Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
I'll drink Bordeaux all night if someone else is paying. But there's wine made all over the world that's as good if not better and cheaper.
Sure they may not have the prestige and history, but I'm damned if I'll pay for that.
All my friends are real.
Regarding Sommerliers and hipsters rejecting BDX at bars: -it's hard to have a BDX staple in your wine by the glass selection at a bar. You need to have a 5-7 dollar bottle that punches with weight, warm fruit. That's not BDX's calling card; it is Spain, Portugal, Loire and other emerging region's wheelhouse. BDX is king in the 25-75 dollar range and it view with Burgundy over the 125 dollar per bottle range. These wines aren't very profitable for restaurants beyond being prestige objects (who wants to order 2006 Pichon Lalande for a dinner??) and that to me accounts this "backlash."
I have been making this point for years. The next generation of wine professional almost never gets to taste high-end Bordeaux, because it is so expensive. The emphasis on the $10-$25 retail market is non-existent, so young pros drink and sell other regions. Classic Cadillacing of a "brand."
Jim Coley ITB
although the author points to burgundy, he fails to illustrate the cost prohibitiveness of the region. sure there are more wallet friendly wines that come from there, but the same can be said of bordeaux. and then there is the consistency issue...
most of my cellar is cali, but about a third is bordeaux. i'm not old and i'm not rich drinking petrus either.
Eric has really outdone himself here. This is a fantastic article and I actually need a little time to digest it and think about it a little. On the one hand there is the pleasure of schaedenfreude after all the pricing bullshit. But I also find it a little sad because Bordeaux was my own introduction to wine and there is nothing that can replace what it used to be.
Jim's Cadillac comparison is so true. An emblem of quality segueing to an emblem of luxury, and then to an emblem of dated stodginess... and more recently to an emblem of tasteless nouveau riche excess. The wines they make today are the Cadillac Escalades with tinted windows and neon, and they have nothing to do with the Bordeaux I used to know.
Last edited by L e o F r o k i c on May 18th 2010, 6:05pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Hey Justin -- yer a fookin' dork!" Bob Wood
My wife is ITB
I have the same fond memories of being able to get a handful of people together and being able to split a Lafite or Haut-Brion for the price of an everyday bottle, and we didn't even have an employee discount. But my fonder memories were the nameless crus bourgeois that you could buy for like $15 a bottle and offered everything you could want from a wine.
"For many younger sommeliers and wine lovers, the new standard of excellence is Burgundy."
True dat. My personal palate has been drifting further and further from Bordeaux. I've found I don't really like it aged, and while I do like many young Bordeaux, I like them only insofar as they resemble Napa Cab. So I'm selling a good portion of my Bordeaux collection and focusing my Cabernet dollars on Napa, while concentrating my French dollars on Burgundy (which, when aged, invariably has both intensity and fruit, qualities I find lacking in aged Bordeaux).
Yeah , Burgundy is the way to go -- all those Roumier, Dujac, Leroy, and DRC wines are so affordable and easy to source. I just love Pinot - it is soooo cool - I am not drinking any F*&(%&^$ing Merlot!! You suck Petrus.
Scarcity is an undeniable factor in BDX and to lament the days of cheap Lafite is the same as lamenting the days of abject poverty in developing markets, or the value of information being destroyed by the internet. Surely there are some troubling trends in BDX with regards to the types of wines they are churning out, but to take a current snapshot as a long-term trend is a bit shortsighted.
Critics can champion a region or nurture a calling behind it, but in the end of the day, when those communities mature, they are looking for quality not nostalgia. If it is going to be in Portugal then so be it, but I find it hard to believe that BDX is unseating itself by displeasing hipster sommeliers even if its foundation may be noveau riche and WASP-ridden old money...
Along with California Cabs, I began my wine hobby with Bordeaux. Except for a handful of 01s and 05s (Costco), I've been out since 2000.
While I still consider dabbling with Burgs and Rhone, I have no intention of getting back into Bordeaux. I consider the wines I used to purchase to be terrible values in today's market.
