Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Declassifying wines?..

In this period just before the Futures tastings and the Bordeaux 2013 vintage being put on the market, the vintage so difficult considering the climate has given us such a large range of failures and successes (successes to be put between brackets of course). We are not talking about a success on the same scale as 2010 but a good wine in the eyes of the winemaker and also the wine critics, the importers, the distributers and the customers.

So what should one think of these chateaux that declassify their entire production following the advice of the head winemaker, the owner, or the consultant? 

Everyone has their own opinion and mine is made following my experience as a consultant, merchant and owner and so as far as I am concerned; no declassification, if possible never, because if I fell in love with big wines before becoming a part of this world, it was through these small vintages. When I say small, I mean thanks to these difficult vintages sold relatively cheaply (at that time), these 1973, 1974 from Mouton Rothschild, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Figeac, the 1980 Pétrus, the 1987 Clos Fourtet, all of these wines and others which gave us so much pleasure over dinner. You can ask Michel, Philippe and Murielle, they will tell you the same.

So isn't declassifying everything a bit too severe? Which wine lover would complain about drinking these premier crus, these grands crus that are not as polished as they could be, if they are sold for what they are worth? Isn't that what a second wine is for, or even a third wine for the more famous chateaux? (The Saint Emilion from Cheval Blanc, the Pauillac from Latour, our own 3 de Valandraud?)
I don't have enough stocks of my third wines, they always seem to be sold out so it seems they are good value for money!

Isn't there a bit too much pride to want to constantly do better than the conditions of a vintage? We are in Bordeaux, where we can still make good wine in poor years. The proof is in the tasting; Fleur Cardinale, Sansonnet, Vieille Cure, Valandraud as good as possible and of course we have run out of our second and third wines... So what? That's our problem. The choices made here concern only those that made them; I like the quote from Olivier Bernard, current head of the UGC: 2013 a jealous vintage!

To end, I would like to repeat that in memory of great bottles drunk with friends in the 80s, Chateau Latour 1958 was quite simply incredible. We enjoyed it better than good vintages. Latour in Pomerol 1967, so delicious, bought for a small price at L'Intendant Moueix, we drunk cases and cases of it and it is still the memory of this wine which made us love Latour in Pomerol.

Long live difficult years in Bordeaux... because we don't really have the choice either way!

Monday 17th Feb 2014

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