Get to Know Bordeaux

People are saying that Bordeaux is losing its prestige, but there's a whole new world of inexpensive and interesting Bordeaux wines
May 19, 2010

I read with interest Eric Asimov's well-reported story in today's edition of the New York Times, "Bordeaux Loses Prestige Among Young Wine Lovers," and I felt sad that so many wine lovers in my country don't appreciate the good value that exists in Bordeaux. Moreover, most of these well-priced reds and whites are almost all made by people with dirt on their boots and wine stains on their hands. They are not suits. They are ragged jeans and t-shirts.

I understand many people's perception that Bordeaux is expensive. So much information on France's premier wine region is focused on the very top echelon producers. Many of them sell their wines for astronomical prices. So very few of us can afford to buy them.

I always tell the Bordelais that when I started visiting Bordeaux as a young reporter in the 1980s, they all said that the top estates of the region were the locomotives that pulled the train carriages. In other words, the top wines of Bordeaux grew the prestige of the region, enabling the lesser wines to be sold.

This has all changed. I argue that the top wines actually diminish the reputation of the region by giving the perception that all Bordeaux wines are expensive. Or looking at it another way, the top estates no longer promote the region as a whole, but only a tiny segment, maybe 2 or 3 percent of the total. In other words, the train left the carriage at the station a long time ago.

I am, of course, not talking about quality. The top names in Bordeaux are some of the best viticulturists and winemakers in the world. They have the knowledge and the resources to do just about everything to perfection. And they are examples to all premium winemakers in the world.

But it's a very small reality of Bordeaux. Most wine producers are struggling to make and to sell their wines, as prices for their simple reds and whites are at an all-time low. Something like 50 percent of all Bordeaux sells for $6, or less, a bottle from the cellar. Bulk wine is less, about $1 or $1.50 a liter. Bottles of French water cost more in the States. It's crazy.

Whatever the case, I am going to do my best to bring you closer to the reality of  family-run, down-and-dirty winemakers from Bordeaux, and most of their wines cost from $20 to $40 a bottle. They are in areas such as St.-Emilion, its satellites, and a number of other less-known appellations such as Côte de Blaye and Côte de Bourg. I think these wines are worth knowing and worth drinking.

There's a whole new world in Bordeaux that's fun, interesting and making delicious wines, and they don't have to cost you a fortune.

France Bordeaux

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