I don't have any problem with winemakers saying they hope a new vintage turns out to be as great as a grand old vintage.
Or that an infant wine reminds them of a wine of the past. Comparing new wines to previous versions is a useful perspective.
Or if they even proclaim that this new wine is the best they've ever made.
But I do have a hard time buying into the pitch from vintners who claim a new vintage is as good or better than one that occurred a half-century ago.
Yes, we're talking about Bordeaux and the 2009 vintage. The hype machine is cranking up again, as it did in 2005, 2000, and as far back as 1982.
I've been following the pregame talk about 2009 Bordeaux because Bordeaux is the best there is at preselling its wines (the en primeur system persuades folks to pay now for wines you can drink in two years). Even as these wines were fermenting, vintners were saying this might be the best vintage of a lifetime. I heard some compare 2009 to 1945, this coming from winemakers who weren't even born then.
"I have never seen anything like it in my career," Christian Moueix is quoted in our 2009 global harvest report. He knows wine for sure and is as qualified as any to put a young vintage in perspective. His family owns or manages some of the most prestigious wineries on Bordeaux's Right Bank, including Pétrus, La Fleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy. Moueix has been making wine in Pomerol and St.-Emilion since 1971 and in Napa Valley since 1982, at his winery, Dominus.
I hope the 2009s are great. My colleague James Suckling will be offering his views on the young barrel samples to help guide fans of Bordeaux. (But remember, barrel samples are not finished bottles.) He went so far as to say he'd consider buying 2009s. But his assessment is put into a narrower, more appropriate context, which you can read about on his blog.
And if 2009 ends up being the best Bordeaux vintage in a century, or a lifetime, or even a half-century, well, it already has plenty of competition from within its own ranks, starting with 1982, 1989, 1990, 2000 or 2005, and let's not forget 2003?
One thing is clear. No other wine region can compete with Bordeaux when it comes to hitching the cart in front of the horse.
Gary Kofman — New Jersey — March 25, 2010 6:36pm ET
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