Bordeaux gets a bad rap.
Hipster wine bloggers love to dis it (myself included), in part because they can't afford the good stuff (the classified "growths" as the top-tier wines are called) and in part because most of it now tastes like Californian wine (over-oaked, over-concentrated, highly alcoholic fruit bombs).
And because of its association with the British high bourgeoisie (who historically made Bordeaux a brand name) and the upper echelons of wine writing (Robert Parker made his career with his prediction for the 1982 vintage there), anti-snobs embrace it as the apotheosis of elitism.
So when I asked my Spec's sales rep to give me an under-$20 Bordeaux that I would like (and he knows my palate well), I was doubtful that he could produce a winner.
But like Captain Kirk and the Kobayashi Maru scenario, he "changed the conditions of the test."
Instead of a bottle of Bordeaux Appellation Contrôlée, he brought me a Bordeaux Côtes de Francs by its leading producer, Puygueraud.
The Côtes de Francs lies to the northeast of St. Émilion, and as in its more famous counterpart, Merlot is the primary grape grown here. The 2004 by Puygueraud was made predominantly from Merlot, with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. (Although, according to the winery's website, the owner ripped out the Cabernet Sauvignon after the 2004 and replanted with Cabernet Franc, which makes me think that I'll like future vintages even more.)
The oak was gentle and well-integrated in the wine; there was genuine acidity; the alcohol was balanced; and the ripe red fruit flavor was countered by the earthy notes and minerality that used to be the sine qua non of wines from this part of France.
Not a claret for Prince Charles but a great quaffer for a scouser and Star Trek fan like me.