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What Does Bordeaux Have to Do?

Château Troplong-Mondot's Margaux Pariente raises the perplexing question, and a few American wine industry pros try to answer
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 3, 2012 4:05pm ET

I sat down with Margaux Pariente in my office yesterday. The newest generation to work at her family's Château Troplong-Mondot in Bordeaux's St.-Emilion, Pariente is relatively new to the wine business, young, energetic and passionate about her wine. She was in New York to work the market a little bit and she admitted finding the reaction to Bordeaux a little surprising.

"At the dinners we are doing, the crowd is a bit older. And if there are younger people, they don't seem to know much about Bordeaux or really be that excited by Bordeaux," she mused. "What does Bordeaux have to do to get the younger generation interested?"

It's a question more and more Bordelais are asking, from Pariente's generation on up. They see the U.S. market slipping away. They know it's an image issue, driven by the escalating prices of the top châteaus. But they seem befuddled as to how to turn it around.

Granted, it's not all doom and gloom. Bordeaux still holds a magical place in the wine world, one that many consumers long to be a part of. At the Grand Tour tasting here in New York this past Tuesday night, the Château Margaux booth was mobbed. Florence and Daniel Cathiard, the affable owners of Smith-Haut-Lafitte, had a hard time pouring as fast as people wanted the wine. Jean-Charles Cazes was busy at the Lynch-Bages table, and so on.

But alas, it seems prices aren't coming down. At least not in a really meaningful way. The 2011 en primeur campaign is starting to roll, and while some châteaus have made what seem like large price cuts on their wines for the vintage, the prices are still high. The chance to really recapture the broad interest of the U.S. market could be slipping away even faster than the Bordelais realize.

It's a shame too—there are really, really good wines in Bordeaux, at all price points. The famous estates can make magical wines, though admittedly they are out of range for most of us. But there is the $20 Mauvais Garçon from Jean-Luc Thunevin. There's the supple, character-filled Château Jean Faux Bordeaux Supérieur from Pascal Collotte. There's Château Phélan Ségur which rewards a decade of cellaring at a modest price. There are intriguing, delicious, bracing whites such as the dry Sémillon bottling from Château Doisy Daëne. From Castillon to Fronsac to the Haut-Médoc, there are numerous estates making interesting, delicious, cellar-worthy wines at a square price.

There are also many producers going green, with carbon-neutral wineries such as Hélène Garcin-Lévêque's Château Barde-Haut. There is an increasing number of producers stepping into the organic or biodynamic world as well, such as Alfred Tesseron at Château Pontet-Canet or Bérénice Lurton at Château Climens.

There's diversity in spades, with modern-styled wines such as Pariente's own Troplong-Mondot, along with plenty of old-school versions too, from the grippy, throwback wine being made by Nicolas Glumineau at Château Montrose to the long vat-aged Sauternes of Château Gilette.

I asked a few people well-placed here in the U.S. market—what does Bordeaux have to do to excite you? Their answers were not surprising, dealing with the issues of pricing and diversity.

Dan Posner, owner of Grapes the Wine company, a retailer in White Plains, N.Y., said, "In general, Bordeaux is relatively unaffordable to most, and the inability to allow folks like us to taste them and judge them for ourselves, is difficult. There is typically one or two mass tastings in New York annually, and most châteaus are non-participants. Bordeaux needs to do a better job of getting their samples into retailer, restaurant and consumer's hands."

Michael Madrigale, the head sommelier at Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud on New York's Upper West Side, said, "Bordeaux needs to focus on the small estates and the small appellations, places like Canon-Fronsac, the St-Emilion satellites, and so on. If it focuses [on pushing] the value areas of Bordeaux, sommeliers as well as young consumers can get excited and play in the arena."

And so I also pose the question to you, the reader. What does Bordeaux have to do to get its wines into your cellars and on to your table more regularly? Speak your mind—a few Bordelais just might be reading this space!

You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1.

Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  May 3, 2012 7:43pm ET
The Union des Grand Cru holds a few tastings here in North America each year, but usually for those in the trade. I do think it would help if they had more tastings throughout the USA and Canada with the tastings available to the public.
David Lamarca
Florida —  May 3, 2012 9:28pm ET
Most of us are afraid to buy wines we can never try. How can we justify spending the price tag involved with Bordeaux when we are never able to try it first and make a sound decision. I know value wines can be found but the reality is that we hear so much about the amazing examples that we want to be able to taste them for ourselves. But to fork over the money for an unknown entity just doesn't make sense. The price of these wines ultimately is what drives the average person away!
Ron Dilauro
Brookfield, CT, USA —  May 3, 2012 11:03pm ET
I was schooled in French wines in the early 70's. I have had many opportunities to drink the First growth wines from some of the great vintages of the 21st century.
I am still a huge fan of the '34 Moutons.
Today, many of the French wines in the $10-$50 range lack body and any true characteristics of French Bordeaux.
I can pick up a Haut Brion 1999 for about $400. But for a so-so vintage year, that price is over the top.
I just do not know how the quality, the love, the characteristics of French Bordeaux can be brought back to life here in the States without pricing the wines for only a select few.
Ivan Campos
Ottawa, Canada —  May 3, 2012 11:08pm ET
As someone with a marketing degree, I am thoroughly bored by the way that most bordeaux is branded, with nondescript bottles with pictures of generic chateaux, and hard-to-pronounce names. exceedingly dull, as are the descriptions on the few that give thought to a back label: 18 months in barrel, half merlot, half cabernet. yawn.

As a consumer, most bordeaux under $30 that I have purchased has been mediocre at best, and don't entice you to consider bigger purchases. From less than optimal vintages, you can expect such a bottle to be afflicted by too much wood, too many herbaceous traits, lean fruit, or a combination thereof.

It is also incredibly discouraging for the consumer on a budget to think about how they will never try a premium expression of bordeaux. why bother in the first place, when most other wine regions will allow you to try all tiers and develop a proper understanding of the wines at a fraction of the cost?

Also, there is not one category of food that is best paired with bordeaux. not one.

