The best bargain of 2009 might be the wine I enjoyed two weeks ago: Chateau Le Cadarsac, 2005.

Wine collectors and connoisseurs know two things about Bordeaux’s 2005 vintage: extraordinary quality and extraordinary prices. This is a vintage that will rival the greatest years since World War II: 2000, 1990, 1982, 1961, 1959 and 1945.

Its prices are also just as stunning: $1,000 or more per bottle for First-Growth Bordeaux like Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild and Margaux, and $150 to $300 a bottle for second-growth Bordeaux like Chateaux Palmer, Pichon-Lalande and Ducru-Beaucaillou. And even further down the classification ladder prices are higher than ever. In this environment, it was a delightful surprise to find the 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac.

Chateau Le Cadarsac is located near Libourne and owned by the Robin family, growers, winemakers and wine merchants in the area since the 18th century. The winemaker is Pauline Robin, the talented 25-year-old daughter of Dominique and Armelle Robin.

Along with science and enology degrees from Bordeaux’s major technical schools and the University of Bordeaux, Robin worked in the vineyards and wine cellars of Opus One, Chateau Latour, Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion and the wineries of the renowned Moueix family. It’s an impressive fast-track resume.

Robin made the 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac with a blend of equal parts merlot and cabernet sauvignon, fermented and aged in stainless-steel tanks. This straightforward winemaking technique recognizes the grapes’ character of ripe fruit flavor with mild tannins. Its black-cherry color is complemented by its blackberry aroma and flavor. While soft on the palate, the 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac maintains good structure and balance. It is a medium-bodied, well-made Bordeaux. Winemaker Robin has learned her craft.

In great vintages like 2005, small producers such as Chateau Le Cadarsac make smart buying: The wines reflect the quality of the vintage, are immediately drinkable and very affordable. The 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac is just the wine you want in this economic climate.

The back label on the bottles states, “May be enjoyed young or kept for 1-2 years.” My palate says that Robin is being modest — the wine is better than that. With proper storage, I think the 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac will be very pleasing through 2011. But to find that out, you’ll have to buy more than one case, because I doubt you’ll be able to leave the 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac alone that long. And at its price, an extra case is within the wine budget.
The 2005 Chateau Le Cadarsac retails for approximately $12 a bottle.