If we ran a newspaper, today’s legendary value—a sensational, perfectly mature, $19 Bordeaux—would be the bold-lettered front-page story. Château Le Pey’s 2014 Grand Vin is David slinging a terroir-loaded gem right at Goliath and landing it square between the giant’s eyes. At least, that’s how it felt when one of my colleagues came in, slid a glass of this across the table, and told me to blind-taste it. I smelled it and, without even taking a sip, knew it could only be one thing: Bordeaux. But not just any Bordeaux, no, this had serious class and polish, and I found myself juggling between the powerhouse regions of the Right Bank and a delicious, generously layered Left Bank. After a few swirls and a sip, I etched the latter into stone. My heart nearly stopped when the bottle was revealed.
Yes, it was Bordeaux from the Médoc, but it wasn’t anywhere near the price tag I had in mind. I felt as if my colleagues were playing a trick, as they are wont to do in a blind-tasting setting. But there was no ploy, no deception, just a powerfully lush, breathtaking Bordeaux expressing the brilliant marriage of structured Cabernet and plush Merlot at five years of age. And, with perfect cellar-direct provenance, you can be 100% sure that each bottle will deliver the exceedingly high expectations I’ve set for it. If this single wine doesn’t make you a lifetime believer in value Bordeaux, I’ll have to consider hanging up my pin.
Nearly 165 years later, the famous 1855 Bordeaux Classification remains a rigidly upheld benchmark, rightly praising the greats like Lafite, Ducru, and Palmer. Yet, Left Bank Bordeaux is so much more than rankings and numbers: There are unsung châteaux everywhere, matching the quality of bigger estates with heftier price tags, and today’s wine from the small village of Bégadan in the Médoc so perfectly embodies that.
The larger Médoc area is home to Bordeaux’s most prestigious villages. When you zoom out, it is a peninsula, a fairly flat landscape with coastal lagoons and pine forests. With its wet, maritime climate, it’s a hard place to grow grapes unless you have well-draining soils, like the deep gravels of Pauillac. As you move north from the heart of Pauillac through Saint-Estèphe into the tip of the Médoc, the soils change, from deep gravels into more limestone-clay, which befriend the earlier ripening Merlot grape. The blends, here are typically Cabernet Sauvignon with a nice chunk of Merlot, giving the wines an attractive nose of juicy red fruits, soft lift, and cocoa tannin—if you like Château Haut-Brion, then you like a lot of Merlot in your Cabernet Sauvignon. And if that’s the case, then today’s sub-$20 Château Le Pey is right up your alley.
If you’re looking for heaps of information on value Bordeaux estates, a simple internet search typically won’t yield much. That’s the case with Château Le Pey’s Compagnet family, a small team that includes a husband, wife, and their two sons. Even though they own several estates around the Médoc, they’re farmers and winemakers first and foremost. Meaning, they passionately work the vines, craft their wines, and quietly release them without a legion of marketers at their fingertips. Further, the family will tell you that Château Le Pey is their most cherished château because (1) it is their oldest property and (2) was elevated to a Cru Bourgeois property in 2003.
They farm their Cabernet and Merlot vines sustainably, and with the help of consulting enologist Antoine Medeville in the winery, the grapes undergo cold macerations and long fermentations in stainless steel. The resulting wine is transferred into French barrels, 25% new, where it ages for well over a year. Bottling occurs with a light filtration 18 months after the harvest.
Château Le Pey’s 2014 splashes into the glass with a deep, vibrant dark ruby core and reveals the lush beauty of Merlot and brawn of Cabernet Sauvignon almost instantaneously. Sit back in awe as cascades of currants, menthol, cigar box, cedar, black cherry, violets, black raspberry liqueur, Damson plum, fresh herbs, tobacco leaf, crushed gravel, and warm baking spices consume your senses. Robust, dusty tannins and velvety layers of plump dark fruit announce themselves on the palate and iconic Left Bank savor lingers on the finish. If you have any sort of admiration for good Bordeaux, this $19 gem will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on you. Just allow a 30-minute decant, enjoy over an evening, and uncork the rest of your stash over the next several years. This is one of the best values we’ve ever seen!
Cabernet Sauvignon 55%, Merlot 45%
25% New French
Clay, Limestone, Gravel