I haven’t always been kind to Bordeaux. Okay, actually I’ve pretty much never been kind to Bordeaux.
But that’s because Bordeaux’s most visible stand-bearers – the classified growths at the high-end of the production spectrum, making wines that most of us 99%-ers cannot afford – hasn’t really been all that kind itself to the general wine marketplace, pricing its wines more in-line with rampant consumerist greed than with real value for money.
But that’s not the only Bordeaux story – it just happens to be the most prevalent one. There’s another side of Bordeaux, the side that produces something like ninety percent of its wine, priced in the budget ranges and made in volumes that make California look small-time. Put another way, in the words of Chateau Rauzan Despagne’s Thibault Despagne (who I met while touring Bordeaux in September as a media guest of Planet Bordeaux):
“We always hear that Bordeaux is arrogant and too expensive. And yes, I agree – but that isn’t the only story. The journalists are the problem.”
And I came to realize during my Bordeaux jaunt that Thibault isn’t wrong – we do spend an inordinate amount of time complaining talking about the upper-echelons of Bordeaux, and often don’t recognize the lower-end – the 99%-ers – of Bordeaux at all. But it’s not without some justification; there’s still a lot of bad low-end wine being made there.
But… having said that… I did get a bit of a crash course in non-sucky Bordelaise wine, and I can’t actually review it (at least, not conventionally – more on that in a minute), because I got that crash-course Bordelaise style…
There are tasty, dinner-table-friendly, budget-minded Bordeaux wines out there. You just need to hunt through a lot of banality to find them. But find some I did.
The trouble is, in Bordeaux the French want to introduce you to their wines they way that the wines are intended to be enjoyed – at the table. Which for me often means drinking without enough spitting, and no handy access to my now-trusty SLR and my always-been-trusty notebook. Because with all of the food and bottles on the table, you don’t have any room for that stuff, and people generally look at you as though you have six heads when you ask for a spit bucket (at one point on the trip, we noticed that Michel Rolland was dining in the same restaurant, and I’m pretty sure there weren’t any spit buckets at that table).
In other words, it means I can get a fantastic sense of whether or not the wines are good value for money, and how they far on their own and (more importantly) with food, but I can’t in good conscience review them in a professional context (ratings, badges, blah-blah-blah), because not spitting clouds your judgment.
But these are wines that I want to expose to other people, because no only are they nice individual efforts that buck the Bordeaux-for-rich-middle-aged-white-guys perception, they’re also tasty wines that generally provide good value for money. And they constitute a large percentage of the wines that I tasted while eating too much in France.
And so I’ve decided not to review them, but to recommend them.
Beginning this week, for thirty days straight at 2PM ET I will be posting one of those Bordeaux wine recommendations simultaneously to twitter and Facebook. No ratings, no details, just a minor endorsement that the wine is tasty, goes well with food, and is interesting enough that (in my view, at least) it provides good value for money. Simple as that.
By the time you read this, there should already be a handful of them on those feeds for you to check out. To make things a little easier, I’m adding the twitter hastag #Bordeaux30 so those who are interested can follow along, comment, and generally give me grief if they think I got some of the selections wrong (hey, it’s possible that too much drinking happened at some of those winemaker dinners… also, I do *not* expect that hashtag to trend like “malarky“).
10 thoughts on “Thirty Days Of The Other (Tasty) Side Of Bordeaux”
I'll keep my eye on twitter! You know, I have never had a Bordeaux wine. No one in my group buys them because of the general thoughts on them. I'll get one of the ones you post if I can find it though and give it a try. I was planning on picking up a Port or two as well soon because I have very little experience there as well.
Thanks, Dusty – would love to know what you think!
The #Bordeaux30 is a great idea. Look forward to taking a stroll down memory lane with these wines.
Jameson – was awesome getting to hang with you in France! I look forward to your thoughts on all of that fermented grape juice!
THIS – "he trouble is, in Bordeaux the French want to introduce you to their wines they way that the wines are intended to be enjoyed – at the table. " Sometimes the rating is just there to help sell the wine but what really makes it special is the company you enjoyed the wine with. I'd much rather have great experiences with friends, family, and great wines. Great article, I am sure you had a blast traveling in France.
and i'm for the #Bordeaux30 too!
Thanks, Nate. Interestingly, that same sentiment was just expressed to me by former NFL rookie sensation Rick Mirer who now has MIrror Wines in Napa (talked to him as part of a PB article I'm working on). It really hit home with me lately how important that context is to enjoying wine. Cheers!
I tend to drink Merlot because the less expensive Bordeaux wines can be very unappealing. This is great, I will watch out on Twitter to see which ones you recommend. I usually prefer to drink red wines.
Great idea. I don't know enough about French wine as it is to put tasting notes in the proper context. Besides, adding the "goes well with [insert food dish]" is as much of a selling point for me as "proper" tasting notes anyway.
Thanks Brian – in this case I'm not even going that far. It's literally going to be “recommendation #1 of 30…” That's it – the shorthand really is “I liked this wine, it's a good value and belongs on a dinner table.”
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