With the way this year has sped by for me, I better take a look back on 2007 now, as surely the next two weeks will go in a blink. Consider it a rant if you wish, but one 12 months in the making ... Today I hand out a few lumps of coal.
First up: Burgundy. The region I learned first after entering the wine industry and the region whose wines always held the most majesty for me, has steadily fallen out of favor in my cellar. Prices for the 2005s are simply insulting. Wines I bought for just $50 two or three vintages ago—good village and premier cru bottlings from producers like Méo-Camuzet and d’Angerville—are now triple digits. I'm besieged with e-mail offerings touting offers for grand cru wines with prices that I mistake as a case price, only to find out it’s the per-bottle price. I'd laugh if I wasn't crying.
Though I haven’t been in the region recently to see the ex-cellar prices, producers certainly shoulder some, but not all of the blame. Importers, distributors and retailers are laughing their way to the bank while hiding behind the euro-to-dollar excuse. At the same time, a handful of elite collectors gobble up most of the wine, often at the source, leaving just scraps left to fight over.
And, as I work through the older Burgundies in my cellar, I find more bottle variation than from any other wine region, and I realize the fight isn’t worth it. Burgundy gets a lump of coal from me this year.
There’s a similar problem in Bordeaux, where the top châteaus seem to have forgotten the market that supported them over the last three decades. Prices for 2005 reeked of a grab-it-while-you-can strategy that left some loyal customers out in the cold. Of course, the price trend in Bordeaux has been steadily up in recent years (2000, 2003), as opposed to the shock and awe of 2005 Burgundy pricing. But over the past year I’ve had numerous retailers tell me that the ‘05s they did buy aren’t moving, as the core U.S. consumer is basically flipping a collective bird to the Bordelais. Of course, the top wines will move, but Bordeaux has now created a two-fold problem for itself.
My father’s generation has been forced out—the wines that used to be a staple of his cellar are now simply looked at as art on a wall, to be admired from afar but never truly enjoyed anymore. He quickly flips past the Bordeaux listings on a restaurant’s wine list, knowing there’s nothing affordable there.
Meanwhile my generation hasn’t even gotten into the Bordeaux game, for the most part. My wine-drinking friends, all of whom probably spend more on wine than they should, don’t even bother with the stuff. The Rhône, Italy, Germany and more draw the attention of the up-and-coming wine loving generation. Bordeaux may soon price itself out of this market in terms of volume, with only trophy wines being hoarded by the lucky few.
The general theory among the anti-Bordeaux crowd right now is that the Bordelais are chasing customers in other markets where new money is willingly spent on conspicuous label consumption rather than the wine. There’s certainly something to that, but I also can’t help but think: How much of the resentment toward Bordeaux right now stems from a slow, collective realization among Americans that we are no longer the preeminent economic power in the world?
Nonetheless, a lump of coal for the Bordelais this year.
Finally: the tradition vs. modern argument. It simply doesn’t hold water. Those who think that the only genuine wine is being made by some old guy out in the backwoods, with 2 acres of vines and an old wooden tank are the vinous snob equivalent of someone who only drinks classified Bordeaux.
There’s a whole world of wine out there, good and bad, from both high profile appellations as well as you’ve-never-heard-of-places. Good and bad wine is made both with technological help and non-interventionist approaches.
Read the tasting notes, they're as important as the score, if not more so. They tell you what style the wine is in. As a critic, I subject personal taste and look only for quality. A 92-point South African Syrah made in a fruit-forward style is as good as a 92-point Loire Cabernet Franc that never sees a touch of new oak—they are simply two different kinds of wines of equal quality. Both can stay true to their respective grape variety and origin using different methods. It's called diversity. What you then choose is up to your personal taste.
Yes, of course there are wines made without regard to providing any intellectual stimulation or a sense of the wine’s origin. But they don’t pretend to offer that either. (Yellowtail anyone?) But there is always, always, plenty of wine out there. Today more than ever. Diversity has never been greater, which means you can buy what you like, and enjoy what you buy without casting aspersions on someone else's taste.
A lump of coal for anyone who tries to sell you one specific side of the wine world as being better than the other.
Jack Folbe — Huntington Woods, MI — December 20, 2007 11:17am ET
James Molesworth — December 20, 2007 11:47am ET
Steffen Pelz — Austin, TX — December 20, 2007 11:57am ET
James Molesworth — December 20, 2007 12:30pm ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — December 20, 2007 1:46pm ET
Ryan Comazzetto — Seattle, WA — December 20, 2007 2:09pm ET
Glenn S Lucash — December 20, 2007 2:27pm ET
Dominic Passanisi — Los — December 20, 2007 3:13pm ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — December 20, 2007 3:31pm ET
Scott Oneil — UT — December 20, 2007 3:50pm ET
James Molesworth — December 20, 2007 4:05pm ET
Thomas Matthews — December 20, 2007 5:15pm ET
Eric Arnold — NY, NY — December 20, 2007 5:37pm ET
Michael Rhodes — San Diego, California — December 20, 2007 7:05pm ET
Dominic Passanisi — Los — December 20, 2007 8:01pm ET
Dominic Passanisi — Los — December 20, 2007 8:07pm ET
Mark Antonio — Tokyo — December 21, 2007 1:53am ET
Jeffrey Nowak — scottsdale, arizona — December 21, 2007 2:10am ET
Greg — December 21, 2007 3:44am ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — December 21, 2007 7:51am ET
James Molesworth — December 21, 2007 9:27am ET
Eric Arnold — NY, NY — December 21, 2007 10:08am ET
Dana Nigro — New York, NY — December 21, 2007 10:48am ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — December 21, 2007 1:15pm ET
John Miller — Windsor, CA — December 21, 2007 1:20pm ET
John Miller — Windsor, CA — December 21, 2007 1:33pm ET
Loren Lingerfelter — Danville, CA — December 21, 2007 2:04pm ET
Jared Wagner — Maple Valley, WA — December 21, 2007 3:12pm ET
James Molesworth — December 21, 2007 3:20pm ET
Loren Lingerfelter — Danville, CA — December 21, 2007 4:38pm ET
David A Zajac — December 21, 2007 5:00pm ET
Robert Renner — Silver Spring, MD — December 21, 2007 5:40pm ET
Fred Brown — December 21, 2007 8:45pm ET
Dominic Passanisi — Los — December 21, 2007 10:54pm ET
Dominic Passanisi — Los — December 22, 2007 12:46am ET
Kevin Crouch — Brussels, Belgium — December 22, 2007 9:25pm ET
Rick Klotz — Lake — December 24, 2007 9:09am ET
Don Young — Calgary, Alberta — December 24, 2007 12:48pm ET
Bruce Hill — British Columbia — December 24, 2007 11:03pm ET
Steve Kirchner — Huntington — December 26, 2007 4:43pm ET
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