Second Wine Labels

Second wines have been around for a centuries. Their purpose, I suppose, was to maximise output of wine to the consumer, whilst maximising quality for the grand cuvée. Until the second half of the 20th century, only a handful  of estates bothered with second labels . Nowadays, all of the classed growths have at least a second label, if not a third or fourth.

So, are these wines just the dregs of renowned estates, manufactured and marketed to a vulnerable and label-driven consumer mass? OR, are they good value, under-appreciated chances to taste the fermented fruit of some of the world’s best estates? I decided to try out the 2nd wine label of the 3rd growth Margaux estate, Chateau Marquis d’Alseme Becker, imaginatively named ‘Marquise d’Alseme’.

img_3576Marquise d’Alseme, Margaux, 2009

This wine changed quite dramatically in the glass. Initially, earth damp forest aromas complementing dark fruit. Pencil shavings, violets and black pepper. Some cedar perfume. 45 minutes later and a totally new beast: concentrated green bell pepper, jalapeno and green olive tapenade, suggesting high pyrazine concentrations. The palate was rich, fruity and silky throughout, but there was an underlying bitterness  (not associated with tannin), which reduced the drinking pleasure significantly. Interesting, but lacking balance and hedonism. 88 points



Learning points: This was a genuinely interesting wine to taste with regards to the development in glass. However, in terms of pure enjoyment, it did not justify the £25 price from