Côtes de Bordeaux wines
The new appellation will encompass the old Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Francs and Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. If the labels are from before 2008, I will refer to them with their 'old' appellations, as this is what you will see on the label. I will also add Cotes de Bourg here, even though they are not officially part of the new appellation.
For me, the best thing about the Cotes wines is that they are very good value, and are usually ready for drinking within five years, so there is less of a risk of 'wasting' them if you open them the night you buy them. And there are also plenty of white wines in this region, usually sauvignon-led, often with a touch of muscadelle to give them a lovely floral character. For the reds, you are most usually looking at merlot, but again there is a chance of a smattering of more unusual (for Bordeaux) grapes such as malbec to add interest and depth.
Currently, only 10% of Cotes wines are exported (approximately), so often it is better to contact the winery directly to find out about where to get hold of them.
Chateau Clos Chaumont 2004, Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux
One of the best names in the Cotes, this will still has a way to go before it is perfectly ready, but already has lovely depth of flavour and firm red fruits. There is an interesting US website, www.winebluebook.com, that looks at average scores of wines from major critics, and works out their relative value. According to this site, Château Clos Chaumont (for their 2005) received an average score of 90 points and is 38 percent the average $47 cost in the US for a similar-scoring Bordeaux. A pretty good recommendation! This should cost around 7 euros. Tasted at the Maison des Vins de Blaye, September 2008.
Chateau Puybarbe 2005, Cotes de Bourg, Cuvee Prestige
Gorgeous wine, smooth and round and full of interest. Two thirds merlot and one third cabernet sauvignon, there is enough structure to last for at least eight to ten years, but it is already very agreeable. They limit their yields here to 50 hl/h which is fairly low for a typical Cotes wine, and do a lot of manual work in the vines ensuring there is a small number of grapes per bunch and that shoots are regularly trimmed away - all good signs of a vineyard that cares about quality. This should cost around 8 euros. Tasted at the Maison des Vins de Blaye, September 2008.
Chateau Roc Le Mayne 2005, Cotes de Castillon
This one is quite popular in the UK, stocked by Averys and Telegraph Wines, among others. From the word go, this is velvety and round. Very dark in colour despite being primarily merlot, and on the mouth is rich and chocolatey. Good Cotes de Castillons often have this extravagant character. Definitely good value at this price. This should cost around 10 euros. Tasted at the Maison des Vins de Blaye, September 2008.
Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon 2000
The inky colour immediately hits home, and the wine hardly lets up from there. Rich, sweet black fruits, with layers of chocolate, vanilla and melted tannins. A big wine that after seven years is just starting to open up. Drink 2008-2014. (€26) Tasted at L'Intendant Wine Shop, November 2007