With all this in mind, how can anyone in bordeaux reasonably expect today's younger wine drinkers, with more adventurous palates and still limited discretionary income, to get excited?
Ryan Pease
Paso Robles, CA —  May 3, 2012 11:37pm ET
As a young wine consumer I have no interest in Bordeaux wines. They are overpriced and underwhelming. The style is heavy handed and arrogant. Bordeaux should take a hint from the Rhone Valley and provide a little more humility and authenticity in their product.
Thomas Kobylarz
Hoboken, NJ —  May 4, 2012 12:17am ET
James, this is such a GREAT idea to post this and we all really hope that the Bordelaise are reading these comments. This could be one of the best topics ever on the WS blogs! I could write a dissertation on this but will “try” to keep this short.
By the way I am only 34. Not young in the wine world’s view, but for all the Bordeaux tasting I go to (mainly NYC) my wife and I are usually some of the youngest people in attendance, if not the youngest. “Why is that?” I have thought on more than one occasion. One big reason I think is that Bordeaux was more affordable when the older generation of today was buying wine at my age 20-30 years ago. Therefore they are familiar with the Chateaus and communes they like and are interested in trying so they still buy and go to the tastings. That core of US Bordeaux lovers are now 50-75 years old and are mostly responsible for buying Bordeaux in the US these days. Though for most I am not sure why they would buy 09-10 as they won’t probably be around for it to peak (if they are in the first place of course).
If you have never tasted Bordeaux wine without doing some research, which I think most people do not, it makes it harder to commit to such expensive wines. I also think in general MOST young people in the US are also used to a different style of new world wine that is darker, thicker, riper, and more alcoholic. As kids we all grew up drinking whole milk, Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, Kool-Aid, etc. Our palates are drawn to more sugar, sweetness and concentration (Starbucks?). A lot of new world wine is fashioned in this way, and sure the mostly constant great weather in our wine growing regions helps too. I think that most people start out on Napa and depending on their level of passion either stop there or go deeper and then do the research it takes to discover new regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy.
Bordeaux to the general US consumer is thinner, lighter, elegant and more complex so it is more difficult to interpret the tasting experience compared to those immediately pleasing, instantly gratifying new world wines. Let’s face it, an Argentine Malbec, Aussie Shiraz, or California Cab, though in the basic instances indifferent and homogenized in many ways to each other in the under $20 range, pack a bigger punch and fruit expression than many under $20 Bordeaux wines. But that is not the goal of the under $20 Bordeaux (and it should not be!). At the Wine Spectator Experience last fall, I was told that the 2003 vintage is an American vintage because of the ripe aspects of the wine (fruit, tannins and alcohol). At first I was a little insulted, but it was probably an accurate assessment.
Another reason is that I am seriously passionate about wine, Bordeaux in particular, and I try to attend the important tastings of Bordeaux wines when they happen. But more importantly I devote a lot of my free time researching Bordeaux though reading and attending tastings. It’s not as difficult as Burgundy, but nowhere near as easy as Napa or Sonoma. Some work needs to be done in order to understand the communes, classification systems, techniques, etc. and I am willing to do it. I think most people are not willing to do that and it is essential to understanding Bordeaux.
Thomas Kobylarz
Hoboken, NJ —  May 4, 2012 12:19am ET
In regards to comment #1 I do not understand it, the UGCB tastings are not just industry only in NYC. They are industry during the day and consumer by night. I have been attending since the 2005 vintage in NYC as a consumer in the evening. Maybe in other markets they are industry only? If so that HAS to change. What also HAS to change is when and how long the UGCB tastings occur. They should be on a weekend day. Why? Well because the tasting should occur all day long like they do in Bordeaux. The reason why is because only those most dedicated to Bordeaux would burn a whole day tasting wine (and mostly spitting!) and you would avoid most of the booze hounds just looking to get their drink on. One could also, especially in NYC, take a leisurely lunch break and split the tasting into a more manageable 2 parts. I get this idea from attending the UGCB Weekend des Grand Crus in Bordeaux a few years ago. It was a great experience, especially the tasting event for the consumers that lasted ALL DAY on a Saturday. Consumers should be allowed to taste ALL day. My wife and I made a day out of it. We left for lunch and came back after to taste the other half of the event. We were allowed to space out the wine we drank so we did not have too much in a short window and were able to appreciate the wines more completely. The consumer tastings only last about 2-3 hours max in NY and should absolutely last longer so that the consumer can interact with the Chateau owners and Vigneron on a personal level.
I have met many great Chateau owners and representatives at these tastings and have made connections to these Chateau that helped when my wife and I visited Bordeaux in 2010 as we were invited to visit and taste at places we made friends with at the UGCB tastings in NY. I buy their wines in most vintages to varying degrees depending on my financial situation, the prices, availability, etc. As a note about the only vintage I have not bought since 2005 is 2007, it is truly a subpar vintage.
I attended a dinner hosted by Margaux of Troplong-Mondot a few months back in NYC with the Troplong-Mondot wines. A few other Bordeaux fans were in attendance, but it was a small, intimate setting. Everything you said about her rings true from my discussions with Margaux, she is such a cool person. She is cool, and so are so many other Bordeaux vigneron. Alfred Tesseron is the man – direct and clear – a guys who knows what he wants, the Cathiards are such a sweet and genuine couple, Veronique Sanders from Haut-Bailley is a warm and kind host and someone that I enjoy speaking to each year when we go to the UGCB tastings. Monsieur Moueix is so down to earth considering the unreal business he runs and wines/vineyards he is responsible for. Ronan Laborde at Clinet is such a cool guy, dare I say dude? There are so many others as well, can you tell I love Bordeaux?
Last week I took two of my best friends to an exceptional Bordeaux tasting in NYC. Both are die hard new world Napa cab fans, but two of the very few willing to branch out and go to an event like this. They had very little knowledge about Bordeaux except that it is expensive. However, they knew most of the good stuff from Napa which of course is not cheap either and can be expensive. I have to say when Bordeaux is not good, it is really not good, green, insipid, etc. At least it’s obvious and not cloaked in oak like they do in the US with inferior raw materials. So for the guys it was easier to see what they did and did not like and explain it to them because we were able to taste the same wines over different vintages Pichon Lalande 03 and 06, all 3 Ducru Beaucaillou wines from 2005, Mouton 2005 with d’Armailhac ’96 and ’04, and Clerc Milon 2004, various vintages of Pomerol and St. Emillion from Moueix (Certan de May, Sales and Hosanna to name a few), Palmer 1995 and Alter Ego 2006, Haut Bailly 2003. We were able to taste so many vintage across the map. The guys loved the tasting event and learned a lot, it was small so they were able to ask a lot of questions to the person pouring the wines (and me). After the tasting they both bought multiple bottles and half cases of the Ducru and Mouton wines. I myself have created short list of those wines I am searching down. Their favorite? Why Pichon Lalande 2003 of course ;).


