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Help with Bordeaux "second wine"

  • jcoz23 Jan 17, 2008 06:42 AM
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I was in Paris about a year and a half ago and had an really good bottle of Bordeaux wine at the bar at the Hotel Crillon. I wrote down the name on a piece of paper and took it to several wine shops in Paris so I could buy a bottle to bring home, but no one had the wine. It appeared to me that the winery name was Le Petit Lousteau. When I got back to the U.S. I tried to search for this name on the internet, but didn't come up with much (and what little did come up was exclusively in French...je ne comprends pas). Just today I was bored and tried again, and the search brought up an article about Bordeaux. It did have Le Petit Lousteau buried in the text, it read that it was a "second wine" for Château Lousteauneuf, Cru Bourgeois. I don't know if this information helps me at all in my search for this wine, but can someone explain to me what this means?

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  1. Several estates make so-called second wines. A few even make third wines. They've been around for about a century but have really taken off in the last couple of decades. Typically, the wines are made with grapes that, while not bad, are not considered good (complex, concentrated, rich) enough for the estate's top wine; the most common reason is because they come from young vines. While many second wines make for enjoyable drinking, none that I've had begin to compare with their grander siblings.

    1. Unlike most of the world, many of the châteaux in Bordeaux produce a single wine . . . except that's not true. Depending upon the specific château, part of their overall production will NOT be used in making their main wine, but will be split off for their second label, or second wine. The specific reasons will vary with the specific château.

      For instance, at some châteaux, the younger vines are not used in "le premier vin," and so those are bottled under the second label (or "as the second wine"). At other estates, the winemaker will segregate individual barrels of lesser quality -- using only the very best for the first wine, and using these "lesser" barrels for the second wine. At still other domaines, perhaps the château owns a vineyard parcel that just never is up to the quality produced in the rest of the vineyard -- it will be used for the second wine, lest the quality of the first wine be diminished by its inclusion in the wine.

      For example, Château Lafite Rothschild also makes Carraudes de Lafite; Château Latour also makes Les Forts de Latour; Château Palmer has Alter Ego; etc., etc., etc.

      4 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        Does that mean since I enjoyed the wine that was made from the lowly grapes and/or barrels, I would most likely enjoy the wine from Château Lousteauneuf even more? The "first" label is sort of like true "reserve" wines in the U.S.?

        1. re: jcoz23

          The word "Reserve" is legally meaningless in the United States. Keep in mind that Glen Ellen introduced their "Proprietor's Reserve" Chardonnay at $3.99, and Kendall-Jackson's "Vintner's Reserve" Chardonnay was originally $6.99. The word "reserve" is defined as however and whatever the winery WANTS it to mean.

          The short answer to your question -- in terms of how most individuals think of, say, a winery's "reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon versus their "regular" Cabernet Sauvignon -- would be "yes." But this is EXTREMELY misleading! The problem is that this would only apply to:

          a) the châteaux that create a "second wine" through a barrel selection process (versus those that do it by parcel selection, and/or by the age of the vines, and/or by any number of other criteria); and

          b) the process is in reverse. Generally the Bordelias producers who go through a barrel selection presume that *all* barrels are in the first wine and pull OUT those that don't "make the grade." In the process whereby an American producer puts his finest barrels into a "reserve" wine, he/she puts barrels IN . . .

          But -- again -- keep in mind that not all producers use this type of barrel selection process. Many, if not most, use a different criterion, if not a combination of several . . .

          Cheers,
          Jason

          1. re: zin1953

            Thank you for taking the time to explain. Now there's one less wine term out there for me to be intimidated by :)

            1. re: jcoz23

              You shouldn't need to be intimidated by any wine terminology. If and when you EVER come across a term you don't understand, just ask! ;^)

              Cheers,
              Jason

      2. I tried to search for this name on the internet, but didn't come up with much (and what little did come up was exclusively in French...je ne comprends pas).

        Strange, because the first hit on Google for Château Lousteauneuf is the official website of the winery -- www.chateau-lousteauneuf.com -- which is in French and English. They export 90% of production, to 7 countries,but the US is not listed. However they say "If you want to know our saling points in your country, just mail us"

        A read of their website will tell you more.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Gussie Finknottle

          What I was saying is when I searched for "Le Petit Lousteau" nothing came up. Today I found an article that linked it to Château Lousteauneuf, so I searched that and I was able to find the same website as you. My question was about "second wine".

          1. re: jcoz23

            Le Petit Lousteau *is* mentioned on their somewhat wonky website: www.chateau-lousteauneuf.com/Pages/Pe...

            The deets:
            - 50-50 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend
            - Half the wine is aged in US oak, the other half in vats
            - The vines are planted on gravelly clayey soil
            - 35K bottles are made each year
            - 12.5% alcohol by volume

            1. re: carswell

              Thanks. I was able to find that also today once I was able to search under the name of the Château. It didn't come up when I first tried searching under Le Petit Lousteau only when I initially returned from Paris. Sorry for the confusing wording of my original post. I wasn't trying to say I couldn't find the website for the Château, I was looking for an explanation of "second wine" in layman's terms, which I think I now understand thanks to your original post and Zin1953's. And yes, "wonky" is a good adjective for that website :)

            2. re: jcoz23

              Seems that Le Petit is actually a 'third' wine, since they have a premium label, then the Château Lousteauneuf and then the Petit.

              There are other reasons for 'second' labels: a winery may make a wine from their own grown grapes -- but there is a physical limitation to the amount of wine they can make, so they can buy grapes from other growers and they'll use a different label for that, and maybe the appellation may be different.

              A winery may make different labels for different markets, one for retail, one for restaurants, or labels for different retaillers, e.g. if they've given an exclusive deal to supermarket 1 then supermarket 2 wants their wine, they slap a different label on it. & etc.

              1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                What you're describing would not be considered "second labels" or "second wines" in the traditional sense of the terms.

          2. It looks like there are just a couple of online retailers in the US who carry Chateau Lousteauneuf. I'm not familiar with either one. I can't find anyone who carries Le Petit Lousteau. If you really want to try it, search for retailers through www.globalwinestocks.com or through www.wine-searcher.com.