- Second Wines of Great Producers
Second Wines Primer and Bottle Guide for affordable options
We recently got a request from one of our community members asking about second wines, so we pulled together an article to explain second wines and share some great bottles. These are all great wines and are significantly more in reach price wise.
Second wines, also known as "second labels," have become increasingly popular among wineries over the past few decades. These wines are made by wineries to offer a more affordable and approachable option to their consumers, while still maintaining the high quality and standards of their flagship or first wines. In this article, we will explore the concept of second wines, why wineries do it, and highlight some of the best examples from top wineries.
Why do wineries make second wines?
The primary reason for wineries creating second wines is to maintain the consistency and excellence of their first wines. For a wine to be considered a first wine, it must meet specific criteria set by the winery. This includes using only the best grapes from the estate, adhering to strict winemaking techniques, and aging the wine in the finest barrels. However, not every grape from a vineyard will achieve the same level of quality, and therefore, some grapes may not make the cut for the first wine. Instead of discarding these grapes, wineries can use them to create a second or even third wine, which still reflects the quality and style of the winery's top wine at a more affordable price point.
Additionally, some wineries also produce second wines to introduce new consumers to their brand. The cost of a first wine can often be out of reach for many wine enthusiasts, but a second wine offers a more accessible option to experience the winery's style and expertise. These wines provide an excellent entry point for consumers to discover a winery's portfolio and potentially become loyal customers.
What are the differences between first wines and second wines?
There are several key differences between first and second wines. Firstly, the grapes used for the first wine are often from the winery's best and oldest vines, whereas the grapes for the second wine may come from younger vines or different parts of the vineyard. This can result in a difference in flavor and complexity between the two wines.
Secondly, wineries tend to use different aging techniques for their first and second wines. First wines are typically aged in new oak barrels, which can impart more intense flavors and tannins to the wine. Second wines, on the other hand, may be aged in older barrels or for a shorter period, resulting in a softer and more approachable wine.
Finally, there is often a difference in price between the two wines. First wines are usually priced higher due to their superior quality and limited production, while second wines offer a more affordable option for consumers.
Examples of the Fantastic Second Wines
1. Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux, Bordeaux, France
Alter Ego de Palmer is the second wine of the prestigious Château Palmer in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, this wine offers a glimpse of the quality and style of its first wine, Château Palmer. The 2016 vintage, with its elegant tannins and notes of black fruit, cedar, and tobacco, received a 94+ rating from wine critic Robert Parker and can be found for around $80 per bottle.
Alter Ego 2020- $79.99
2. Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Le Petit Mouton is the second wine of one of Bordeaux's most iconic and legendary wineries, Château Mouton Rothschild. This wine is only produced in exceptional years, and the quality is a testament to the winery's excellence and attention to detail. The 2015 vintage, with its concentrated flavors of blackcurrant, plum, and spices, received a score of 92 from Wine Spectator and can be purchased for around $335 per bottle.
3. Echo de Lynch-Bages, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Another Pauillac gem, Echo de Lynch-Bages, is the second wine of Château Lynch-Bages. This rich and complex wine is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, and has been praised for its refined tannins and flavors of blackberry, cassis, and cedar. The 2014 vintage, with its 91-point score from Wine Enthusiast, can be found for around $65 per bottle.
Echo de Lynch-Bages 2019 - $58.99
4. Les Hauts de Smith Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France
Les Hauts de Smith Blanc is the second white wine of Château Smith Haut Lafitte, a top estate in the Pessac-Léognan appellation of Bordeaux. This wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, creating a refreshing and vibrant wine with notes of lemon, white peach, and a hint of minerality. The 2017 vintage received a score of 91 from Wine Enthusiast and can be purchased for around $40 per bottle.
Les Hauts de Smith Blanc 2019 - $38.99
5. La Dame de Montrose, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France
La Dame de Montrose is the second wine of Château Montrose, a historic and renowned producer in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of Bordeaux. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, this wine offers a balance of power and finesse, with flavors of blackcurrant, plum, and savory spices. The 2015 vintage, with its 93-point rating from James Suckling, can be found for around $60 per bottle.
La Dame de Montrose 2019 - $52.99
6. Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Les Forts de Latour is the second wine of the iconic Château Latour, one of Bordeaux's five First Growth estates. This wine is only produced in exceptional years, and it delivers the same level of quality and complexity as its first wine at a fraction of the price. The 2010 vintage, with its opulent flavors of blackberry, tobacco, and graphite, received a perfect 100-point score from Wine Enthusiast and can be purchased for around $500 per bottle.
7. Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia is the second wine of Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, one of Italy's most esteemed wineries in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany. Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, this wine offers a glimpse into the excellence and elegance of the estate's flagship wine, Ornellaia. The 2016 vintage, with its intense flavors of black cherry, plum, and spices, received a score of 94 from wine critic James Suckling and can be found for around $80 per bottle.
Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia 2020 - $69.99
8. La Pignan, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France
La Pignan is the second wine of Domaine de Marcoux, one of the top producers in the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation of the Rhône Valley. Made from a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Cinsault, this wine offers a velvety texture and complex flavors of blackberry, cherry, and garrigue herbs. The 2016 vintage, with its impressive score of 96 from Wine Spectator. Very hard to find but a gem if you can.
Second wines offer an excellent alternative for wine lovers to experience the quality and style of top wineries without breaking the bank. As your local wine shops or restaurant sommeliers to help guide you. These wines showcase the versatility and expertise of winemakers in producing high-quality wines at various price points. Whether you are a seasoned wine connoisseur or a curious beginner, trying a second wine can be a great way to explore new styles and regions while still enjoying exceptional quality.