Ségur, is sheer classy cherry-rich succulence, the 2007 Château Grand Faurie La Rose, £19.99, buy 2 = £15.99, Majestic, a juicy St Emilion Grand Cru ready to drink now, as is the stylish blackcurrant of the 2004 Château d'Aurilhac, Haut-Médoc, £12.50, the Wine Society, and the 2010 Château Barreyres, £12.49, Sainsbury's, whose black-fruits flavours are neatly infused with cedary oak.
Bordeaux may not be where the heart is, but good claret will always find a place on the table.