Planet of the grapes

bordeaux backlashJason Wilson, Table Matters

Is there any wine that intimidates more than Bordeaux? Even among friends of mine who are serious wine drinkers, Bordeaux feels like the schoolyard bully that no one wants to stand up to. Which begs the inevitable backlash: “Does the world’s most famous wine region have anything for the 99 percent?”

“I am totally totally intimidated by Bordeaux wines,” sheepishly admitted one friend, a woman who feels totally at ease with wines as obscure as Spanish mencía or teroldego from northern Italy or vranec from the Republic of Macedonia. “I walk past that shelf in the store and all the Bordeaux bottles look exactly the same. Same colors, same scripty fonts, same gold leaf, same illustration of the damn chateau. It’s always Château du Something Something. Château du Blah Blah Blah. Château du Frenchy French. How do I even know where to begin?”

Last spring, Wine Spectator devoted its March 31 cover to Bordeaux’s 2009 vintage, which the magazine deemed “classic.” A cover line declared “Second Labels Offer Great Value” and underneath—presumably to show this so-called “great value”—were images of labels from Les Forts De Latour and Carruades de Lafite, both with the standard, staid Bordeaux pen-and-ink illustrations of the estates. Next to the labels, editors listed the prices and critics’ scores right on the cover: $345 for the 93-point Les Forts De Latour and $400 for the 92-point Carruades de Lafite.

Now, I’m pretty certain that irony was not at play, since I doubt there is a less ironic magazine in the world than Wine Spectator (of which I, like hundreds of thousands of other wine drinkers, am a subscriber). I’m therefore going to assume that the editors earnestly believe that paying $400 for a bottle of wine represents “great value.” If so, they are part of the problem.

Read the full ‘whine’ at Table Matters …