Is Bordeaux unfashionable? Not in our lifetime.
I read the Asimov article in full. Being an unabashed Bordeaux lover, I do not agree with the vast majority of points in the article. Eric Asimov of the New York Times claims Bordeaux is falling out of fashion. I say he’s wrong. What do you think?
Is Bordeaux unfashionable? Bordeaux remains popular among all the younger wine enthusiasts I know. If Bordeaux is irrelevant, why do merchants devote so much floor space to it? Why is Bordeaux the number one staple, in all price ranges at auction houses all over the world? Lastly, why do we devote so much time and attention discussing Bordeaux on Internet wine sites?
Some Bordeaux are expensive. But the top wines from every famous wine region are expensive. I noted a comment in this thread saying the poster used to buy First Growths, splitting the cost of a bottle with friends. But it’s become too expensive. So they don’t buy Bordeaux anymore. Yet, they continue drinking Burgundy even though wines from that region are more expensive than any Bordeaux. There are only a handful of truly expensive Bordeaux producers, far less than in Burgundy or even California. Yet people still purchase wines from those regions thinking they are affordable.
Bordeaux produces a wide array of good, age worthy wines with character for $35 and less in the best vintages. If consumers are willing to purchase wines from solid vintages like 2001, 2002, 2004 & 2008, the number of outstanding wines available in that price range jumps considerably! Most of these affordable Chateaux are produced in large amounts, making them easy to find. In years like 2005 or 2009, they might not be the most famous names some of us are used to. But they are outstanding wines for newer and seasoned collectors. However in vintages like 2001, 2002, 2004 & 2008, some of the top names are available at very fair prices. For wine lovers desiring to experience Bordeaux, this is the perfect place to start. The truth is, many of the today’s newer, lesser known properties produce better wines currently, than were available in the 70’s and early 80’s from far more famous Chateaux.
If consumers relate Bordeaux or any region to “Rolex or Rolls-Royce”, that is the fault of the consumer for not looking further and the retailers or sommeliers for not offering assistance to people wanting to learn. Bordeaux, like every other great wine region offers a plethora of outstanding wines at all price levels. Wine lovers do not need to look very far these days for value and quality.
Asimov mentioned sommeliers and merchants are not aware of the less famous names today. If that’s the case, isn’t that their fault? People in the trade should know about wines from regions they sell. That is their job.
Mr. Grieco, quoted in the article is proud they do not serve Bordeaux by the glass. I am sure both “innovative” wine bars, Terroir and Terroir Tribeca, discovered a successful business model that works for them. However, at the per glass points they charge, they could easily sell a myriad of sublime Bordeaux and make a lot of money. They chose not to for marketing purposes. It’s also important to note, neither location offers wines from California, Chateauneuf du Pape and a host of other regions. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the two main staples of Bordeaux are not represented either. It appears the choice of quoting Mr. Grieco was solely to support Asimov’s contention.
That being said, Bordeaux is not the staple of restaurants and has not been a staple of restaurants for years. With the loss of Chateau & Estates and Diageo, that trend is only going to exacerbate. Distributors are not going to supply Bordeaux to those establishments in the future.
I do not understand the comment Asimov made regarding buying Burgundy direct. How many restaurants, merchants or consumers buy wines from any country direct? As far as meeting growers whose hand touched the dirt, while fun, enjoyable and educational, what percentage of consumers, sommeliers and merchants travel to France to visit the vineyards and how often do they do that? It’s also important to know, most of the sommeliers I know traveling overseas have their trips paid for by distributors. In all fairness, that should be pointed out as well.
In closing, Asimov quotes Belinda Chang who said, “Who would not be excited to have a glass of Château Petrus, if you’re not footing the bill?”
If Petrus is the standard for Bordeaux, DRC, Leroy and Roumier should carry the flag for Burgundy, Harlan/Screaming Eagle for California, Gaja for Italy, Pegau Capo for Chateauneuf, Guigal La Mouline for Cote Rotie, Vega Sicila for Spain etc. Using that logic, no wine region should ever sell as every wine is too expensive.
The only comment I agreed with in full was, like Ms. Chang, I also enjoy drinking Petrus. Especially when someone else is footing the bill. Depending on the vintage and the correct stemware of course. :-0)