generic AC Bordeaux?
I'm told there are values to be had, but maybe a sea of plonk as well?
any favorite chateau?
K&L Wines is a very reputable wine shop in the San Francisco area. Here is a listing of their Bordeaux inventory (with comments), starting from $10 a bottle and moving up in price from there. If nothing else, it will give you some names to look for in the wine shops where you live.
because of the way that the AOC regulatory boards work, you'll definitely get some that are better than others, but it's not too common to get AOC plonk. The AOC committee tastes 2 bottles out of every tank that is bottled, and it's judged as to whether or not it's worthy of carrying the Bordeaux name. What passes gets to wear the Bordeaux name, the rest becomes vin du pays or even vin du table. (Some version of this has been told to me by winemakers in regions across France, so while I can't quote chapter and verse, I've very little reason to doubt its veracity)
I'm sorry I can't give you exact names, but just thought I'd throw out that it might not be great, but it probably will be at least drinkable.
Yes and no -- the lesser labels aren't necessarily bad stuff! Just that once you leave the realms of the ones listed in Hachette (in France)-- you begin to roll the dice a little....but you're also likely to trip over something really great that just doesn't have a great advertising or promotional budget (or a high level of desire to be listed...one of our favourite vintners is a guy in the Loire who makes wines because that's what he does, and what his family has done for generations...if anything, he avoids publicity...and we don't care, because we like his wine and buy a lot of it!)
I wasn't meaning at all that vin du pays is bad...it just means that it was decided by the committee that it doesn't meet the framework of whatever that AOC is supposed to taste like, so it can't carry the AOC label.
We found (and sadly misplaced the name of) a vintner near Cahors who had a wine that he had to sell as vin de pays, because part of his vines grew *across the road* from what was officially designated as the area defined for AOC Cahors. Same vines, same vintner -- but had to be separated into their own vat and processed separately, so he could label the Cahors without it being "bastardized" by their sister vines across the road. It was fantastic wine, and we've always regretted having lost him....because we'd be back on his doorstep in a heartbeat!
Vin de pays doesn't have the strict guidelines, though -- so it's a little more risky, and you could get some pretty plain plonk...but there are also some guys out there (not being sexist at all -- there just aren't very many ladies in that business!) who are producing some really, really nice wines that just don't happen to fit into any specific AOC description...so they are all vin de pays.