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Covert

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How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Covert » Sat Sep 23, 2006 7:35 am

Is suggesting that an adult try Bordeaux, when she hasn’t, more akin to letting a three-year-old try vanilla ice cream, to compare against chocolate, or taking an adolescent to an eclectic art gallery to see if he prefers Pollack to Norman Rockwell, or bringing your 93-year-old mother into the den to watch you compose a letter on a computer, versus what she remembers about a typewriter – or none of the above?

Almost everybody can appreciate ice cream, in many flavors, but only a few will relate to Mondrian or Monet strongly. And then fewer yet will like Mondrian’s attempt at an impressionistic landscape – I don’t really think there is one.

Lots of people can taste a 2000 du Tertre for the first time and like it. But most of those same people could gag on a 1994 Cantenac Brown. So I guess you wouldn’t say that those people like Bordeaux per se, they just liked 2000 du Tertre.

How would you then describe a Bordeaux appreciator? I think he or she would be more akin to appraisers on Antique Road Show who specialize in a particular genre. An American art appraiser can look at a picture that is completely out of character for a particular painter – say a portraiture by a famous Hudson River Painter, which isn’t very good to the average viewer – and gush on and on about it, loving the departure. And bring him a well-crafted picture in character, and he can be overcome by emotion.
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Dave Erickson » Sat Sep 23, 2006 9:53 am

I have to admit that I haven't met many people who fit the category. I know a few, and they have common characteristics: Firstly, and most importantly, they have a LOT OF MONEY. Secondly, and as a direct result of the first condition, they have tasted a lot of Bordeaux, from the celestial to the dismal. Thirdly, they are patient: They buy by the case, they are willing to wait a decade or more for a wine to mature, and when they drink the stuff, they drink it slowly, knowing that a Bordeaux gives up its secrets over the course of hours, not minutes.

Having said that, there's all kinds of "approachable" Bordeaux out there these days, produced largely in the hope of pleasing the palate of a certain influential lawyer who lives in Maryland. Those wines aren't all that different from vanilla ice cream, in my opinion, but then I'm a hopeless crank, and in any event someone who would leap over a Lafite Rothschild to get to Domaine Gauby "Le Calcinaire," so everything I say about Bordeaux can be easily discounted. :D
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Thomas

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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Thomas » Sat Sep 23, 2006 10:22 am

Covert wrote:Is suggesting that an adult try Bordeaux, when she hasn’t, more akin to letting a three-year-old try vanilla ice cream, to compare against chocolate, or taking an adolescent to an eclectic art gallery to see if he prefers Pollack to Norman Rockwell, or bringing your 93-year-old mother into the den to watch you compose a letter on a computer, versus what she remembers about a typewriter – or none of the above?

Almost everybody can appreciate ice cream, in many flavors, but only a few will relate to Mondrian or Monet strongly. And then fewer yet will like Mondrian’s attempt at an impressionistic landscape – I don’t really think there is one.

Lots of people can taste a 2000 du Tertre for the first time and like it. But most of those same people could gag on a 1994 Cantenac Brown. So I guess you wouldn’t say that those people like Bordeaux per se, they just liked 2000 du Tertre.

How would you then describe a Bordeaux appreciator? I think he or she would be more akin to appraisers on Antique Road Show who specialize in a particular genre. An American art appraiser can look at a picture that is completely out of character for a particular painter – say a portraiture by a famous Hudson River Painter, which isn’t very good to the average viewer – and gush on and on about it, loving the departure. And bring him a well-crafted picture in character, and he can be overcome by emotion.


Covert,

Find the explanation of the subjectivity of taste and you've got your answer. Hint--you'll be searching for quite a while...
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Howie Hart » Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:10 am

Interesting question. My wife and I were married in October of '75 and we enjoyed many different wines, including an occasional Bordeaux. In '77 I happened across '67 Haut Brion and '67 Lafite in a local wine shop for $10 each and bought one of each. We loved the Lafite so much, we decided to buy a case of the '75 and open one bottle every 5 years on our anniversary, which we did until 2000, enjoying each one with special meals at home. However, in 2004, my wife passed away a long illness (I sure do miss her). So, when October 2005 rolled around, I was in a bit of a dilemma. I had three of my sons over to have a nice dinner and share a bottle of the '75 Lafite with them. One of the sons was home on leave from the Army. The other two sons were away in the Army, one in Iraq (he's home safe now, but another son is there now and a third scheduled for deployment next month, but I digress). My oldest son, who buys wine on his own, was awed. He knew this wine was in a different league than anything he'd had before. The other boys liked it, but I don't think they knew what they were dealing with, as the only wines they had before were probably my home made items. Was this wine wasted on them? Of course not. It was a toast to their mother. Wine isn't all bouquet and palate, however, for me, in this case, the bouquet and palate were heavenly. It's the total experience, the company, the meal, the setting. To make this somewhat of a family tradition, my oldest son is getting married in 2 weeks and I purchased a case of locally made 2006 Pinot Noir on futures for a wedding present (I can't afford Lafite, especially when contributing to the cost of the reception). To get back to your point, my sons (all in their 20s) have been exposed to good Bordeaux, but will they develop a taste for such wines? Hard to say.
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Ian Sutton » Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:57 am

Whilst I can find young Bordeaux a bit of a struggle, I really like aged, even declining bottles. Personally I find this easier to appreciate than (say) in it's first decade of life. It's a different wine to the initial primary fruit / tannin / acidity / oak treatment.