Bottom line, I think if more people were able to taste the wines they would understand better the magic of Bordeaux and be willing to adjust their palates and budgets to find room for these exceptional wines.
Thomas Kobylarz
Hoboken, NJ —  May 4, 2012 12:35am ET
Ivan, good wine is not about marketing. I know my wine and could care less what it says on the front or back of the label as long as what is in the bottle is good.

The names are traditional and are the names of the property where these wines have been produced for several hundred years.

With good French wine, place is important, thus the name of the chateau or property not the message the label is trying to convey. Yes, they may be difficult to pronounce in some cases but if the wine is good why should that matter???

I do agree with you about most examples under $30, and especially under $20, many are underwhelming. However La Vielle Cure, Cantemerle, La Croix Mouton, Lalande-Borie, are exceptional wines with good Bordeaux typicity. I also agree that bad vintages can rear the ugly head of a bad Bordeaux vintage: green traits (2007). If you find the right wines/Chateau, you absolutely will be able to try all tiers and develop a proper understanding of the wines at a fraction of the cost. Ducru is one such example (Lalande-Borie, La Croix and the grand vin).

Category of food? Au contraire....red Bordeaux pairs exceptionally with beef, beef, and more beef, as well as sausage, pork, lamb and veal. Sauternes pairs exceptionally well with cheeses and fois gras and the dry whites are great with just about any other food expect maybe Italian food.

A little extra work, albeit the other region make it easier, will afford one to find the great values that exist in Bordeaux, especially from quality producers and those in the satellite regions like Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac, St. Emilion, and the Medoc/Haut-Medoc.
Thomas Kobylarz
Hoboken, NJ —  May 4, 2012 12:40am ET
"Bottom line, I think if more people were able to taste the wines they would understand better the magic of Bordeaux and be willing to adjust their palates and budgets to find room for these exceptional wines.'

By this I mean that one can expand their palate through tasting and education to then find room no matter their budget to appreciate good Bordeaux wines!
James J Sherma
hershey, PA —  May 4, 2012 10:19am ET
Price, price and maybe ... price. It has nothing to do with marketing. When I first got into wine in the early 90's Bordeaux wines were readily available as a nice step-up but certainly not a dramatic jump up from other good wines. I remember buying the '88-'90 vintages and then the '93-'95 vintages and viewing the cru bourgeoise as everyday drinkers and classed growths other then the firsts and some of the seconds as a nice upgrade opportunity. At that time I considered west coast wines overpriced for the quality and French wines as pretty fairly priced, that turned around starting in the late 90's and just accelerated after the 2000 vintage.

It was nice being able to educate myswelf with books about the great wine regions and then actually be able to afford many of the wines being discussed. Even though my income is quite a bit more than it was then I doubt that I could afford the same education given where prices have gone. This holds for both Bordeaux and Burgundy.

When I start seeing lower level classified growths back in the $20-30 range I will start buying them again. There is an awful lot of good wine in that price range to consider these days.

