My grandmother told me, when I was first starting to get into wine, “Burgundy is a great mistress, Bordeaux is a great wife.”Then, I had no idea what that could possibly mean. In some ways, I still don’t, but I have a greater understanding now…I think. Burgundies are soft, sexy, you drink them younger… they can also be mercurial, too expensive, and a whole lot of crazy. But Bordeauxs… they’re consistent, steady, and always good. On the downside, you sometimes like to wait until they’re olderand they can get a little boring. I generally subscribe to my grandmother’s saying and I somehow always find myself staying faithful to my ball and chain from southwest France.
In America, sometimes we don’t get that much of an opportunity to drink Bordeaux. The perception is that they can be intimidating, pricey, and even a little snobby. I disagree, I think they consistently make the best wine in the world. So I figured why shouldn’t I demystify Bordeaux? The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to understand Bordeaux is the geography. Click here for a map of Bordeaux wine region. The Gironde river splits the region diagonally and is the most prevalent geographical landmark in the region. Most Bordeaux wines are divided into either ‘Right Bank’ or ‘Left Bank’ wines. This refers to the side of the Gironde that the chateau falls on, and that seemingly simple distinction creates a massive difference in the culture and personality of each and every vineyard on their respective banks. Coming later this week will be a more in-depth synopsis on both the right and left banks. And hopefully something at least moderately humorous, learning is for nerds anyway.
Finally, before I go, my notes for the 1947 Cheval Blanc:
The wine was re-corked by the chateau in 2002, perfect level-just at the top of the shoulders, perfect label. Purchased fromLe Comptoir des Vignobles in St. Emilion, Bordeaux France. As an aside, Le Comptoir is possibly the greatest seller of authentic, old Bordeaux in the world. Definitely check them out if you ever get a chance to go to St. Emilion. The wine was drunk in June, 2009.
The Cheval Blanc was decanted approx. one hour before tasting.
The wine out of the bottle was light brown, even maroon. It brightened in the decanter and took on the typical, old burnt red color with tinges of rust on the edge. It is an extremely viscous wine, from afar it almost looks like a glass of maple syrup. The nose on the wine is just explosive. It can be detected from over 5 inches away. The nose is bursting with honeyed sweetness and a citric character unlike anything I have ever seen before in a red wine. The two mixing scents create a floral smell of orange blossom honey. It’s intoxicating. The mouth of the wine is more complex, and, if possible, even more perfect. It opens with flavors of overripe honeydew melons and burnt caramel. The wine continues with a strong finish of sweet, black licorice. The finish lingers seemingly forever.
This wine is in contention for my favorite of all time, competing only with the legendary 1961 Haut Brion. At 62 years old, the wine is starting to show some signs of aging. However, the slipping structure is endearing to me and it creates a sense of controlled chaos within the glass; almost like the winemakers intended for this to happen. I have never tasted a better example of the tannins melting into a wine.
100 points, a perfect wine.
Coming next post: Left Bank Bordeaux debriefing, better alliteration, 1959 Lafite Rothschild tasting notes, my continued descent into madness brought on by my trying to figure out the sudden and unexplainable collapse of Tom Cruise’s career.
Until next time, live life well
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