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Bordeaux Second Wines

Most of Bordeaux’s châteaux classés vineyards sell second label wines.
These are a great way to enjoy the spirit of a top-flight Bordeaux without having to spend an absolute fortune. What are these wines really worth?

Second wine

A widelY-drunk second label wine


Second wines date back to the 19th century, which is particularly true for Château Margaux. But it is more or less in the last thirty years that the Second Wines of the more prestigious Bordeaux Crus Classés have earned a place on the market.

Originally, the idea of a Second Label wine was to make best use of the less popular wines, which the château was previously forced to sell wholesale to trade. By creating a second label, consumers were able to buy a reputable wine at a reasonable price that also made good financial sense to the château. But what does that mean today?

Over the years, some châteaux have continued with this idea, while others have shifted their focus…

For some wineries, selling a Second Label has become part and parcel of their business. They sell them as wines of variable quality, and some even offer a "Third Label Wine". Even if they benefit from equally painstaking growing and vinification processes, second wines are nonetheless made using younger vines.

Second Wines have often been wrongly branded as mediocre, less expressive, persistent and subtle, and lacking in bouquet. However, they are not bland or tasteless! These are wines that stand out for a style that is different from a Grand Vin.

For Châteaux Latour, Léoville-Las Cases, Lafite Rothschild or Palmer, for example, Second Wines are products made from dedicated vines, following specific vinification processes. These are wines sold at affordable prices and sometimes, they can even be better than certain Crus Classés. These wineries opt for a better quality grape selection , which means only making a "First Wine" when the vintage is exceptional enough to stand out from the Second Wine that’s made every year regardless.

Please note: it is important not to mistake "Second Wine" for "Deuxième Cru Classé" which is an 1855 classification.

LES HAUTS DE SMITH 2013 - SECOND VIN FROM CHATEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE

How to make your choice


Second Wines are becoming increasingly popular.… Amiral de Beychevelle, Fiefs de Lagrange, Réserve de la Comtesse and many more are now established affordable labels. They offer the opportunity to rediscover the very essence of a château, without having to pay the price of a great label. They are a good way to get to know the Grands Crus.

To find good prices without getting taken in by marketing ploys that also try to push the lesser quality products, Vinatis has taken the time to sample some Crus Classés Second Wines from the vintages between 2009 and 2014.

The results are clear! Oh yes, there are certainly some exceptional Bordeaux out there, at affordable prices! Numerous Second Wines are absolutely delicious. These include:

HAUTS DE SMITH - SECOND VIN DU CHATEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE

Every vintage of this Grand Cru Classé de Graves astounds us, every year, with its soft roundness on the palate. It expresses a full range of charred woody aromas that come from the ageing of the wine, and continues into a lengthy, elegant finale. This wine is a blend of grape varieties (55 % Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon), matured in casks for 14 months. A wine that deserves to be properly appreciated. A wine to lay down for a decade or so.

FRANK PHELAN  - SECOND VIN DU CHATEAU PHELAN SEGUR

A complex, tannic, and sophisticated wine to be opened and shared with connoisseurs! This wine is rich on the palate, starting out with a lovely softness that makes way for silky tannins and at this price, you can’t say no! A red wine that is ready for drinking or to be laid down for a while.

SIRENE DE GISCOURS - SECOND VIN DU CHATEAU GISCOURS

A Margaux, made with a blend of grapes from young vines, which benefits from the same painstaking attention to detail as the Grand Vin in terms of vinification and ageing. Since the 1980s, the château has been producing top-flight wines, with particularly intense colour, full body and excellent lengthy ageing potential and a character that is quite different from the crus from the northern part of the appellation. The Second Vin du Château Giscours is made with younger vines of the same variety and grown in the same terroirs as its older sibling. Every year, we are seduced by the supple tannins, the structure and the length on the palate. A great second wine!

Our tasting team has come up with a selection that many of you will find surprising in terms of value for money. The advantage is that you can get your hands on what is practically a Grand Cru, but not at Grand Cru prices.

No doubt about it: buying a Second Vin wine from a Grand Cru Classé is always a great deal. It’s a great time to invest!

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