While over at On the Trail this morning hoping to explain "second wines" in Bordeaux to those folks who think fine claret is just for old rich people, I started thinking about how Bourbon drinkers already understand this concept quite well. In fact, the Bourbon industry does such a good job with its "second whiskies" that many of them are quite hard to find. Second wines in Bordeaux are like baby versions of the grand vin, made from the property's same fruit, but sold at more reasonable prices. Sometimes they're composed of grapes from younger vines deemed not quite yet mature enough to star in the big show. Much like people search out Weller 107 because they can't afford (or even find) the William LaRue, I've spent the last year going through all the second wines of Bordeaux because I absolutely cannot afford to spend $200+ a bottle for the big guns.
Look at that old K&L ad I found! 1984 d'Issan was $11.50 a bottle. The current 2012 release will run you more than sixty. You could get a half case of 1986 Pichon Lalande at K&L back then for less than the price of a single bottle today! For those of you who missed the glory days of whiskey back in the mid-2000s when Pappy was plentiful and we had to try and convince people to buy the Black Maple Hill 23 year old rye, know that many of us also missed the glory days of Bordeaux. I listen to my older colleagues talk all the time about how they could buy Mouton for $25 back then. However, as one of my colleagues pointed out to me this week, the winemaking in the Médoc has improved so much since that it's likely some of the lesser appreciated vintages (like 2012 and 2014 recently) would have been considered legendary back in the seventies and eighties. In his mind, it's entirely possible that some of the modern vintages are leaps and bounds beyond some of the older ones, but it's tough to know for sure (nor do I really care, actually, because I wasn't there and I'm not trying to live in the past).
For those of you who (like me) want to live in the now and enjoy what's here in front of us, I've put together a list of some pretty serious seconds; wines that overachieve in every way and hold up favorably next to their big brothers. I know you're probably going to drink a fancy bottle of whiskey this Sunday in celebration of the holidays, but you should definitely have a nice bottle of claret, too. If you're looking to expand your Bordeaux knowledge, the second wines are a great place to start.