Rodney Patches
Ambler, PA, US —  May 4, 2012 12:54pm ET
It's all about marketing! The famous chateaux that everyone talks about and wants are expensive, but they have their market. People in the US do not perceive Bordeaux as a place to look for value, nor do they want to "risk" their wine dollars on Boardeaux. Easier to spend $10 (or much less) on a S. American Cabernet. To sell in the US, the Bordelais should forgo the "chateau" and create entry level "hot brands" where the brand (or grape) can help carry sales to people looking for immeadiate pleasure. Rather upsell, than crack a mass market at $25 for uncertainty.
Stacy Hughes
Regina, SK —  May 4, 2012 1:26pm ET
Wow.....under $20.00, not here and if it is, it is shlock, most are $30.00. I have been buying Bordeaux's for 30 years and in the last 5 to 7 years anything that is good and above are too expensive. Most are in the $75.00 range and up. I am left with a few 2000's some 2003's and a few 2005's which were all on the expensive side. I love Bordeaux's but they are escalating out of my price range as it is hard to buy a few good ones when they are that expensive, and that is not the high end ones either. I have resorted to finding other wines to consume and rarely if ever now buy Bourdeau....too bad.
As well the selection we get here is minimal, either shlock, or over priced mid point Bordeaux's.
Josh Moser
Sunnyvale, CA —  May 4, 2012 1:49pm ET
I am 41 and I started getting into wine 10 years ago. I love cabernet and merlot based wines from Bordeaux and California. When I talk to people my age and younger, they all want to talk about US Pinot Noir, big bruising Cabernets, Zinfandels, Syrah or New World Wines (Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand). Sure, they might drink wines from Bordeaux with their parents, but they don’t drink them with their friends. They complain that they taste old, tired, muted or musty.

After reading the comments, I agree with a lot of the points previously made.

The problem with wines from Bordeaux is price related (under $20 is key) and the fact that you really can’t drink the wines until 8 to 12 past the vintage date. The wines don’t provide instant gratification. To a lesser extent, I also think availability is an issue. If you walk into the corner wine store, you are probably going to see more options from Argentina than Bordeaux in the under $20 price range.

Let me provide some examples. I bought 8 bottles of the ’05 Chateau Bourbon La Chapelle (2nd wine from Chateau Castera) for $14 back in 2008 or 2009. Wine Spectator rated this wine 84 points. I opened a bottle shortly after purchase and it lacked body and taste. I opened another bottle on 4/13/12 and it tasted like water. I stuck it in a decanter for 4 hours, and then it finally opened up and tasted really good, but I won’t touch another bottle for 3 years. Personally, I am going to kick myself for not buying more of this wine, but it does suck that it takes a long time to come around.

I have close to 700 bottles of wine so I don’t mind putting them away, but most people under the age of 40 want instant gratification. I am going to pop a ’97 Potensac, Haut Medoc (Wine Spectator 85 points) tonight, and I will have to decant it for 60 to 90 minutes to allow it to open up. The wine is 15 years old and it still requires a 60+ minute decant. It will taste great (had 2 bottles in the last 4 weeks), but it does not provide instant gratification.

I received an email from a wine store this morning and they were talking about the ’08 Sur de Los Andes - Bonarda Mendoza ($11) and the ’10 Chateau Hyot Cotes de Castillon ($15 – Wine Spectator 90). I guarantee you that most people under the age of 35 would choose the ’08 Sur de Los Andes over the ’10 Chateau Hyot. For starters (and I have no proof that this is the case), the label is not as intimidating, and they associate wines from Argentina (New World Wines) as having more body and taste than wines from Bordeaux.

2 Wines from Bordeaux and 2 Wines from Argentina – It would be interesting to see what wines 40 people under the age of 35 would prefer in a blind tasting. I included the Poitevin b/c it is made in a “new wave” style. The ’10 Pascual Toso is on the shelves at numerous supermarkets and wine stores, whereas the other three wines are tougher to find.

