How good are 'third' wines from Bordeaux châteaux?
Dominic Haig, Brighton, UK asks:
I understand some Bordeaux châteaux are producing third and even fourth wines. How easy are these to find and how good are they in terms of quality and value?
Jane Anson replies:
Yes, an increasing number of top châteaux are producing third wines, such as:
- Le Pauillac de Château Latour
- Margaux du Château Margaux
- Le St-Estèphe de Montrose
Fourth wines are less common, because even to produce the third wine an additional selection process must happen; the remains of this will usually end up being sold as bulk to négociants for branded wines.
Third wines tend to be made from the property’s youngest vines, and are in many ways an inevitable side-effect of the drive towards more quality, and higher prices, for the first and second wines.
They are also a reminder than many of these iconic Left Bank classified châteaux have bought extra plots of land over the past decade, which don’t yet make high enough quality wine to be included in the grand vin.
Third wines are quite easy to find, because they are meant to extend the brand into more affordable areas, although distribution tends to focus on just one or two importers per country.
You might also find them by the glass in restaurants.
Third wines of the crus classés have merit, but I feel there’s more interest in the first wines of Médoc cru bourgeois, which are similarly priced but will be putting their very best grapes into the bottle.
Jane Anson is Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent and a contributing editor.
This question first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Decanter magazine, subscribe to Decanter here.
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