Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais. My first editor assumed, and so therefore did I, that this was the holy trinity of Bs at whose altar the Indy wine reader would sip and worship. And so it was until the New World cocked a snook at the French, using the same grapes but undercutting them on price. It worked as a boot up the derrière and while the three French Bs are now required to take their place alongside cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir (less so gamay) from the unlikeliest nooks and crannies, remembrance of things past has rekindled a new love-in with today's Bordeaux.
I was reminded of this at a tasting of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage hosted by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at London's Royal Opera House.
There was barely room to move, let alone taste, in the spacious, well-lit Paul Hamlyn Hall. Two superb successive vintages in 2009 and 2010 have brought home the fact that even if the shackles of Britain's time-honoured enslavement to claret have been loosened, the rest of the world is still in thrall to Bordeaux. One classified château, I was told, now sells two-thirds of all its produce to China.
They've also shown us that there's a lot more to good claret than a great vintage to cellar or a must-have investment château. The hoo-ha over the extravagant 2010 en primeur prices has obscured the fact that there's a plethora of mouthwatering clarets on the market. For anyone waiting for their '05s and '09s to mature, or suffering from an overdose of excessive New World sweetness, oak and alcohol, the refreshing balance of good red Bordeaux answers a wine lover's prayers for a wine capable of improving with each passing glass as the bottle empties. And in case you thought, from en primeur prices, that good value claret is an oxymoron, that's not necessarily the case.
It's not often that you'll find a huge amount to shout about at under a tenner but the prosaically named 2009 Bordeaux Rouge from Patrice Calvet is as solid a refreshingly modern blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon you'll find at £7.99, buy 2 = £5.99, Majestic. From the Right Bank of Bordeaux, the 2008 Château Moulin La Bergère, Saint-Georges, Saint-Émilion, £9.74, reduced from £12.99, until 6 December, combines spicy vanillin oak and succulently textured cassis fruit, while the 2008 Château Lafond Canon-Fronsac, £9.99, Sainsbury's, displays vivid herby, merlot-based cherryish fruit nicely rounded by its short stay in French oak casks.
With a year's more age in the bottle, the 2007 Château Perron Lalande de Pomerol, £14.95, Lea & Sandeman (020-7244 0522), is all polished cedary spicy oak, with a plush underlying core of fine black cherry and cassis-like fruitiness etched with a lively astringency, while the 2006 Château Grand Faurie Larose 2006, St-Emilion Grand Cru, £19.99, buy 2 = £16.99, Majestic, is an ultra-modern style, showing a coffee-bean touch of oak with a supple-red-fruits quality supported by spicy oak and savoury freshness. For a stylish Left Bank counterpart, the 2008 Château La Tour de Mons, Margaux, £19.99, Sainsbury's, offers cedary aromatics and a seductively elegant mouthful while, for devotees of the traditional, mature side of Bordeaux, the 1997 Château Potensac, £19.99, Majestic, is drinking beautifully complex undertones of spice, game and dark chocolate.
Keep your eyes peeled for more great value clarets in the run-up to Christmas.