For me the bigger issue is peoples first taste of bordeaux is quite often cheap generic "claret" trading on the good name of Bordeaux (Grand vins de Bordeaux :roll: :x ), but adding nothing themselves (in fact I'd go so far as to say they disgrace the name). More a case of these producers not appreciating Bordeaux, than the drinker.

FWIW I've seen non-wine geeks taste aged Bordeaux and be blown away by it (the same with Musar - indeed true of myself before geekdom beckoned). The route into a wine interest doesn't have to be a gradual progression from sugar water, through simple fruity wine, past lightly structured wine into the classics. Sometimes the shock of tasting a great or charismatic wine can be the perfect kick-start to the interest.

Sorry, what was the question? :oops: I seem to have gone off on a ramble :oops: :oops:

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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Jenise » Sat Sep 23, 2006 12:33 pm

Interesting question I ruminated briefly over last night. I opened both the Lafon Rochet (popped the cork early in the morning) and the D'Armailhac last night (put in big wide decanter the minute I saw your email, around 4:00 my time). A girlfriend and her husband joined us for dinner. They're not into wine at all--they never drink at home--but they've enjoyed the wines I've poured with meals, and I've been getting successively more brazen about the wines I pour. I admit, at first I deliberately chose wines, although few in my cellar could actually be described as simple, simpler and more forward. But I ran out of those in no time and last night, I just served what I liked for my food. A savagely grassy and gooseberried Sauv Blanc from BC drew an "oooh!" and a "wow!" of praise, much to my surprise, and they both asked for repours of both Bordeauxs. Though I'm sure her husband would prefer sweeter new world fruit, Chris even preferred the less fruity and more complex Lafon. Now that was a shock--I was fully prepared to open a California merlot when they wrinkled their noses over the Bordeauxs, but it didn't happen. Now did they get out of it what I did? No. Did they want to discuss them in excruciating detail as I like to do? No again. I'm sure they'll never 'appreciate' Bordeaux in the sense that you load that word, and in the long run would probably prefer the friendly California flavor profile, but that they were able to enjoy those wines at all impressed me.

And that's probably the best you can hope for if you're going to spring Bordeaux on someone who basically doesn't drink wine at all. It's the equivalent of springing blue cheese on someone who has never eaten cheese--some things, you just have to work up to.
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Rahsaan » Sat Sep 23, 2006 12:39 pm

How would you then describe a Bordeaux appreciator?


As Thomas said, the subjectivity of taste part is unanswerable.

But, another implied part of your question is that Bordeaux is somehow different from other French/European regions? Or do you just focus on it because it's your preferred region?
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Dale Williams » Sat Sep 23, 2006 6:08 pm

Like Rahsaan, I'm not sure how Bordeaux differs from any other region that traditionally makes less fruit forward wines (leaving out the legions of Bordeaux now made in a very modern and forward manner). A traditionally made Barolo is probably even less accessible to a novice wine drinker. For that matter, Bordeaux for the power of its fruit is probably more accessible to the novice than Burgundy. Now, if you want something that's an acquired taste, choose vin jaune. :)
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Hoke » Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:00 pm

And then fewer yet will like Mondrian’s attempt at an impressionistic landscape – I don’t really think there is one.


Re-think, Covert. Before Piet Mondrian came to the style that he defined (or that defined him?), he did many other works that stayed closer to the "norm" of his time. He copied previous artists, an dabbled in different style forms. Some of his very early stuff was quite traditional, actually.

It was only later in his artistic development that he came to concentrate on what the critics celebrated him for. In various retrospectives of Mondrian's career you will find a much greater variety of styles...and impressions...than you might believe. But I think that is clearly the case with many (most?) artists?

For that matter, many of the truly great artists labored for years and years to master all the previous epochal styles before they came to define their own. Renoir, for instance. Picasso. Heck, Picasso was doing it til the day he died, I think. Some of his work where he begins by slavisly copying an original, then doing a long series of other "copies", with each one getting farther and farther away from the original artist's work and more and more towards a "Picasso" transmogrification. Go to the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, and you'll see what I mean. It's eerie, almost frightening, how he could do that.

And what, pray tell, did Monet paint before he painted what came to be known as Impressionism? :)
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Jim Jones in Tokyo » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:09 am

Covert wrote:
How would you then describe a Bordeaux appreciator?


As someone who is well along the way to wine appreciation maturity, but hasn't quite graduated to Burgundy and Barolo and Côte-Rôtie. :twisted:

Seriously, I find young Bordeaux extremely difficult, but continue to drink it when the opportunity presents itself because I find that drinking a wine at every point on its amturity curve helps me better to understand the wine and predict its future.

