Great Bordeaux doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Sure, some of the most famous and lusted-after names in the world are produced there—Lafite, Margaux, Cheval Blanc, and more—but the truth is that the region itself is huge, with producers from one end to the other crafting wines of real character and, yes, value.
This was brought home with delicious force from a recent visit to Bordeaux, where we tasted bottles that ranged from $5 to $500, and still came back to this bargain claret. We were guided through the vine-covered landscape by Margaux Arbo, who is not only a passionate devotee of the region in general, but also the part of the family behind of one of the most exciting estates you’ve probably never heard of—Château Puyanché—an undiscovered jewel in the Côtes de Francs. We swooned over the expressive red Arbo showed us, a bottle whose ripe tannins, open-knit texture, and fresh acidity form an inviting, classically styled claret, showcasing flavors of fresh plum and cherry against hints of tilled earth and spice.
Wine Enthusiast praised it as “a fine, smoky wine with great fruit and some firm tannins” that “will be ready to drink from 2019.” We fell for its balance of savory saddle leather and herb notes alongside fresh plum and cherry.
Château Puyanché has been in Arbo’s family for five generations, over the course of the past century-plus, through war and economic hardship and now, finally, the success it so richly deserves. It’s no overstatement to say that the property is one of the region’s best-kept secrets.
It’s located in the Côtes de Francs, up to the northeast past St.-Emilion, and it, too, boasts similar clay-limestone soils—perfect, in other words, for the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with which Puyanché excels. The Côtes de Francs also benefits from some of the highest elevations in Bordeaux, as well as some of the lowest average annual rainfall. Those two factors allow the grapes there to ripen at their leisure, and to benefit from a great deal of sunshine. It’s no wonder the appellation has seen significant investment by names like Thienpont (of Vieux Château Certan fame) and Henri de Bouard (Château Angélus).
The combination of long-standing family history in the region and ideal climate for viticulture is truly apparent from the first sip—in fact, we immediately knew that we’d happened upon one of the great values in Bordeaux when we tasted the Puyanché. The family’s small plot of vines are planted to 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, grown with respect for the natural environment, and, for this stunning bottle, vinified and aged entirely in stainless steel in order to allow the exuberant fruit and deep sense of terroir to shine through.
This Wine Access exclusive proves that great Bordeaux doesn’t have to break the proverbial bank. And that sometimes, the most soulful and interesting bottles—like this beauty—come from less-well-known parts of the famous region.