These wines still exist (OK, maybe $20 - $35 now) and I certainly agree. A few months ago after chatting over the winelist, the proprietor of a small Paris restaurant urged me to try an obscure off-vintage Bordeaux that she'd ferreted out specifically to pair with her duck dishes. Remarkably affordable and delicious with the food. There seems to be no love for these Bordeaux with hipsters seeking trendier options and the mega-healed focused on liquid investments.
Wow. It's been full circle for me. I went from Bordeaux to Cab to everything else in my wine journey. Count me as returning to the fold. Who needs 1st growths? Everything I'm finding today in Bordeaux Superieur and Cru Bourgeois at $15-30 just makes happy. I don't see where you can get this kind of QPR in California. Spain would be 2nd on my hit list.
Can't even begin to count the number of things I disagree with here...
Fruit is not a quality that I consider an important component of any mature red wine. Fruit is just one of the booster rockets necessary to get it there, jettisoned when no longer needed. I don't find old Burgundy any more fruited than old Bordeaux, but I guess it's fair to say it has a little more up-front sweetness which may simply reflect higher alcohol.
And intensity is just a question of style, not quality. Whether a wine is intense or subtle might be relevant to when I'm in the mood to drink it, but it's not relevant to whether I'm interested in drinking it in the first place.
Although Bdx account for nearly half my stash, my real last en premiere was 2002. What did Bdx in for me was what I saw was the unscrupulous hype by the Bdx industry and therefore the price, the general hyperbole by 'renowned' critics, and the increasing all-taste-same pursuit by most just so to get the 90+ score. Of course some wines (esp. 1st growths etc.) consistently make good wines irrespective of vintages but all the rest have become boring and commercialized (IMHO). There is just so much more (variation and dedication) in Burgundy, traditional Italian and Spanish, other regions like Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Fruili, UMbria, Priorat, NZ Pinots......
At the same time, why should I pay $1,000 for a 2009 Lafite when for the same price, I can get 2 or maybe 3 2004 Rocche del Falletto. Even the more down to earth 1993 Santenots du Milieu was more sensual than the 2 dozen of so $85 - $150 Bdx that I tried in past year or so covering 95 to 05 vintages.
I wish every success to the 2009 en Premiere so that minions like me can still afford the rest.
Heaven is a 50yrs old Scottish Highland Single Malt
Hell is a whatever age French Haggis
I have been taking the long view. Young people, whether in or out of the trade, now (speaking generally) have fewer opportunities and less inclination to try Bordeaux than any time in the past 20 years.
I gave a Bordeaux class to some young wine professionals a few years ago in which the lack of basic knowledge about the reason was eye-opening.
Jim Coley ITB
This drives me crazy. on a certain level, going out of your way to NOT drink bdx is like riding a bike with no gears or brakes (which all the cool kids are doing these days). Its intentional overthinking. young somms are trading bdx for burg? but in the same article the price of bdx is being assailed? Ill drink some of the lesser bdx over many village burgs all day long, and I LOVE burg. I have a former employee who would go out of his way to find and drink only the freakiest of wines. radicon and gravner were almost to pedestrian. sure, its fun, and definately different, but to dismiss a whole chunk of the wine world just seems silly.
How about a delicious bottle of 99 grand puy lacoste. everything bdx should be, and $45 on a retail shelf....
god help us if a whole generation of somms thinks they need to out-wierd each other to keep their jobs and progress in their careers. what will most of us drink on their lists?
The obnoxious "Hipster indie street cred" young somm is part of it - God knows I still laugh over this kid from Boston who seemed to think he had discovered Godello all by his lonesome sensitive self.
But it also has to do with horrible marketing by the petit chateaux. When I was on the restaurant side, it was a genuine struggle to find $20-$50 (restaurant price) Bordeaux I could use as an intro to the region for the less well off.
Jim Coley ITB
In addition to the various points made in the article, and above, I also think there has been a shift in what people eat, and consequently what people drink. When I first got into wine seriously, a much larger % of the dinners I attended featured red meat. The kind of meal that rewards a good, aged Bordeaux. These days, I rarely order steak when I'm out (I can grill a decent steak at home), so the likelihood of my ordering a Bordeaux while dining out has fallen drastically.
"Bruce you are correct."--Andrew Kaufman, 3/24/13.
