Bargain Bordeaux 

Top picks under $30

Often referred to as the king of reds, Bordeaux is arguably the most-famous wine region in the world. Bordeaux wines feature a blend of grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. The top few chateaux, like Latour, Lafite or Petrus, command astronomic prices that put them out of reach to all but the wealthiest few. But in this large region, there are values to be had, as this tasting proved. Here are the panel's favorites:

2009 Chateau Cadillac, $20

A blend of 70 percent merlot and 30 percent cabernet sauvignon, this lively wine opens with aromas of dried cherry, floral violet and rose petal, lightly toasted oak, pepper and spice. The youngest of the trio, it's the most fruit forward with flashy cherry and strawberry flavors laced with mocha, vanilla and a touch of leather. This is a nicely structured wine with good acidity and smooth tannins on the finish.

2005 Chateau Mirefleurs, $13.99

The 2005 vintage was an outstanding one across the board in Bordeaux, and this merlot-dominated blend drinks beautifully after a few years in the bottle. Solid aromas of dark berry and plum are colored by touches of vanilla, cider and spice. Ripe plum and cherry dominate the palate, along with subtle hints of anise and leather. This wine is an excellent value.

1999 Chateau Simard, $27

If you are looking for a youthful fruit bomb, pass on this one. Bordeaux is known for its ability to improve with age, and a decade after the vintage, this wine has evolved into an elegantly supple red. Aromas of soft cherry and cassis are backed by earth, herb, brick and leather. The palate is smooth and round with lovely cherry and plum, and touches of anise, mushroom, forest floor, mint and herb. This is an enticing example of a mature Bordeaux at an attractive price.

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