Some of the best mature wine I’ve ever drank has come from Bordeaux, with vintages such as 1985, 1986, 1989, 1996, and 1998 amongst my favourites. But if someone were to ask me what my favourite red wines are, I would immediately say Barolo/Barbaresco or Burgundy, the cool kids right now, it’s almost like a guilty pleasure, like ‘dad rock’. The grand houses of Bordeaux are having a bit of an identity crisis right now. I’ve heard wine professionals refer to them as Grandad wines, and if you ever head to a Bordeaux tasting, it’ll be a sea of red trousers and the smell of Werther's Originals wafting in the air.
It wasn’t always like this, it used to be one of the most respected and influential wine regions in the world. You can see the influence around the world from producers using the classic Bordeaux-shaped bottle with a high neck. The grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot typical to this region are grown and blended everywhere in places like the USA, Australia and Italy. Trying to emulate that famous flavour profile. They would achieve the best critical praise and reach the highest prices. But now it seems like Burgundy has taken over at the top spot. Many producers switched to the burgundy-shaped bottle, and plantings of Pinot Noir have increased, and wines are often praised for being ‘Burgundy-like’.
Every region has traditional and classical producers, but it should have younger generations experimenting, pushing boundaries, and asking questions. With Bordeaux, it’s hard to get involved unless you have big pockets and fancy wrestling with the big houses that have been aggressively buying land. So often, newer producers make wine in lesser-known spots or buy in grapes.
Large corporations, investment companies and insurance companies now own many houses. As a wine drinker/buyer, it’s difficult to connect to these producers and get excited about them. Everyone wants to hear about the DIY project or the winemaker who has overcome great challenges and presents the wines at dinners with dirt underneath their fingernails, not a swanky PR team.
But there are plenty of exciting producers out there who are doing wonderful things in the region, waiting to be discovered. These complement the classic traditionalists and act as a gateway to the region.
Food pairings are also a great way to unlock these wines and show their true potential. With the white wines, try pairing with oysters and rich fish dishes or prawns. The reds require something meaty, try a burger with some stinky French cheese and sauteed mushrooms.
At our next wine tasting on the 28th of September, we’re putting together a selection of progressive Bordeaux winemakers doing exciting things that can capture the attention of wine drinkers new to important and rewarding regions. We hope to see you there!