Many prestige wine companies offer more options for consumers than the pricy signature label for which they are famous. Though the “first label” is the one they prefer you to lay down the cash for, smart estates also understood less costly second- and third-label wines under the umbrella name created larger audiences and more frequent purchasers. These wineries often use a different name at the lower price point. Sometimes quality suffers as the choices broaden, but when the renowned winery is Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, consumers are rewarded with quality at every level.
One such example is the Legende line of wines from Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). Supervised by Chateau Lafite-Rothschild’s enologist, Diane Flamand, the winemaking team applies the same care and attention to detail as it does to the chateau’s first wine. Drawing on centuries of knowledge of Bordeaux’s vineyards, climate and soils, Flamand and her team sourced grapes from excellent growers and their own properties for the five Legende wines.
When the region’s great chateaus are classified and honored for red wine, it’s easy to forget about the enjoyment of dry white Bordeaux. The 2019 Legende Bordeaux Blanc is a good reminder to revisit that region on the store shelf
The source for its blend of 85% sauvignon blanc and 15% semillon are the vineyards of Entre-Deux-Mers, meaning “between two rivers”—in this case, the Garonne and Dordogne, tributaries on the outskirts of the Bordeaux region that eventually meet to form the Gironde estuary.
The wine blends sauvignon’s lime and cilantro aromas and flavors and crisp acidity with semillon’s floral scent and rich, soft tropical fruit flavors. It was delicious with poached halibut and ragout of fennel, yellow and red bell peppers. After the fish, it continued to please with Camembert, Pont-l’Eveque and Saint Nectaire chesses. And the low 12% alcohol allowed us to finish the bottle with a sense of its refinement. 91 points. Retail prices range from $13 to $20.
The 2017 Legende Bordeaux Rouge is comprised of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot from Entre-Deux-Mers. It recalls the classic Bordeaux style with its translucent black-cherry color, pleasing blackberry, mildly smoky and gravel aromas, and medium-body filled with black-cherry and coffee flavors.
It’s the wine you want after a stressful day. It doesn’t ask you to analyze it; just pour it into your glass and taste its completeness. This traditional Bordeaux red is like wearing a favorite sweater or pair of shoes: It feels good the instant you slip into it. 88 points. Retail prices range from $13 to $20.
Medoc is the large vineyard area on the left bank of the Garonne. Famed for its red wine, it is home to four world-renowned wine villages: Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estephe. While the 2017 Legende and the 2016 Legende Medoc are identical blends of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the wines are significantly different.
The 2016 Medoc has more blackberry scent and flavor, and the firm silky tannins provide a full, round mouthfeel. Medoc’s stony soil gives the wine a mineral backbone, depth and excellent structure. Where the 2017 Bordeaux Rouge is instantly drinkable, the 2016 Medoc’s five to 10 year ageability offers pleasure-filled tomorrows. 91 points. Retail prices range from $25 to $30.
It is only natural that the 2016 Legende Pauillac is the most structured of the five wines, thanks to the gravel soils and time spend in oak: 60% of it is aged in barrels—the highest percentage of the group. Born from the grapes of the village of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and some of the family’s properties, it melds 75% cabernet sauvignon with 25% merlot.
Hyacinth and blackberry aromas rise from the purple-hued 2016 Pauillac. Its medium body is built around blackberry, Darjeeling and pomegranate flavors lined with the gravelly backbone that is part of Pauillac’s DNA. What appears to be an everyday wine—often a euphemism for simple—is anything but that. This wine delivers complexity, structure, length and a bucketful of pleasure. 94 points. Not presently in the market.
On the right bank of the city of Bordeaux, and nearly a two-hour drive from Pauillac, is the village of St. Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its beauty, but which is also magnetic for wine drinkers.
Where cabernet sauvignon rules Medoc, merlot is the emperor of St. Emilion and its next-door neighbor, Pomerol. The 2016 Legende Saint-Emilion blends 85% merlot with 15% cabernet franc (the second grape of the appellation).
Its eye-catching polished black-cherry color is complemented by aromas of black-tea, blackberry and mildly smoky toasted oak. Delicious blackberry, black raisins and beefy flavors flow on soft tannins. Near-perfect balance and a long finish push this substantial wine above the everyday category. 93 points. Retail prices range from $35 to $45.
The Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Legende wines reflect the structure, style and tastes of the five appellations while its reasonable prices offer consumers access to the talent and pride of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild’s winemaking team. This combination of quality and price is legendary on its own.
Photos by John Foy