Vintage Bordeaux and beyond

<span>Uncorking the best: pouring out a bottle to be tested at one of the great houses of the Bordeaux area.</span><span>Photograph: Gareth Sewell/Alamy</span>
Uncorking the best: pouring out a bottle to be tested at one of the great houses of the Bordeaux area.Photograph: Gareth Sewell/Alamy

Château Beynat Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, France 2021 (£19, Forest
; Whisky Exchange)
It’s Bordeaux time, with the great unveiling of the latest (2023) vintage set to draw thousands of members of the world’s wine trade and press to France at the end of this month. Visitors will spend their days tasting samples of unfinished wines that are still maturing, looking for wines to buy upfront, or ‘en primeur’, three years before they are bottled. The focus will be on the region’s elite: the few dozen famous châteaux whose wines can command three-figure prices per bottle, and which have a track record of gaining in value. But there is so much more to this vast wine region than that, with plenty of excitement in less celebrated, outlying appellations, such as Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, home of the delightfully fragrant, crunchy 2021 red from Château Beynat.

Château des Antonins Bordeaux Blanc, Bordeaux, France 2022 (£11.90, Noble Green Wines) The other purpose of the ‘en primeur’ tastings is to get a sense of the overall quality of the vintage. Last year, when the 2022s were on display, the verdict was unanimously positive: a bumper crop of very high-quality wines. The elite 2022 red wines are yet to be released, but there are plenty of less pretentious, youthfully vibrant red Bordeaux 2022 bottlings around, such as the refreshing plum succulence of Chosen by Majestic Claret 2022 (£10.99, or £8.99 as part of a mixed case of six, In general, the 2022 whites are slightly less impressive than those produced in the cooler, wetter 2021. But there are always exceptions, with Château des Antonins offering a satisfying mix of tangy grapefruit, herbiness and creamy weightiness.

Tesco Finest Sauternes, Bordeaux, France 2018 (£13.50, 37.5cl, Tesco) Red wines will always come first in Bordeaux: they account for 85% of the region’s output. But Bordeaux’s stylistic offering is wider than it’s given credit for. As well as the excellent dry whites, it’s home to some sparkling wines that offer really good value, bottle-fermented alternatives to champagne. The apple pie and creamy mousse of Marks & Spencer’s Étoile de Timberlay Crémant de Brut NV is a lively example at a very reasonable £10. The region is also following the France-wide fashion for rosé, as in the bright-berried dry style that Château Bauduc makes for Rick Stein’s restaurants. And last, but by no means least, the vineyards of Sauternes and Barsac are responsible for some of the very best golden sweet wines, such as the crystallised citrus of Tesco’s fine Finest bottling.

Follow David Williams on X @Daveydaibach