Thursday, October 23, 2008

Romantic Bordeaux

I'm a big fan on Bordeaux, I really think, when they get it right, they are possibly the best wines on the planet. When it comes to Bordeaux, the five First Growths - Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion - reign supreme. These are the best of the best and they aren't shy about it. Each year, they pretty much set the price levels for all the wines below them in the 1855 classification as they magically (I'm sure it is a coincidence) all release their en primeur prices around the same time and within a euro or so of each other. It really is a wonderful example of competition at work.

Anyone who can't detect the sarcasm may need to reboot their computer.

I have been disenchanted with en primeur for a while now, but on a recent trip to Bordeaux, I was told something interesting. Latour have just bought vineyards (within Pauillac, but not adjacent to their own vineyards) and the even bought some land with a newly built house on it, demolished the house and will presumably plant vines. The interesting about this is that it all falls within Chateau Latour and so the land automatically becomes First Growth. Now, it may be that they will use the vines for their second or third wines, but they don't have to. In fact, they could buy the land of a neighbouring second growth, for example, at a price of around €2M per hectare and "convert" it to first growth land, which is worth around €5M per hectare. Not bad.

Now, I can talk terroir as much as they next man, but what will the grapes from the demolished house site taste of? I can see the tasting notes now: cassis, cigar box, spice and a hint of breezeblock....

As I said, I am a huge fan of Bordeaux, but the truth is that very few can afford to drink the top wines and lower down the scale, quality can be mixed. Huge strides have been made to improve quality across the board, but they need to continue to work hard as good wine is being made all over the world these days and basking in the reflected glory of the first growths doesn't really cut it any more.

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