2009 Masion Blanche, Medoc - $15 and Wine Spectator rated this wine 91 points. This is probably a great wine and in the WS review it states that the wine is best from 2012 to 2019. I am going to go buy some of this wine and not drink it for a few years, because if I had it right now, I would not taste the “vibrant, nicely packed raspberry, fig and blackberry fruit…”. Even though I drink a lot of wine, I certainly don’t have a sophisticated palate. Also, the label on this wine is not going to appeal to younger wine drinkers. It is a classic Bordeaux label.

2009 Poitevin, Medoc – $14 and Wine Spectator rated this wine 85 points. This wine is made in a new wave type of style that is meant to appeal to the younger crowd. Even the label is different from most of the labels you see on wines from Bordeaux. I have had this wine, and I agree that it has a lot of body and is a fruit forward wine, but the problem is that you won’t see it in a lot of stores.

2010 Pascual Toso Malbec - $10 and Wine Spectator rated this wine 83 points. For starters, the label is simple and easy to understand. I have had other vintages of this wine, and the fruit really seems to coat your tongue. Younger wine drinkers like this, and they really like the price. 37,000 cases imported

2009 Mapema Malbec Mendoz - $15 and Wine Spectator rated this wine 91 points. 2,800 cases imported.
Matt Ferrell
Delaware, OH —  May 5, 2012 9:23am ET
For me it boils down to this...

1.) Decent Bordeaux is too expensive. I can purchase a case of Kosta Browne at $58 a bottle (+ tax and shipping). This gets me a nice bottle of Bordeaux as well, however
2.) I can drink it (the California Pinot) immediately, and it is delicious.

I am still waiting on some of the Bordeaux I purchased a decade ago to be drinkable. I get no pleasure from drinking young Bordeaux, all closed and tannic. Older bottles are delicious, but they simply require too much patience. I still purchase Bordeaux for ageing, but the bulk of my wine budget goes to regions that produce wines that are approachable when young.

If the Bordelais want to appeal to the average American consumer, they should release them at their peak drinking window, and at a decent price point. I would gobble them up.
Darren Oleksyn
Calgary, Alberta, Canada —  May 5, 2012 8:47pm ET
Your readers have hit the nail on the head. For me the biggest deterrent is price. I used to buy a few favourite second growths en primeur, but now the prices are way out of reach. I've moved to the Rhône where I can get some outstanding wines at far cheaper prices. I can buy three bottles of Beaucastel for the price of one Pichon Baron. I'm sure the aging requirements hurt as well. The other thing is familiarity. Bordeaux is a vast area and I'm sure there are all kinds of great wines at reasonable prices, but it's almost impossible to taste them anywhere. And it's very difficult to identify the good ones. Great discussion!
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  May 5, 2012 10:02pm ET
With regards to Thomas K and his statement about the UGC tastings. The rest of the world is unlike New York, and out here in Chicago the UGC tastings can go years without having public tastings.

One thing the French need to remember is that there is a recession going on, and younger Americans just can't afford expensive wine, from anywhere.
Robson
Westport, CT —  May 5, 2012 11:12pm ET
Excellent discussion. I'm new to wine and learning all the time. I'm finding the New World (mostly US) wineries to be much more approachable. I'm able to buy directly from the wineries that I like.

If I find I like a Bordeaux wine that I like I have no direct access to the wine. I know that I have to go through several third-parties, all of which, I feel, are adding their costs and margins. It builds a barrier between the winery and me that can only be broken by spending even more money to attend tastings, as referenced above.

I feel I have a relationship with any winery that I order from directly. They communicate directly to me. I choose the wines that I want to order and buy directly. If I call up for a tasting at the winery they know me and are very willing to help me learn about their wines. Is there any Bordeaux winery that offers that type of relationship service?

It's all about relationships.
Ivan Campos
Ottawa, Canada —  May 6, 2012 7:50pm ET
Robson's point is not unrelated to my first: the problem of bordeaux lacking -- and being unable to establish -- a link to its potential consumers.

marketing isn't just about coming up with a good advertising hook, it's about taking the time and effort to understand your potential consumer base. new world wineries are great about having useful websites. heck, even some burgundy negociants will use the back labels to share detailed info on how a particular wine came to be (soils, clones, harvest, chemistry, etc.)