Au revoir! When I was in the business...mid 80's, Bordeaux was still the cat's meow. Collectors coveted the vintages and laid them down with the intention of letting them sit for 10 years before trying. I hope they are still sitting on a bunch of the 82...those are great wines. But there was some snobbism and little competition then, we didn't really have alternatives. I remember when Opus One came out and people complained that it was priced like a Bordeaux. And now New Zealand and South Africa and Chile and so many other places give us a good glass of wine to have, not to mention Napa. With time, these will be come "established" wine areas and as Napa wineries get track records of thirty and forty years, they are the new vanguards of "delicious wines with pedigree" and will win the spot coveted by Bordeaux all these years because they are not nearly as unaffordable.
Bordeaux has evolved into a collector's market/bubble, and "survival of the fittest" a la America has hit them via Robert Parker and the Wine Advocate scores, so unless Cru Bourgeois get on the radar with a score, they are not going to find a market in this country. His early intentions were to point out the bad or downright flawed wines that were being sold as "vintage Bordeaux" (and there were a lot of them...I can think of no fewer than 10 vintages of Mouton that should never have been sold under that label) But it evolved into something more competitive. And we are a fickle bunch, moving from one "hot" wine to the next...first Haut Brion 89 then Latour 90 and Montrose...and what of Valandraud or other one hit Melbas, and then Pavie and now Cos...it's just a carousel arranged by the media to hold our attention. Frankly, I can get a whole year's worth of drinking wines for the price of a case of Cos '09. And I hope that I'm reasonable in giving that frantic market a big raspberry....
As to the "sommeliers" of today's world, many are worth their salt, but I'd say you need at least 10 years of experience to really know what you are doing. I can't stand it when I get a 22 year old "sommelier" and they are telling me to drink 10 year old screwcap riesling from Alsace when what I really wanted was a 1er Cru White Burg. It's not an age thing, it's an experience thing. And until you've had several bottles of EACH of the great white producers of Burgundy (or Bordeaux or Napa) AND been in a state to remember them, can you speak intelligently about the differences in style and vintage, and what would match best a customer's taste.
That said, as a final note, I think the sommelier's job is to best match a particular customer's taste preferences with wines available on their restaurant's list. This is quite a different thing from a "connoisseur" or "amateur", which is someone who knows the in depth history of a wine or winery, the differences in vintages and why, and what to pick with a particular dish. I think this board has a number of different "amateurs", each with their specialty, and that is a prize indeed.
With that, I think I have earned the following:
MWM seeks '28 Coutet...
Great post, Fred.
One way I feel lucky as a (relatively) young wine professional is that I was grounded in classic French regions in my first job. I was taught to both respect them in general and to question each wine individually. Many wine pros don't get to experience those wines the way I did. Down the road, those experiences gave me access to great mature examples of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, etc.
Jim Coley ITB
Cuisine is certainly an issue. We don't see a lot of traditional French haute cuisine these days that pairs classically with Bordeaux. The whole 'new American' locally-sourced organic style tends to lend itself to lighter more fruit forward wines and the influences are more Mediterranean favoring Pinot Noir, Provence, Spain and Italy. (I'm not sure who's buying Loire reds, as much as I like them, you can't give them away around here.)
I love to scoop up '99s and '01-'02 Bdx from good producers as they are lesser vintages drinking well now. Of course, a lot of Bdx drinkers are driven by Parker's vintage ratings and wouldn't realize that a '01 Leoville Barton is going to be a lot friendlier than the '05. There is a huge gap between the 1sts and super seconds to the rest of Bordeaux. Even 2nds like Brane-Cantenac or Gruaud-Larose can be overlooked while offering good value. I also buy a lot of seconds Bdx which sell very well because people know Cos d'Estournel or Palmer and the wines offer good terroir/winemaking and a known brand at a lesser price. As the selections for the Grand Vins get more severe the seconds get better and better.
