First let me lay out the Classification of Sauternes and Barsac:
Premier Cru Superieur (First Great Growth)
Premier Crus (First Growths)
Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey
Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau
Chateau La Tour Blanche
Deuxiemes Crus (Second Growths)
Chateau de Malle
Chateau de Myrat
Obviously, the most prestigious of these chateaux is d’Yquem, the ultimate in luxury. However, wines from Chateaux Guiraud, Rieussec and Suduiraut have become highly sought after wines, with many critics feeling that these producers have equaled or perhaps even surpassed the stature of d’Yquem.
If you aren’t wanting to spend a lot of money, yet still want to experience the beauty of the botrytis cinera, you may want to investigate Loupiac, an appellation which lies on the opposite bank of the Garonne River, directly across from Sauternes and Barsac. Loupiac turns out terrific botrytisized whites without the hefty price tag. Also look into Monbazillac, the area in the Dordogne that emulates Barsac, yet is a mere fraction of its cost.
Finally, there are two terms anyone new to Bordeaux should be aware of – Cru Bourgeois and Bordeaux Superieur. The term Cru Bourgeois refers to the approximately 200 chateaux that were not part of the classification of 1855. These have for many years been viewed upon by critics as being somewhat inferior to the Classified Growths, yet nonetheless good values. However, with innovations in winemaking techniques and more modern technologies at these winemakers’ disposal, many of these once-inferior chateaux are now exceptionally well-made, and at a fraction of what the classified growths cost. Wines from such chateaux as Chasse-Spleen, Sociando-Mallet, Maucaillou, Potensac and Poujeaux are extremely good values and much easier to find.
Bordeaux Superieur refers to wines from what have been deemed less than desirable areas within Bordeaux. However, as with the Cru Bourgeois, these wines have become much more affordable alternatives to the Classified Growths – such as Chateaux Pey La Tour, Haut-Nadeau and Fleur de Rigaud.
I hope that this information has helped you in discovering a bit of what Bordeaux has to offer. I urge you to check out my friend Eric Jerardi’s entertaining DVD, Get Real Wine Volume II: Bordeaux, as well as visit http://www.bordeaux.com/ for more information on this fantastic wine region.
A votre santé!