My blog has been quiet for a few weeks—it’s one of my busiest tasting periods of the year as I work through the bulk of both my Rhône and Argentina tastings, with their respective annual reports due before I leave on vacation at the end of August. So, I don’t take any meetings with winemakers and typically do two flights of wines a day. My golf game tends to suffer a little, despite the allure of good weather outside, and the blog tends to go a little quiet.
Then, I got the call from Marvin that my colleague James Suckling was retiring from the magazine and I was being tapped to handle the Bordeaux beat. Admittedly, it was a head-spinning week. It’s not like I don’t have enough to do, and here comes one of the wine world’s glamour regions to my desk. It's a privilege to be assigned the task of reviewing what is arguably the most important wine region in the world, one that has held allure for many wine fans, from Thomas Jefferson to today.
I expect people will have a few questions going in: What kinds of wines do I prefer and how will I approach a region steeped in such history and, frankly, financial import? My answer is simple. I'll do what I’ve done with every other region I’ve covered. I’ll taste the wines while trying to subjugate my personal style preferences to aim first and foremost on quality. I’ll try to be consistent. I’ll try to give useful information to the reader on the wines and people behind them. And most important, I’ll dig into the terroir and search out the properties not always in the limelight, looking for wines that may not have a well-known name, but deliver quality and excitement nonetheless.
Admittedly, I don’t have as deep a personal connection to Bordeaux as I do to the Rhône, probably the most prominent region I currently cover. As an 8-year-old, I was following along behind my dad in the Rhône during the summer of ’78. The seeds were planted then, though unbeknownst to me at the time, for a love of lavender, Grenache, Syrah, grilled lamb, olive oil and large rolled stones. Now it’s a full-blown love affair with the Rhône that drives me as I visit the region regularly and review its wines.
On the surface, Bordeaux has a very different wine "culture" from the Rhône. It seems like it’s all business—big business. There’s a top layer and then there’s everyone else. And there’s a growing frustration among American consumers who feel increasingly abandoned by the region, as wine prices move dramatically upward. It's seemingly become a collectors-only region, with people cherry-picking the top vintages and top châteaus, sometimes sneering at anything that hasn't gotten top billing from a critic. There’s glitz and sizzle—but little emphasis on the pleasure of sitting down on the patio with a grilled côte de bœuf, pommes dauphinoise and a bottle of sleek, nicely aged claret.
Whether or not that lost feel for Bordeaux is the fault of the Bordelais, the prices for the wines or a collective American palate recently infatuated with other things is, frankly, not my concern. What is my concern is getting that connection back, both for me as well as you, the reader. While I believe critics should temper their passion so as not to be overly positive all the time, they do need a passion to give themselves the energy to do the job and effectively relay to people why they should be interested in the subject.
I was away this weekend, with a long back-and-forth drive to Maine to visit my daughter at sleep-away camp. I was enjoying her rib-crunching embrace after not seeing her for more than three weeks, all while thoughts of the new challenge that awaited me back at the office bounced through my head. My parents house-sat for our cats while we were gone, and when I finally got back after midnight, there in my wine cooler were three bottles of ’00 Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, ’98 Château Montrose and ’90 Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron. I recognized them easily enough—they were some of my dad’s prized bottles from his cellar. It was quite a gesture—since like many of us, he would always like to have more Bordeaux than he can afford to have.
He'd left a note attched to them. I didn’t need to read it though. I knew what he meant.
[You can now follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1]
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — July 19, 2010 3:59pm ET
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John A Martelly — Swansea, Massachusetts USA — July 19, 2010 7:44pm ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — Wine World — July 19, 2010 10:14pm ET
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Andrew S Bernardo — Ottawa, Ontario, Canada — July 20, 2010 10:33am ET
Stewart Lancaster — beaver,pa — July 20, 2010 12:18pm ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — July 20, 2010 12:55pm ET
Paul Northrop — Thousand Oaks — July 20, 2010 2:56pm ET
Michael Rollins — Sandy, Utah — July 20, 2010 4:39pm ET
Chris A Elerick — Orlando, FL — July 20, 2010 4:57pm ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — July 20, 2010 6:19pm ET
Jamie Sherman — Sacramento — July 20, 2010 8:28pm ET
Merlin Guggenheim — Zurich, Switzerland — July 21, 2010 6:51am ET
Thierry Behanzin — Shanghai, China — July 21, 2010 9:38am ET
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William R Spencer — Orlando, Florida — July 21, 2010 3:29pm ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — July 21, 2010 7:27pm ET
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