What is lacking is a lot of somms buying quality value Bdx like Chasse Spleen, Fourcas-Hostens, Caronne Ste. Gemme, Charmail, Patache d'Aux, etc. that they can price on a list under $100. I have tried but don't find a lot of these in distributors warehouses. These wines are excellent and can bring people to Bdx without having to jump all the way to more expensive classified wines that people used to go to like Lynch-Bages, Langoa Barton or Giscours. Here is where Bdx branding is terrible. It seems that the Chateau names are totally interchangeable to the public and it takes a lot of persistence to know the difference between Ch. Bourgneuf and Ch. de Bourgneuf (both Pomerols), for example. When the label is a generic white label with a crest and a Chateau they all blur together even worse on a wine list when you can't even see the label. Most people just stick with the classified wines and find themselves priced out of the market.
Unfortunately, great Bordeaux has become a luxury product. Some of my first wine purchases were treasured 1989 and 1990 first growths and "super-seconds." The most expensive was the 1989 Haut-Brion, an eye-popping $125. Fortunately I was also lucky enough to buy a case of 1989 Haut Brion ($28 per bottle). I haven't bought any Bordeaux since the 2002 vintage (Forts de Latour, $39, is awesome; haven't opened the rest). The 2003 vintage hype, compounded by 2005 hype and pricing, simply killed it for me.
The same thing has happened to the top Burgundy producers, although it really didn't go nuts until mid-way through the 2005 campaign (See, e.g., DRC, Rousseau, Mugnier, Ponsot, Cathiard, Dujac). With Burgundy, however, there is enough diversity and inefficiency that one can still find incredible wine at reasonable prices if one is willing to take the time to do the groundwork.
All these things move in cycles, some of them short-term and others long term. Bordeaux is one of the world's greatest wines and it will be back.
J o e F l o r
Unfortunately, I 'know' more about the estates/chateaus than I do the wines. Bordeaux, on the whole, is far out of my reach/budget. The very best wines I've had are French and I believe the best wines are made there, but there are profound wines made in many places -- places that are in price stratas I can reasonably afford.
Don't get me started on uber-geek somms. The worst.
A few comments here :-).
For a start, Asimov is talking about Bordeaux in the US, and many of his comments do not really apply to other markets.
I also find the title of the first article erroneous. It's not that Bordeaux has lost prestige. It's that the name wines are unreachably expensive and that there is, admittedly, an image problem. However, prestige is not an issue here.
Some points in the article are well made. However, what goes around comes around.
In other words, if Bordeaux is less fashionable, it is far from unlikely that it will come back into fashion, like so many things...
Remember when there was brief boycott of French wines because France did not support the war in Iraq? No more than a blip, really, when all is said and done.
I do not contest that demand has fallen off for Bordeaux in America. But I say that icons are always under attack, and I'll bet my bottom dollar that I'll read a New York Times article down the line saying something like "New Enthusiasm for the Wines of Bordeaux"...
This is journalism, which is only qualified to grab hold of the ephemeral.
Asimov is right when he mentions the somewhat stuffy image of fine Bordeaux. However, many of the young wine drinkers he mentions will settle down, make kids, and become stuffier themselves as time goes on! ;-))).
I honestly think that a certain number of them will "graduate" to Bordeaux because, as the article says, the great wines *are* the benchmarks.
Asimov really misses the boat when he implies that it is easier to buy Burgundy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I agree that the Bordelais have work to do in the States. I am thinking less of the Union des Grands Crus tastings than promoting - and selling - the good value wines of Bordeaux which are not well known nor readily available in the US.
I can be somewhat happy with either intensity or fruit, if I can't have both, but otherwise, the wine is boring - encompassing most aged Bordeaux I've had. Looking through your recent notes I found this wonderful quote:
"Friday, May 14, 2010 - "Boredom is one of the flattest, most self-evident, most self-justifying of all esthetic judgments. There is no appeal from boredom. Even when you tell yourself you like boredom, there the verdict is." --Clement Greenberg"
Boring wine just sort of sits on the palate, doing nothing. Kind of like British food (which I suppose might go some ways toward explaining the infamous British love for limpid Bordeaux...)
Per your last paragraph, I have been surprised that there hasn't been a "French Revolution" by Bordeaux's "peasant" estates against the aristocracy. Over the past five years, I have begged for the Bordeaux satellites and cru Bourgeois to rebel against stuff like the UGC and venues that obsess over 1855, etc.