NZ sauv blanc did it by being able to identify itself with seafood afficionados, the way argentinian malbec (and aussie shiraz before it) did for lovers of steak and bold flavours.

who is red bordeaux appealing to? the value minded? no. the information savvy? definitely not. the bold flavour-minded? Rhones, Brunellos, Dueros and others do it just as well, and usually better, depending on the food preparation. The aromatically-minded red meat eaters? Nebbiolo and Mencia do it better. Fans of the more elegant? Okanagan, Washington and Chinon do that at a fraction of the price.

so what's left?

Going back to Ms. Pariente's question, pls note that a futures bottle of 2010 Troplong-Mondot is priced at $235 Canadian (on par or higher than the USD) in Ontario. Why on earth would I (early thirties, dual income, educated household at an upper income bracket) spend that money on a bottle that I have little context on, and hence a limited ability to fully appreciate? say that it takes 10 wines to develop a working understanding of a particular appellation and maybe vintage variation. The $2,350 that I would need to spend on 10 top St Emilions to 'appreciate' a Troplong-Mondot would pay for the same education and understanding of the very top Ribera del Duero, Barbaresco AND Brunello. It's a no-brainer for a curious wine lover.

... just the two cents of someone who does have 2009 and 2010 bordeaux futures in the pipeline.

Marisa Dvari
New York, NY —  May 7, 2012 12:40pm ET
Excellent discussion with very key points. As a journalist, I interviewed and wrote a story on wine collecting among the millennial generation from a varieties of incomes and occupations (sommelier, physician).

The sommelier spent much of her income on high-end wines yet admitted it was only after being mentored by the head sommelier and developing an appreciation for the wine.

As an educator, my view is that fine Bordeaux really needs to be understood before it can really be appreciated, something also articulated by many in the posts above. The expense involved with this education seems to be at the core of the issue.
Glenn Keeler
OC, CA —  May 7, 2012 1:59pm ET
I actually disagree with a lot of the posters. I started getting into Bordeaux 8ish years ago when I was in my mid/late 20’s. I’m 35 now and Bordeaux is still one of my favorite regions. I think it much easier to understand the layout of Bordeaux compared to someplace like Napa or Sonoma. I also think (although much more difficult in 09-10) that Bordeaux provides better value in the $30-$100 range than Napa does for Cab/Merlot based wines. A lot of that admittedly comes down to style preference though and of course these wines take time to come around, so those in need of instant gratification should stick with Napa.

I think were Bordeaux really suffers in the US is at restaurants. When I go to a fine dining restaurant, domestic wines might be marked up 2-3 times, but Bordeaux and Burgundy are marked up 3-5 times. I was just at a high end restaurant in NY that had a 01 Leoville Barton on the list for over $400. You can pick that up at auction for $60-90 I’m guessing? Makes it tough for someone to try Bordeaux at a restaurant here.

What can Bordeaux do? Price helps everyone, but more than that it is education and access to wines with age on them. Most retail stores don’t carry much wine with age, compared to stores in Europe where selling wines with proper age in the norm.
William L Duty
York, PA, USA —  May 7, 2012 2:30pm ET
Some 20+ years ago when I began to drink serious wines seriously, I purchased what amassed into several cases of mixed classified growth 89 & 90 Bordeaux (2nd-5th, no firsts). Some of those "super seconds," such as Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande were in the $40-$50 price range. While those were a tad pricey in the early 90s, those same wines have increased in price exponentially. Despite seeing my income increase comfortably, they have out-paced me and, as I suspect, most consumers. As others have said there is just too much good high quality wine from other regions to fuel the absolutely ludicrous pricing of classified growth Bordeaux. Anyone willing to pay the current prices has more money than sense. Remember folks, in the end, it's just a bottle of grape juice.
John Nelson
Dallas, Texas —  May 7, 2012 5:06pm ET
I am not a Francophile but have had the good luck to share in drinking some nice mature (and manure!) boerdeaux over the years. These were usually shared at group tastings, etc. I believe the main challenge for me is the disparity in the price and the quality of the wines from Bordeaux. The First Growths are uttelry unattainable now for all but the most wealthy, and the seconds are getting there very quickly. Then, there seems to be a massive (in general terms) drop off in quality, availability, and awareness in the market. In most cases there are so many excellent wines readily available in the $40-$60 range it is amazing. No way that can be said for Bordeaux. That is the marketing part. Lafite sells itself, like Ferraris do. How much marketing is spent on Lexus? There is simply not enough brand penetration from Bordeaux for almost of us, except true collectors or Francophiles, to have any success.

