Second wines, far from being hidden at the back behind a property’s main wines, occupy a prominent position for Bordeaux’s châteaux. Crafted from carefully selected grapes and vinified with the utmost care, you don’t want to miss these wines from the excellent 2022 vintage. We will guide you through this often-overlooked category which you absolutely have to check out when making your 2022 en primeurs purchases.
“Second wine”, a term to ban but wines to savour
The prelude to a property’s grand vin, its “second wine “ is part of the grands crus classés branding strategy. Far from being treated like the main wine’s reject, it is vinified with care in a manner that will allow it to be enjoyed sooner than a grand vin. As such, it leads the drinker towards the property’s main wine. For wine lovers, it is also a way to be a part of the dream with less of an impact on the wallet. 😉 Some properties have changed the name of their second wines to something which comes closer to that of their flagship wines, accentuating the similarity between them and removing the term “second wine”, which is deemed unflattering, from their labels (and their vocabulary). These wines have progressed well in recent years and even if they have long been neglected at iDealwine auctions with the exception of second wines from premier crus classés, the market values the care taken to produce them. These wines are known today and sought after for their intrinsic quality.
The term “second wine” can cover different possibilities. In most cases, it results from a draconic selection which keeps only the best grapes for the “grand vin” blends. The rest is vinified and blended to form the second wine at the expense of, in some cases, a new selection which will either produce a third wine or the resulting juice will be sold onto merchants. Some properties refuse the term “second wine” completely, as is the case for Château Latour who creates Les Forts de Latour from a well-defined plot of young vines. The same goes for Clos du Marquis. Its vines lie just outside of the Grand Clos that provides the grapes for Château Léoville Las Cases’ Grand Vin.
This is confirmed by the fact that more than 3,700 bottles (when scaled to 750ml) were sold at iDealwine auctions in 2022 for an average price of €87, demonstrating that these second labels are slowly catching up with the premier crus classés. Carruades de Lafite has settled at the top of the rankings with a bottle price surpassing €400 (€409 for the 1998 vintage).
There is a high amount of quality and care given to the vines as they grow as well as to the vinification of the wines found in this ranking of “second wines”. This means that wine lovers really should take interest in them as bottles to drink rather than invest in (these wines should be opened relatively soon). However, we see that the fame of the premiers crus classés flows onto their second labels and the latter are seeing their value appreciate on the secondary market, including that of mature vintages.
Which are the wines that you absolutely should have in your selection from the 2022 en primeurs?
- Carruades de Lafite Rothschild 2022: The vines that produce the grapes that eventually go into the Carruades are planted on clay soil in a fresh terroir. The 2022 offers a palate full of a beautiful minerality, slightly smoky aromas and lots of freshness. The texture is supple, highlighting the beautiful fruit and a marked acidity. The ensemble is precise and serious having been expertly aged and matured.
- Haut-Bailly II 2022: In the past, its name was La Parde Haut-Bailly, but it has been called Haut-Bailly II since the 2018 vintage. The wine is made from the same parcels as the property’s main wine. A real prelude to the Château Haut-Bailly, it is accessible at a younger age and charms everyone with its supple texture, seductive fruit and beautifully pronounced flavours.
- Les Griffons de Pichon Baron 2022: Griffons de Pichon Baron is the most recent wine created by Château Pichon Baron, a Pauillac second grand cru classé. It appears as an ample and persistent wine with a beautiful freshness in its 2022 version. No less suited to ageing as the property’s main wine, it will continue to develop if left to spend several years in the cellar.
- Les Pagodes de Cos 2022: Very elegant, this second wine by Cos d’Estournel comes from an exacting terroir, planted with vines that are on average 40 years old. It stands out with its flavourful aromas of tangy sweets and a lively palate structured by fine tannins. A particularly delicious and seductive 2022.
- Château Lacoste Borie 2022: This wine comes from 60 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc vines which surround Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste. It is soft, delicate and fine. We recommend that you wait a few years before opening it.
- Petit Lion de Las Cases 2022: A superb introduction to the château’s wines, this nectar comes from young vines and was first produced in 2007 after some of the Grand Clos’ vines were pulled up and replanted. The Merlot majority (something that you don’t see a lot of from Bordeaux’s Left Bank offers roundness, plenty of flavours and intense fruit.