There are so many good, unrecognized wines in Bordeaux.
Oh, and you're wrong about Burgundy, but in the way a partisan is.
Jim Coley ITB
I'm with you Eric. I just don't recognize the marketplace to which Asimov is referring. Yes, there are maybe 25-30 wines that I will never buy again. But there are oceans of extremely high quality, low priced wines available, relative to what bordeaux used to sell for and relative to the rest of the world.
Yes, I suppose that Chili and Argentina are producing better $10 wines than Bordeaux; I take this on faith because I rarely drink wines in this category. But in the $15-25 range -- the wines I drink most every night -- and in the $40-70 range (my weekend wines), Bordeaux offers more choice than any other region I know (at least among styles that appeal to me). Lanessan for $16/btl in a vintage-of-the-century like 2009? Forget the can-you-do-better-elsewhere challenge; can you really say that a wine like this doesn't offer superb value vis a vis the rest of the planet?
I liked the article and learned a few things. But I think the basic premise is just flawed
I don't have to speak; she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one
Something does not compute. If bordeaux is unfashionable and has lost prestige as Eric suggests than pricing would be softer as demand ebbs. I certainly don't see any signs of that happening much except in vintages viewed as less than good.
To prove his point he says that bordeaux makes up 0.46% of all still wines, domestic and foreign, distributed in the U.S. which is down from 1.69% in the mid-1980s. He fails to take into account the increase in wine drinkers in the U.S. in the last 25 years which is substantial. I'm not going to try to figure out the math but it's intuitive that many of the newer wine consumers are drinking Yellow Tail and the like so I think on the face of it his numbers are meaningless.
From a personal viewpoint, I drank 10 great 1990 left bank bordeaux last night and I may not be buying newer vintages because of my age but I am certainly not bored by bordeaux.
Elaborating. If you have rejected the Bordeaux region because you have found another that meets your needs and see no reason to wade into a sometimes confusing and rapidly changing market, I completely understand. I think cellar diversity is a vastly overrated goal. If you have decided that bordeaux does not scratch your itch, again, congrats on becoming self-aware and being able to cross something off your list.
But if you like bordeaux wines but avoid it because of price, well, you just aren't trying hard enough (the same can be said for burgundy too). These are some of my purchases this year. Mostly big names, well regarded wines, prices that are competitive with those offered anywhere in the world on a QPR basis:
CHATEAU VALANDRAUD 2004 Bdx | $58.25
CHATEAU HAUT BAILLY 2003 Bdx | $35.75
CHATEAU PONTET CANET 2006 Bdx | $58.25
CHATEAU MONTROSE 2004 Bdx | $41.59
CHATEAU LA CONSEILLANTE 2001 Bdx | $79.08
CHATEAU HAUT BAILLY 2004 Bdx | $56.25
Malescot 2006 $34
Cos D'estournel 2004 $49
Angelus 2004 $75
Pavie Macquin 2004 $29
Troplong Mondot 2004 $36.25
Pontet Canet 2004 $36.25
Giscours 2004 $ $29.95
I don't have to speak; she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one
Well said, Neal. My buying strategy is quite similar. I'm biased to be sure, given that my cellar is around 70% Bordeaux, but it never ceases to please me how high the quality across the board is at all price-points. I'm still picking up very quality 2005s at discounted prices (and some 2001s and 2004s), including everyday drinkers like Haut Bergey ($29.99), Reignac ($17.99), de Carles ($17.99), LVC ($25), etc. Comparing them to a similarly valued Cali Cab I had recently, Chappellet Mountain Cuvee 2007 ($22.99), and I remain a happy Bdx camper. I also hedged some bets recently on a few cases of 2008s in the 375 format that I like for everyday drinkers. While I doubt that the prices on some of these '08s will slide up that much on release, I wanted to lock in that format which is otherwise hard to find in Florida.
Lolo Soldevilla, Paris, 1951
Bronze sculpture, 26x16
Although Asimov's article is interesting, it mostly misses the point with regard to two things: 1) as mentioned by many above, the price of good Bordeaux at a restaurant is extremely high, marked up more than almost any other wine (with the possible exception of the highest end Burgundies, and 2) Bordeaux takes a while to come around in most cases, and yet most restaurants have very little in the way of older wines, or if they do, the markups become stratospheric.
