Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Joys of Bordeaux

When I first started drinking wine, it was mainly New World wines from Australia and New Zealand. They were approachable, didn't need extensive aging and had identifiable fruit character. And though I am still a big fan of Margaret River Chardonnays (uber rich wines which taste like buttered toast) and New Zealand Pinot Noirs (silky, seductive and yet with loads of fruit), I find myself increasingly drawn towards the holy grail of wine lovers, fine Bordeaux reds. 

I'm not talking about your average AOC Bordeaux, but rather the good stuff, those wines which have attained the exalted ranking of being a classified cru. Of these rankings, the 1855 Medoc classification has the most prestige, quite impressive for a system that is over a hundred and fifty years old! The rankings for the 1855 classification were drawn up based on the price of the wines at that time, and they still command a lofty premium over other Bordeaux wines. 

These classified wines require a great deal of patience (and preferably deep pockets). At a recent wine dinner, it was those wines that had been aged at least eight years that started to show some lovely character. Younger wines, though well made and delicious to drink, tended to taste almost uniform. The highlight was a Chateau Giscours 1990 from Margaux, which had exotic dried herbs and licorice notes. It took twenty years for this wine to reach its peak. In a world where instant gratification is all the buzz, we frequently consume wines before they have the chance to mature into something interesting.

The ability of wine to evolve as it ages is one of its most interesting properties. Milk goes sour, soft drinks lose their fizz and flavour, but wines, like people, age slowly, losing the fresh fruitiness of youth and developing subtle, complex flavours. An exploration of Bordeaux wines is all the more interesting because it tracks the evolution of these wines over the years. 

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