Bordeaux: Just Your Father's Wine?

Recently, New York Times wine writer, Eric Asimov, wrote an article claiming that France’s most renowned wine, Bordeaux, is losing popularity among younger drinkers. Basically, it comes down to this: cheap Bordeaux is often crap–and unless your name is Oprah, high-end Bordeaux is likely not in your budget. And the stuff in-between usually needs to be cellared for five to 10 years. Who’s got $500 to shell out for an amazing BOTTLE of wine? Especially in this economy. And, really, come on, you’re going to wait that long–to open a bottle of wine? That’s a lot of patience.

While we’re not rich (far from it), we often spend more money on wine
than we should. Just a few weeks ago, we contemplated spending $750 on a
case of wine from the vineyard where we got married; instead that money
went to a plumber.

And we’re into wine enough to hold onto a bottle that needs to age.

Case in point: our 2001 Clos Fourtet, a Premier Grand Cru Classe wine.
There are only two vineyards in St. Emilion that have a higher
classification: Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc (if you’ve seen
the movie Sideways, it’s Miles’s prize 1961-bottle.)

We’ve been holding onto our Clos Fourtet since 2006 when we received
it as a wedding gift. After reading Asimov’s article, we thought we’d
put his theory to the test, opening the best bottle of Bordeaux in our
make-shift cellar (a brick-walled closet in our basement).

To be fair, we’re suckers for Bordeaux. We’re those people Asimov refers
to as “young wine-loving Americans [who] were practically weaned on
Bordeaux.” Well, not really, but we wish we were. In the fall of 2007,
we traveled there with our friends Kelly, Kais, Paul and Jaime. We
stayed at a vineyard/farm house, Pierre de Lune, whose owner was a wine
maker at Clos Fourtet. It was romantic and wonderful. We fell in
love–with Bordeaux, the place and the wine.

So with that disclaimer, here are the results:

He Sipped

Maybe Bordeaux isn’t for the uninitiated.  As Asimov wrote, it’s expensive and needs time to age.  That can turn the casual drinker away from Bordeaux.  For those willing to part with a few bucks and
then have the patience to wait a few years, Bordeaux can be a beautiful
thing.  That said, the 2001 Clos Fourtet was very good, but it didn’t
blow me away.  The nose had a surprising amount of dark
fruit, with a bit of raspberry.  I’m a bit out of practice, but I also
noticed some spice and wood on the nose as well.  On the palate, it had
very soft tannins, without much astringency – I think we opened it at the right time.  I enjoyed drinking this wine, but no flavors stood out to me.  It did not seem particularly complex.  There was not nearly as much fruit on the palate as on the nose – but that’s expected from Bordeaux.  It was nice and subtle, which is a good thing, but
was a bit underwhelming

She Sipped

Whatever he said. It’s smooth, easy-to-drink, but not as tasteful as I
expected. I waited for it to get better, but it never really did. I
wanted to be transported to another place and time, wanted to be back in
France, sipping wine on a quiet October afternoon, the vines already
empty of grapes.

The going-rate for a 2001 Clos Fourtet is about $70 a bottle. “Would you
pay that?” I ask my girlfriends, who were here to help us taste.

“I could see purchasing this bottle from the vineyard, but I wouldn’t
pay a restaurant mark-up. It doesn’t have the boldness that you expect
from a Bordeaux; although, my Bordeaux experience is very limited,” says
my friend, Katie.

Kelly, who lived in France for more than two years, says: “It’s a good
bottle; I’ve had better Bordeaux. I’d pay $50 but not $70.”

In short, the wine was good, but not as good as we hoped.

Maybe I’m really a sucker for a California Cabernet.

We Sipped

Buy a Bottle

We’re not going to let this one bottle persuade us to give up on
Bordeaux. Although our “dream” bottle is opened and drunk, to
disappointing reviews, we have a bottle of 2003 Clos Fourtet laying
down, waiting for the right moment. And the right blog post. Stay tuned.

The He Sipped/She Sipped Wine Tasting Scale

Buy a Case (Find it. Hoard it. Save it. Drink it. Just get it.)

Buy a Bottle (If the price is right, buy and enjoy.)

Have a Glass (Good for one or two drinks. Don’t bother seeking it out.)

Dump it (Not worth your money. Not worth your evening. Not worth getting a glass dirty.)

Filed under: Bordeaux, St. Emilion, Tasting, Travel

Tags: Bordeaux, wine


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  • I like the Clos Fourtet 1998! The 2003 should be yummy as well. 2001 always seemed slightly one dimensional to me. St. Emilion gets me every time because of all the limestone in the nose; it teleports me right back to Tony and Veronique's natural stone cellar at the top of the hill where Clos Fourtet is made. But nostalgia aside, I must say I agree with Asimov for the most part. The people I know in the wine trade in Paris tend to even profile one another by saying, "do you like Bordeaux?" If you aren't bored by Bordeaux you're deemed an amateur! Great wines to be found there still, but the hype has made for too many impostors.

  • I don't know much about wine, but I'm looking forward to learning more via your new blog! Maybe Pedro and I will start a whiskey blog...

    Hooray for wine!

  • We've been wanting to try a Bordeaux, but if it's going to cost that much for something that's just meh, we'll spend elsewhere. Thanks for this useful post.

  • I think Bordeaux is a really interesting topic. I work in a wine bar and I am constantly answering questions about Bordeaux wines to people who have never really indulged in it and it seems that 70% of the time people are not crazy about it. In my personal assessment, it seems that people in America have become so accustomed to Californian fruit bombs and New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs to really appreciate or even pick up on the subtle complexities of French wine, be it good or bad. Anyway, I think this blog is a great idea and look forward to your next entry.

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