Bordeaux wine brings to mind words like chateau, age-worthy, expensive, status symbol, and even elitist. Not exactly wine for the budget-minded consumer.
|Selection of wines at Grand Cercle Des Vins de Bordeaux|
Rated at 96 points and above on a 100-point scale, Wine Spectator’s top picks ranged from $103 to $3,400 a bottle (Chateau Petrus).
The en premeur system is high-stakes wine merchandising … an area of the industry that I, frankly, do not play in, nor do most consumers. So, when a colleague informed me about the Grand Cercle Des Vins De Bordeaux tasting event in Santa Monica last week I was excited to be afforded the opportunity to sample some wines that I don’t often get to taste.
There were three really cool things about this event: 1) The year 2013 was an annus horriblus (to borrow a phrase from Queen Elizabeth of England) in which some of the worst weather conditions prevailed to create a very tense growing season, with mixed results at harvest, and all the vintners at Grand Cercle brought along their vintage from that year. 2) To give a nice comparison tasting, most of the vintners also had samples of their 2011 vintage (in some cases they had their 2010), which was another less-than-stellar growing season. 3) Most of the wines were in the “affordable” category – under $30, with many being under $20. (Not all of the wineries have California or even US distributors; the goal of these trade events is to find one.)
The 2011 and 2013 growing seasons posed many challenges for Bordeaux grape growers, with rain, cool temperatures, hail, late bud breaks, forced early harvests, and general weather mayhem. As I tasted wines at the Grand Cercle (I stuck to the Merlots and Sauternes), many of the vintners I spoke with reported that their 2013 harvest was half of their normal output.
The 2013 vintages were obviously young, and had the fresh fruit liveliness that I personally love. The Merlots were ripe, but not dense. The 2011s, with two more years of barrel aging, displayed less fruit, but more spice, smoke, chocolate, and tannin – characteristics that develop with age.
|Alain Raynaud pours his Chateau du Parc|
|Chateau de Myrat Sauternes|
It will be interesting to see how the 2013 vintages age, but it may be a good idea to just drink them young. Dany Rolland, a vintner, on behalf of Grand Cercle stated in event literature, “2013 will be a wine to drink when it is young, revealing fruitiness and freshness; it should be a wine for pleasure, devoid of powerful tannin, just plump and not green; an appealing wine that will enable 2008s, 2009s, and 2010s to be left in the cellar out of mind so you can enjoy this cheerful, immediate balance.”
I’ll drink to that!
Until next time, á votre santé!