Also, I would say that mature Bordeaux is something that many people can appreciate without much prior effort. My wifes favorite red wines are Beaujolais and Burg and Côte-Rôtie (and we're working on Piemonte!). But when she has been presented with stunners like '82 Lafleur or '61 Latour or Haut-Brion, she has had no difficulty enjoying them and realizing that she's drinking something very special.

Some wines are so great, so harmonious, that they can grab everyone.

But put a young Bord in front of her, no matter how great it will be someday, and she'd just as soon drink water. In fact, she'd prefer it as being less painful and not such a waste of calories.

If it weren't for my academic/predictive interest in tasting young Bords, I'd agree with her.

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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Covert » Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:13 am

Rahsaan wrote: But, another implied part of your question is that Bordeaux is somehow different from other French/European regions? Or do you just focus on it because it's your preferred region?


Rahsaan, it's the only region I know anything about. I just decided, without any reasons attached, really, to stay within it's borders. Prior to the decision, I sampled this and that from other regions and was never blown away by anything. Liked the taste of other wines, but didn't get hooked psychically. I of course understand and appreciate that other people like other regions just as much as I like Bordeaux.
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Covert » Sun Sep 24, 2006 8:11 am

Jim Jones in Tokyo wrote: But put a young Bord in front of her, no matter how great it will be someday, and she'd just as soon drink water. In fact, she'd prefer it as being less painful and not such a waste of calories.


Jim, for me, the fascination with the region possibly starts where your wife's and your enjoyment, even intense enjoyment, leaves off. I opened a bottle of young, run-of-the-mill Bordeaux on Friday night: 2001 d'Armailhac. I don't generally like to drink young Bordeaux, and I tend to replace any that I open for science, but – or and – I pulled the cork on it.

Now it might be that because I am a product of the '60s in San Francisco and Berkeley, and had some involvement with the special elixirs discovered by pranksters of that time, with certain catalysts, or triggers, I can even now be transported to places that are probably not visited by persons who have not seen the world from inside the bottle looking out. They are great places that in mythology were associated with Dionysus, whom hippies harked back to unlike any other group, or time, I know of.

And being loose, but not really crazy, I don't generally make a habit of describing experiences in '60s terms; but for the sake of this brief discussion, I will suggest that Bordeaux, like no other kind of wine, including thousand-dollar bottles of old Burg, can bring me back. The nose of that young d'Armailhac opened into a huge clearing, which felt like it was in the woods, but in the darkness of youth it couldn't be seen. The expanse of possibility was breathtaking - and in that expanse, there were messages that couldn't have been transported if the space, opening, was not there. It would make no sense to describe them, but a couple were from blueberries growing in a briar, so virgin that a hint was all that was permitted, and sapling oak growing in little streaks of light, which provided just enough illumination to see anything at all. Outreaches of the unconscious mind are for me wondrous places to visit. Bordeaux seems to provide access.
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Thomas » Sun Sep 24, 2006 1:27 pm

Covert wrote:
Jim Jones in Tokyo wrote: But put a young Bord in front of her, no matter how great it will be someday, and she'd just as soon drink water. In fact, she'd prefer it as being less painful and not such a waste of calories.


Jim, for me, the fascination with the region possibly starts where your wife's and your enjoyment, even intense enjoyment, leaves off. I opened a bottle of young, run-of-the-mill Bordeaux on Friday night: 2001 d'Armailhac. I don't generally like to drink young Bordeaux, and I tend to replace any that I open for science, but – or and – I pulled the cork on it.

Now it might be that because I am a product of the '60s in San Francisco and Berkeley, and had some involvement with the special elixirs discovered by pranksters of that time, with certain catalysts, or triggers, I can even now be transported to places that are probably not visited by persons who have not seen the world from inside the bottle looking out. They are great places that in mythology were associated with Dionysus, whom hippies harked back to unlike any other group, or time, I know of.

And being loose, but not really crazy, I don't generally make a habit of describing experiences in '60s terms; but for the sake of this brief discussion, I will suggest that Bordeaux, like no other kind of wine, including thousand-dollar bottles of old Burg, can bring me back. The nose of that young d'Armailhac opened into a huge clearing, which felt like it was in the woods, but in the darkness of youth it couldn't be seen. The expanse of possibility was breathtaking - and in that expanse, there were messages that couldn't have been transported if the space, opening, was not there. It would make no sense to describe them, but a couple were from blueberries growing in a briar, so virgin that a hint was all that was permitted, and sapling oak growing in little streaks of light, which provided just enough illumination to see anything at all. Outreaches of the unconscious mind are for me wondrous places to visit. Bordeaux seems to provide access.


Seems to me, Covert, that your infatuation with Bordeaux hasn't all to do with the wine, which is not an unusual situation, but it can be a limiting one.
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Re: How does one appreciate Bordeaux?

by Dave Erickson » Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:42 pm

Jim Jones in Tokyo wrote:
Covert wrote:
How would you then describe a Bordeaux appreciator?


As someone who is well along the way to wine appreciation maturity, but hasn't quite graduated to Burgundy and Barolo and Côte-Rôtie. :twisted:


I'm glad someone has risen to the bait of my economic qualification for Bordeaux appreciation, however elliptically. :D

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