Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bordeaux Blues

The news this week out of France is that French consumers are angry about 2005 Bordeaux prices. Apart from the fact that the French are angry about a lot of things, I found this story interesting for a couple of reasons.

The huge price hikes for the much-heralded 2005 vintage, though not yet in bottles, comes as the highly publicized wine glut in France continues to grow. The French have always been the biggest consumers of their own wine, but wine consumption in France has been dropping. And, most French wine labels are not up to competing on the worldwide wine market with more marketing-savvy New World winemakers.

The glut, however, does not apply to marquis wines such as fine Bordeaux. They are not, for the most part, staying home without a date on Saturday night. But one thing's for sure -- the astronomical price hikes for '05 Bordeaux will do nothing for the French wine industry's overall problems. Even French consumers are calling Bordeaux merchants greedy -- sort of like how we feel about our oil companies.

If some wine collectors cannot help themselves regardless of price, I think many others are getting to the point of swearing off Bordeaux -- including many, like myself, who refused to participate in the silly, politically motivated boycott of French products during the outbreak of the Iraq war. I mean, who can stand to pay 300 percent price hikes for a product that comes down only a little in off years.

The '03s are in the process of arriving right now, and I've been looking for some of the better wines from this scorcher of a vintage. I picked up a Chateau Angelus today -- not cheap by any means but a lot better than paying for a first growth and probably a lot more affordable than the '05 version will be.

I don't go crazy for Bordeaux mainly because of the price. But I like to pick up some every 2 or 3 years for long-term aging. They, along with wines from the Piedmont, are still the best bets, as far as I'm concerned, for long-term cellaring. But as I look at the prices on the '03s and read about the '05s, I'm starting to feel like this is a personal tradition that probably is coming to an end.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey JD
Bordeaux was founded around 300 BC by a Celtic tribe, the Bituriges Vivisci, who named the town Burdigala. The city fell under Roman rule around 60 BC.

The city was plundered by the troops of Abd er Rahman in 732, after he had defeated Duke Eudes and before he was killed during the Battle of Tours on October 10. It was later plundered by the Vikings.

From the 12th to the 15th century, Bordeaux was part of the English realm, following the marriage of Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine with the French-speaking Count Henri Plantagenet, born in Le Mans, who became, within months of their wedding, King Henry II of England.

The 18th century was its golden age, because of the wine trade with the British Isles and Germany and the trades with the West Indies. Many downtown buildings (about 5,000), including those on the quays are from this period. Victor Hugo found the town so beautiful he once said: " take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux". Baron Haussmann, a long time prefect of Bordeaux, used Bordeaux' 18th century big scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasi-medieval Paris into a "modern" capital that would make France proud.

The French government withdrew to the city during the wars of 1870, World War I and World War II.

12:38 PM  

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