I bought the 1996 a few years ago for $300 a bottle and now it is $1570 on the RN74 (as an example) list. Or the 1996 Pichon Lalande for just over $100, now $500 something on the same list. So the markups are 5 times the price of about 5-7 years ago, forget about the markup from release price. Even bottles that I got on release in the $20-30 range back in 2000 are now way over $100, maybe over $200. So there is not much surprise here about younger wine geeks in particular not going for these.
That, and yet add the dirty little secret (well, not a secret, since it is clear to see for all who look) that a) Bordeaux needs bottle age, and 2) restaurants don't age wines. The same problem here applies to Burgundy, where almost everything on the list is 2005-2008 (we did find a 1985 Jarry Vouvray, however...). We went through the discussion with Quince Restaurant in San Francisco when we wanted to bring 3 older wines in for 3 couples. Practically the oldest wine they had on the list was 2004, but for some reason the sommelier claimed this was not true. Since I learned how to read in kindergarten, I have to assume the restaurant either had wines they were not showing, or the sommelier was suffering under some kind of delusion.
Thanks for the interesting post, and welcome to WB, Fred!
That describes me! Even at 40+, I love my fixie.
But I agree with your general sentiment. I am finding more pleasure in Bdx after eschewing it for a while.
Andrew Hall (itb)
andrew @ cellartracker dot com
You forgot your tin-foil this morning.
Either put up or shut the f*ck up with all this conspiracy theory bullshit.
Andrew Hall (itb)
andrew @ cellartracker dot com
Is it possible that modern Bordeaux, with it's oak driven style and spit-polished tannins, has just become less intellectually engaging for wine geeks?
I ask the question because I wonder if the fact that I don't find myself interested in checking in on the Bordeaux in my cellar is due to my personal preferences (I don't like Cab as much as other grapes) or a modern style that just isn't that interesting....or both.
A propaganda campaign emanating from a party organ like the NY Times cannot be understood unless it is viewed through the filter of Who? Whom?
One group of people in this piece of propaganda is portrayed as sleek, sexy, hip, teh new hawtness.
The other group of people in this piece of propaganda is portrayed as old, fuddy-duddy, gray-beard, one-foot-in-the-grave has-beens.
At which point, I assume [can't I?] that you can the perform the remaining arithmetic for yourself.
[Hint: Just ask yourself, "Who? Whom?"]
I don't know, I feel like first growths are rare like diamonds are rare, they are both a manufactured scarcity. 20K case production from one producer isn't exactly miniscule.
As to the snapshot, I don't think that the piece (or the accompanying blog post) claim to say more. He is pointing out what he sees in what is admittedly a really big and important (and yes, cutting edge, and yes perhaps trendy) market. But I suspect that it is a mistake for business to ignore a trend, even one decried as hipster fashion, as much as it is to chase trends. Maybe they don't care. They'll go long on emerging markets and perhaps it will work out. In any case I don't think the tone was really "look out bordeaux" it was just a view of what is going on, supported by some data points over a twenty five year window.
Kevin, I do think that there is something too that. There are a bunch of new-age bordeaux wines that are all flash. But I don't think that is the real underlying problem noted in the article. In fact, I would think (for reasons Carl noted) that these are precisely the wines restaurants would want to carry. Flattering on the surface, not particularly age-worthy, easy, obvious appeal.
I think the bordeaux-are-too-expensive line has become a perpetual motion machine, feeding off itself and dissuading inquiry from new buyers. That and devotion to the labels of the past. Can't count on drinking cheaply in bordeaux if you insist on the 1sts and super-seconds. Just can't.
I don't have to speak; she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one
While I can understand that there are two groups here, the young and hip versus the old fuddy-duddy, I fail to see how this translates into anything resembling a conspiracy. Statements like "do the arithmetic" don't advance your case, because arithmetic implies a straightforward addition and/or subtraction operation, while your point is obscure, to say the least...
Okay, try reading the article again, but this time, as you are reading it, ask yourself, "Whose ox is being gored?"