Saturday, April 4, 2020

Nurse the Hate: A Brief Discussion on Bordeaux

I decided to open a Bordeaux today.  I have always loved Bordeaux, though that has become somewhat unfashionable to say.  It's like clearing your throat during an argument between two people debating the merits of two bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre vs GOAT and saying "You know, I love Creedence!".  You might be 100% correct in your opinion that it is the superior band, but it's just not quite as cool as the other two, now is it?  I can't tell you how many asshole "wine influeners" that I follow online who devote their time to pointlessly being a champion for the equivalent of indie rock band wine grapes.  "Dude... totally loving this Arbois!".  Fuck off.

Let me break down why you should buy cheap Bordeaux.  There is value there.  When China decided to have a middle class, these people in this new middle class looked at themselves and said "Holy shit!  We have disposable income!  What should we buy to let other people know that we have MADE IT?".  This resulted in sales going crazy for legacy luxury brands like top tier Bordeaux.  Previously the European and US country club/banker set had driven up the best Bordeaux wine prices beyond most mere mortals price range.  Now drop in a few million Chinese that know just enough to be dangerous and only want "the best of the best".  This has resulted in the top Bordeaux wines soaring from $100 a bottle to $2000.  Meanwhile, the ocean of "everyday" Bordeaux wines are still $12-$18 because the Chinese market doesn't want to buy anything that doesn't cause label envy.

The basic fact is that almost all of these people buying the wines can't differentiate in what they are drinking.  They just know it's supposed to be good.  Anyone can tell that a Chateau Latour is better than a $20 bottle of Bordeaux.  Yet, who can justify that a Latour is 100 times better than the one you picked up at the wine shop?  It's $2000 vs $20.  Let me tell you about when I was at Bordeaux sitting around drinking wine with a bunch of Chinese folks...

What I find interesting about Asian cultures is the strict dedication to rote memorization of facts.  Here's a blatant generalization.  Every one of those fuckers has the entire textbook memorized when they walk in the room while I am still trying to pronounce "Pauillac".  If someone leading a group discussion says "Latour makes 50,000 cases", you can be sure a young Chinese guy in glasses will raise his hand to say "Excuse me, I believe last year they made 49,400 cases" as if that made any difference to the real point.  They painstakingly memorize data while oblivious to the greater meaning of the data.  This often best reveals itself in blind tasting.

There was an entire table of Chinese.  I was sitting with a couple French guys, a Hungarian, a girl from Taiwan and a German at the other table.  We tasted a wine that was concealed in a paper bag.  It was tight, extremely tannic and not very enjoyable to drink.  The Chinese table was especially brutal in their assessment of the wine, calling it cheap, low quality wine with a tone that varied between disgust and pity.   When it was revealed to be a fairly expensive Bordeaux from a known producer, the Chinese table flipped on a dime.  "Ohhh!!!!"  They excitedly took photos of the bottle and fought to pour themselves more wine, tripping over each other to get more of this wine that moments ago they had dismissed as horrible.

The flip side to this is regardless of how good the quality of an inexpensive producer is, the Chinese market will not take a strong position on an inexpensive Bordeaux unless the label has somehow created status for itself within the mainland.  These poor Bordeaux guys from the wrong side of the tracks have been relegated to always being stuck in the $15 price point despite being forced to make better wine just to be in the same stratosphere as the properties suddenly getting $500 per bottle for a wine that they happily charged $50 for 15 years ago.  There are also hundreds of these shoestring operations out there fighting for the same shelf space on grocery store shelves.  The quality of these cheap Bordeaux is so much higher than it was in the 1990s, it's almost unrecognizable.

Now don't get me wrong.  I would prefer to drink a Leoville Barton or Lynch Bages every night.  I just can't afford to now.  Frankly, with the collapse of the world economy, I have some concerns about being able to afford the $15 Bordeaux.  As news is beginning to tease the idea that the peak of the pandemic won't be until June, that puts being able to go outside in anything less than a hazmat suit at some point in September.  This will lead to a complete global economic catastrophe that will make the Great Depression look like a picnic.  Maybe that means a complete re-adjustment of fine wine pricing where Latour goes back to being $90 and the cheap Bordeaux is $8.  Unfortunately I won't have any money unless I start selling heroin or guns.  The people that make the $8 Bordeaux will have to start selling heroin or guns too, as selling wine to importers at $2 a bottle won't put food on the table.  Hmm.  This is a real pickle we're in.  For now, I'm looking for good $15 Bordeaux and staying in the bunker.  I suggest you do the same.

Shields up.


At April 4, 2020 at 7:29:00 PM EDT , Blogger Mike Scott said...

I've tried cheap Bordeaux a few times and was never impressed. I always assumed you had to pay the big money to get the good stuff. I'll have to give it another shot.

At April 6, 2020 at 7:27:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

There's plenty of crappy Bordeaux out there. You have to take a few chances. I like to try wines from unfashionable areas like Fronsac or Cotes de Blaye. Haut Medoc can be good too. $15-$18 has some very drinkable wines.


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