Something needs to be written about Bordeaux. About how it might, just might, totally eat itself. About how so many properties in St Emilion have completely lost the plot in terms of their winemaking; about how many of the chateaux on both sides of the river have lost the plot in terms of pricing. About how many young Bordeaux wines taste of barrel gloss, extraction and little else. And about how much pleasure there is to be found elsewhere. But I just don’t have the stomach for it right now, and my brush with 2005 Potensac rather renewed my feelings for the region.
So. Positivity. And a couple of wines that you simply have to buy. A couple of wines that knock pretty much everything out of the park. A couple of wines that show the trick that Bordeaux is missing.
Back in the old days at 3 St James’s Street one could buy a decent bottle of white Burgundy for a score. A decent premier cru, from a decent grower, would retail at £30 or so. And we’re not talking about a discount house. As the wines that I was selling got more and more expensive – I specifically remember selling a case of 1998 Le Pin to an Israeli lawyer for several thousand pounds – white Burgundy, I felt, kept my feet on the ground. But things have moved on. A decent bottle of village Puligny is £50 retail. Which is rather a lot of dosh for white wine.
I first tasted Kumeu River a few years back. I had heard of my friend Mr B.’s predilection for serving it blind and it always being taken for white Burgundy at three times the price. I’ve only ever bought a case once: three or so years ago I bought a case of 2007 Mates Vineyard Chardonnay for Christmas: I thought it would do Christmas Day starters plus more, and I’d have six or so bottles for the cellar for the rest of the year. As it happened, I (we) drank the dozen in a fortnight and something else had to be found for the celebrations. The Kumeu was just too good not to drink..
Mr B. furnished me with some more Kumeu River (2010) in late January: the prize for winning his Christmas Quiz. And this was the “village” Kumeu: the Estate Chardonnay. And the same old story: gone in days. And you can take your points and smoke them: there is no greater endorsement for wine or food than an empty bottle or a clean plate.
Most of us, until a couple of years ago, drank Italian wine in (a) Italy and (b) Italian restaurants. Nowhere else.
Last year the 2010 Barolo vintage kept the blood flowing for more than a few merchants. This year 2010 Brunello do Montalcino is doing the same. Wine buyers who used to dismiss Barolo as nothing more than a name and Brunello as posh Chianti are piling in. The Bordelais are missing a trick here: Lynch-Bages used to be £400 a case: the point being is that one used to be able to buy serious Bordeaux for £400 case. As it is, you can’t. And posh Chianti begins to have a page three appeal. James Suckling – as he does – tasted these a couple of months before everyone else and – as he does – has thrown some very high scores around. This works for everyone: James gets his name quoted in every offer sent out; the winemakers sell their wine, the merchants ditto, and customers end up with wines that appear to have some exceptional value. And value is the key here. We can all aspire to own 99 point wines; with 2010 Brunello we can actually own them. But back to Piedmont:
Twenty minutes’ drive north of Barolo lies Barbaresco. If Barolo is the King of Piedmont Barbaresco is the Queen. Angelo Gaja has done more than anyone to put these great wines on the map though his offerings come in with rather heavy prices. As it is, Barbaresco is also home to one of the greatest co-operatives in Europe, perhaps the World – the Produtturi del Barbaresco. Their 2011 Barbaresco comes in at £160 a dozen in bond. And it is brilliant wine. Wine that makes you smile. Wine that will please next week, next year and, if you’ve the patience, in the next decade.
The whole point about this wine game is this: it’s something that tastes nice. It also inebriates you: this can be fun, generally is. It is the simplest of pleasures. It is something that I love.
When I see some half-wit post on twitter or whathaveyou stating that “Ch. ____ traded at XXX, up from a low of YYY”, I want to spit.
Likewise, when every property in Bordeaux is installing yet another set of gold taps in the fourth washroom in the new extension, whilst at the same time laughing at appeals for sensitive pricing, a glass of something with a smile, rather than a large bill, attached is even more special.