I also agree that the time needed for most of these wines to come around is hurting the cause. If I were to buy Bordeaux, I would be buying 00's- good prices, ready to drink, still somewhat available, and a bargain in comparison to the 09's.
Daniel Posner
New York —  May 7, 2012 10:48pm ET
Thomas,

I have been ITB for nearly 12 years, and not much older than you.

I buy and sell a decent amount of Bordeaux every year. I used to go to Bordeaux (each year from 2003 to 2007) to taste en primeur.

The tastings conducted in NY and beyond are a shit show.

This year, I signed up for the 2009 UGC tasting in NY a few weeks before the event and I was told that they were sold out. A famous BDX negociant spoke to the PR Firm that was doing the registratrations, on my behalf, and they were told that I could not attend.

I actually just showed up and walked in.

The folks in Bordeaux have no idea how to market and sell their wines. THey have relied upon wine critics to do it for them.

The system is broke.

Oh and these tastings happen 1-2 times per year in NY. And nearly never in any other markets. We do wine tastings in our store every Friday and Saturday. I can count on one hand how many Bordeaux wines we have opened in the past 12 months.
Michael Myette
Sacramento, CA USA —  May 8, 2012 7:14pm ET
Drank at '95 Petrus blind against a 2001 Paloma Merlot from California Last Summer.

'95 Petrus: $1400
'01 Paloma: $58

We preferred the Paloma.

Much of Bordeaux is simply overpriced, overvalued. The above difference is utterly absurd. Knowing what I know now, I would be embarrassed to drink a Petrus in public.

I still have long verticals of Pontet Canet, Ducru, Leoville Las Cases (and one '47 Cheval Blanc!), but am phasing out my Bordeaux in favor of Rhone, California, and Washington Wines.

Better taste, better value!
Atul Kapoor
los angeles/california —  May 8, 2012 10:25pm ET
Amen Michael! I was just thinking of the Paloma example reading through the blogs. For me, no Merlot from Bordeaux comes close to making me happy for the price.
Keir Mccartney
League City,TX —  May 11, 2012 12:09pm ET
A very interesting thread. It does seem to come down to the price/ quality / value equation. Throw in the risk of buying an "unknown" and it makes it very difficult to commit when walking down the Bordeaux aisle at the wine store. Much easier to pick something from the "new world" , Spain or S. Rhone. It is also worth mentioning that the vast majority of consumers buy wine to be opened within a few hours of purchase not to cellar it for 10 years on the off chance that it will improve! Try that sales strategy in the car industry. Much chance of success? Most people want to ride about in their car as soon as they buy it and not stick it in the garage for 10 - 20 years in the hope that it will become a collectors item.
Annemarie Marti
Valparaiso, IN —  May 12, 2012 11:45am ET
I love Bordeaux wines. But other parts of the world are making more interesting wine with great value. Why buy an OK but boring wine from Bordeaux for $50 when you can buy an exciting and memorable wine from Walla Walla at that price point...or from Oregon or Italy or Argentina, or Rhone, etc.
James Studer
Jupiter, FL, USA —  May 20, 2012 3:24pm ET
As a Boomers we came to decent wine via Mondavi (Fume Blanc) in the very early 80's. A trip to Napa/Sonoma a bit later and the 85 Cabs from Napa sealed the deal for us. Bordeaux is probably great wine but CA wine and the experience is sooo easy why would we venture into the expensive and seemingly obscure/arcane world of French wine?
Just being lazy, I guess.

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