The wine in your Bordeaux
I would rather be sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Bordeaux sipping the wines of the region rather than standing in a stuffy west side loft in Manhattan sipping Bordeaux wines but – the bottom line is
I would rather be sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Bordeaux sipping the wines of the region rather than standing in a stuffy west side loft in Manhattan sipping Bordeaux wines but – the bottom line is – regardless of the location – it is the wine that is important.
Who Drinks Wine
As of 2011, the United States consumed most of the wine produced in the world (13.47 percent), followed by France (12.29 percent), Italy (9.46 percent) and Germany (8.17 percent). Americans are drinking more wine than ever before. In 2012, each resident consumed 2.73 gallons of wine, almost double the amount consumed in 1970 (1.31 gallons). (This statistic includes all wine types from sparkling and dessert wine, to vermouth and other special natural and table wine. Information is based upon the Bureau of the Census estimated resident population. Per capita consumption would be higher if based on legal drinking age population).
The largest wine producing region in France is Bordeaux with approximately 450 million bottles of wine produced yearly (approximately 39 million cases of red and 4 million cases of white Bordeaux).
The Best of Bordeaux
Bordeaux is synonymous with first growth globally recognized brands such as Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild and the right bank estates of Petrus and Le Pin. While desirable and in demand, these wines account for only 5 percent of regional production. Looking for a Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2010, plan on adding $1550 to your AMEX – then waiting 3-6 months for delivery. Prefer a Chateau Mouton Rothschild 375ML half-bottle 2006? The price tag for this taste experience is $399. A Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005 is still available at $859.
The Lafite wine makers address viniculture as an art. While the French call it soil – it is just dirt; however, the unique mix of gravel, sand and limestone in the Medoc region offers low yield but flavorful grapes that are combined to produce the best possible vintage. The grapes grown in the best soil are given the distinction of becoming premier cru (first growth) Bordeaux. Everything else – noted as second growth – is what the rest of us are consuming at prices that range from $10- $55. Within this price range we can (and should) raise a glass of Bordeaux to complement a salad, enhance the tart or tangy quality of a cheese, or to enrich the taste experience of a rare roast beef dinner.
Taste the Bordeaux
At a recent event sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Council value priced white, red, rose and sweet wines from 25 Bordeaux AOC’s were selected for tasting. The Council represents winemakers, wine merchants and brokers in the Bordeaux wine industry. Its’ mission is to provide information, studies and analyses on the production and sales of Bordeaux wine around the world.
1. Chateau Bonnet, 2013. Appellation: Entre-Deux-Mers. $10-$14. 50% Sauvignon, 40% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle.
The Reynier family, successful merchants from Libourne, started the Chateau Bonnet vineyards in the 16th century. Located in the northern part of Entre-Deux-Mers (between two oceans – but really two rivers), the grapes are grown on clay-chalk slopes.
• Holding the glass to the light, the wine is pale straw in color, enhanced by a green cast that encourages us to step away from Manhattan and into a calmer more beautiful landscape. To the nose it is fragrant and complex. On the tongue a hint of green grass but dominated by grapefruit and green apples. The lingering finish is dry, crisp and clean. Delicious when paired with a pear, apple and walnut salad with a yogurt dressing.
2. Chateau De Ricaud 2012. Appellation: Bordeaux. $10-$14. 70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon.
• Palest of fair-haired blonde to the eye, and gentle to the nose (slightly grassy from the Sauvignon) and incredibly delicious on the tongue. Found honey (from the Semillon) plus apples, kiwi, and the mere suggestion of pineapple and cantaloupe. Adds to the delight of a beet and goat cheese salad with spicy pecans.
3. Chateau la Dame Blanche, 2012. Appellation: Bordeaux. $10-$19. 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
• The white grapes are harvested by hand and placed (usually) into stainless steel vats at the end of September (18 degree C). Light goldenrod in color and only a hint of what is to come (to the nose)… powerful on the tongue. Memories of fresh lemons, limes, apples, and peaches suffused with vanilla and crushed almonds. Potential sweetness tamed by minerality found only in Bordeaux. Pair with a quiche or onion tart.
4. Lieutenant de Sigalas 2007. Appellation: Sauternes. $20-$29. 80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc.
• Owned by the Lambert des Granges family (heir to Chateau Sigalas Rabaud) there is a great deal of respect for the terroir. Professionalism and superior quality standards produce a blend obtained from early and late pickings creating an appealing light and delicious taste experience.
• Semillon has a rich flavor with a mildly scented and botrytis-prone white grape. It becomes magical when infected with “noble rot.” When combined with Sauvignon Blanc (aromatic with high acidity) the Sauterne becomes a delightful and memorable wine.
• A blend of goldenrod and dandelion in color with flecks of sunshine to add interest. Aroma of honeysuckle and marigolds. So deliciously sweet it is almost possible to hear the bumblebees hovering over the glass. Hints of ginger and cinnamon offset the sweet honey and apricots. Lingers sensuously on the tongue like sunshine at sunset. Pair with Muenster, Gorgonzola Cremificato or Blu de Moncenision cheese and crackers; also try Roquefort and toasted walnuts served with a mustardy apple salad.
5. Verdillac, 2013. Appellation: Bordeaux. $10-$14. 55% Cabernet Franc. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon.
• The palest of pink in the glass – almost a gloss and not a color. Aroma of young rosebuds on the very eve of blossoming. Slightly sweet to the palate with hints of grapefruit and lemon makes for a memorable tart finish. Perfect for the wedding party as they get ready for the main event. Pair with grilled salmon and freshly steamed asparagus.
The Future for Bordeaux
There was a time when Bordeaux did not have to consider the competition. Currently, however, there are serious challenges from new markets and new technology. Sales of Bordeaux wines in the US have remained unchanged for 20 years. Competition is coming from Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand as well as the US. This grouping accounts for 25 percent of the world market, an increase of 15 percent since 1996 – 2000.
If the recent wine tasting sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Trade Council is representative of their less than dynamic marketing savvy – it is not a surprise that the consumer wanders away from the French section of their wine store and reaches for a bottle of Australian Yellow Tail.
There is no debate that the Bordeaux wines create memorable taste experiences; however, the consumer expects to be wowed by the entire experience of winning and dining, and the appropriate environment must be part of the mix.