Why isn’t there much Bordeaux on wine lists in America?
Bordeaux wine merchant Pierre Antoine Casteja asked the question when we were having dinner with another Bordeaux négociant, Pierre Lawton, and New York wine merchant Jeff Zacharia and their wives.
Casteja looked a little perplexed. The Manhattan restaurant we were in, Craft, had a wine list full of bottles from all over the world. But Bordeaux was barely represented. “Why?” asked Casteja.
Craft’s sommelier, Andrew Fortgang, gave a thorough explanation, but the bottom line was that Bordeaux doesn’t sell very easily at his restaurant. Most of his customers don’t want it.
He said that the average price for a bottle of wine at Craft was about $85. Top-notch Bordeaux is much more expensive than that, and his customers won’t buy lesser wines at that price point.
“If [Bordeaux] is not expensive enough, then they don’t think that it is good quality, and if it is too expensive, they can’t afford it,” he said.
Do you understand? Fortgang says that he has a few customers who are willing to drop anywhere between $200 and $700 on a bottle of second-growth, or the occasional first-growth. But few trust less expensive wines from Bordeaux on his list enough to order them.
Casteja and Lawton were shaking their heads in disappointment. “Bordeaux has so much more to do in the way of promotion,” said Casteja.
I agree. And if this catch-22 is prevalent in other American restaurants, it’s a real shame, because there are so many good wines from Bordeaux available at reasonable prices now, especially from the string of very good to outstanding vintages since 2000.