Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Back From Bordeaux

I returned from Bordeaux on Friday, September 28th. Two days later, I started this article in the hopes of quickly putting together some thoughts from my trip. Unfortunately, the more I attempted to distill everything that happened into a concise account, the more a stray idea or remembered thought would intrude, filling valuable space in the story.

That said, I feel like I now have a better idea of what this post will be about. Prior to leaving, I posted a brief note, Bordeaux Bound, explaining some goals for this trip. I'm happy to report that the goals were fulfilled, and bringing the stories to you over the next several months is going to be a lot of fun. Right now however, I'd like to present some broader ideas that have germinated as a result of my time there.

Everywhere I looked in Bordeaux, there was and is history that stretches back hundreds, sometimes a thousand years. Simply assuming that the Grand Cru Classe producers have all the history is an error, for I visited and stayed at multiple Chateaux that were older than the United States. Growing wine grapes is Bordeaux, put simply. A thought occurred to me during the drive between wineries; that if the land wasn't right for grapes, no one would be growing them. For all the up and coming regions across the world and all the compelling wines from those regions, places like Bordeaux are where the inspiration originated.

Consider this: I heard multiple stories of sons and daughters returning to Bordeaux from careers across France just to pick up the familial tradition of winegrowing. Successful individuals (and their nuclear families) would leave places like Paris to return, living in the country, farming, and coaxing wine grapes from the land. Such is the people's connection to the land and their heritage.

Bordeaux wines, of the ones we tasted, all met a minimum baseline for quality. The quality of every wine was at the very least, acceptable for the price. This was encouraging, and while perhaps a nod to our curated list of places to visit, reassured me that the Bordelais do have their act together when it comes to quality control and proper winemaking technique.

To become a more important part of the American Wine Conversation, there must be a seismic change in how the wines are packaged. Good packaging can help tell a story, and in our image-obsessed culture, becomes as important as the story. As the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur producers learn this, then implement changes, their wines will do better in our market.

Sommeliers who proudly proclaim that they do not carry and Bordeaux wines are doing their guests and themselves a disservice. I tasted multiple wines that would do wonderfully well as glass-pours at high-quality steakhouses across America. Diners today are seeking and expect greater choices than ever when they look at a menu, there is no reason good quality Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur wines shouldn't be on wine lists across the country.

White Bordeaux wines offer a welcome respite for those weary of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Oregon Pinot Gris (blasphemy?!), and California god-knows-what. Producers of white Bordeaux had done the smart thing with prices too, keeping them in line with the aforementioned wines from other regions. Even after some oak-aging, many of the Bordeaux Blanc retained a freshness both aromatically and on the palate. They're worth seeking out!

Before I bore you further, I'll end this first-of-many Bordeaux posts with the idea that Bordeaux wines deserve a spot in our cellars and on our tables. Most of these wines are more than just a beverage, they're a communication medium, but you have to take a moment to listen.

This trip was sponsored by Planet Bordeaux and facilitated by Balzac Communications.

Beau Carufel


  1. Rinse the barrel multiple times with hot water followed by cold water. This process is not only intended to clean the barrels, but also to insert some moisture into the oak.

  2. I look forward to hearing more details about your visits, and the idea of the deep history there is interesting to me. I've also found myself curious about White Bordeaux recently, and wondering why Sancerre gets all the love when talking about Sauvignon Blanc.