The education of the city boys – Learning to love Bordeaux


This is the story of my conversion.

When I started getting more intimate with the wine industry (as we call it, The Trade), it was the high time of Pinot Noir. Remember how Miles had a go at Merlot in Sideways? That was pretty much my take on the world. But what made both Miles and me so angry about a single grape?

The Bordeaux Blends that were available in my native Hungary were a. Boring b. Bloody expensive c. Boring. And when I say boring, I mean as dull as a damp rag. The proper 1855 classified hardcore-hot-real thing was not within my grasps, unfortunately. What I had in front of me, was technically whatever came of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab. Franc & Merlot with oak – Bearing the mark of some kind of a bourgeois charmlessness.

While this was going on, Pinot Noir from anywhere – mainly from Bourgogne, seemed to be the new trendsetter. Anyone wanting to appear progressive, drank Pinot Noir. So I, along with the rest of the wanna-be mover and shakers, was a self proclaimed Pinot addict. Honestly I did not think much about Bordeaux. It always seemed to be the toy of the annoyingly rich folks. Oh how I have changed..

On arrival in London I started working in a posh luxury brasserie as a sommelier. Most of the 700 bins on the wine list were either the best of Bordeaux or the best of Burgundy. As the restaurant was located right in the middle of the city , naturally our clientele were dark suit wearing, male hardcore Claret consumers. As I was serving these people, it was my duty to learn more of the wines I was selling. This is how my Bordeaux appreciation began.

What I began to appreciate is that there is a story behind every bottle, every label, every terroir. So what makes Bordeaux so special? Even though I prefer mountains, I am very fond the mostly flat and very cultured landscape of the Gironde area. The wine as we know it today was born in the late XVIIth century, in a rather realistic, pretty much capitalistic approach. The Bordeaux winemaker claims no lofty acclaims as an artist. They are businessmen. Having tasted quite many self proclaimed artist’s almost undrinkable wine, I like this approach. And in addition to this modern approach to making, this attitude resulted in the most sympathetic political thought during the French revolution. How’s about that then? The Gironde party are considered to be some of the founding fathers of modern liberalism. (Surely the wine helped!)

The wine in question, as a textbook definition, is something that was grown of the banks of the Garrone. Made mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot – maybe a touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot and with the possibility of oak ageing. Obviously the reality is a lot more diverse, but this is a blog, and not a mega novel of several hundred pages.

Back in the WSET academy one of my teachers tried to define the tasting notes in a simple way:

“The more ‘medium’ marks you have on your tasting sheet, the closer you are to an ideal Bordeaux!”

This means that the main characteristics of the wine: aroma and flavour intensity, alcohol, tannin and acid-content are all in perfect balance. When you taste this wine, it might taste a little bit earthy. But this earth, the very soil, can taste fresh. The very feeling you get with each sip, that suggests simply  “bloody hell, I could drink an other glass of this!”

The last time I had thios feeling was tasting our 2004 Listrac Medoc Chateau l`Ermitage. If you have a quiestion about Bordeaux, just come around to one of our shops. There are some Pinot fans among the ranks, but I think we all understand and love the greatness of Bordeaux.

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