Okay, it’s that time of the year again! The annual Bordeaux release happens this Saturday up here in British Columbia, which also means it is time for me to do my annual rant about it!
For those of you who have seen it before – and don’t want to read it again – feel free to skip this blog and come back next week. But for those who haven’t seen it, or enjoy it, read on!
So, Bordeaux…what art thou?
Not my favourite wine, as readers know. While it is the most prestigious, popular and – most of the time – expensive grape-derived product in the world, it is disappointing to me on so many fronts.
First is style. Except for the ultra-premium first growths and “garagiste” wines (which cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars), there is often little fruit in these wines. The opposite of California and Australia, they are full of wood, herbs and other so-called secondary aromas and flavours (pencil box, tobacco, etc.) that do nothing for me. It’s not so much theses other tastes…well, I guess it is…no, really, it is more about the lack of fruit in the wines.
And that is perplexing to me. Because you read the reviews, and they are full of descriptions like “ripe blackcurrants…ripe plums…ripe cherries…” but, for the life of me, I can count on one hand how many times I have found those flavours, even in the young wines. I understand fruit mellowing over time – and love how that happens in Chateauneuf du Pape, Hermitage, Barolo, Barbaresco, even Aussie Shiraz – but if there isn’t obvious fruit to begin with, there is nothing to mellow from!
Which is the second reason for my disappointment…the tannin level. Of all wines, perhaps Bordeaux is the biggest culprit of the “big wine” syndrome. Huge, searing, mouth-puckering tannins are the norm for even the middling wines, so heavy that it would be hard to find the fruit…even if it was there. Combine the tannins with the lack of fruit, and by the time they resolve in 8 – 15 years…well, let’s just say you have to like drinking wood chips to enjoy most of the wines.
The price is another issue, although I am not that bothered by it. I recognize the market will dictate what people will pay for anything, and Bordeaux is no different. So good on the producers for getting what people will pay. What I do have an issue with, however, is the fact that the price only goes up, regardless of the vintage. Surely, the market should also be about quality…yet very rarely does this seem to happen.
Which brings us to my biggest pet peeve…the hoopla around the release.
Almost every year, I think, we hear the same marketing promotion…”vintage of the century”, “best ever”, “will last for generations”…Then in the so-called “light” vintages, it becomes “beautiful for drinking now” or “these are great food wines”.
As someone who does PR for a living, all of this just rankles me. If – and it is a big if – you truly love Bordeaux, know what it tastes like young or old, “light” or tannic, than fill your boots and spend your hard earned money.
But every year I see the same thing. People wandering through the open cases, clutching the offering guide, trying to pick out a bottle or two of wines that start at $50 and go way up from there. I feel like saying “do you know what those taste like?”, but always force myself to just shut up (and even stay away from the store on launch days).
So, a pox on the annual Bordeaux release!
Phew…that feels better! Now back to regular life…and more balanced blogs!