Thursday, January 17, 2013


There was a time, not too long ago, when buying cheaper and lesser rated Bordeaux wine, it was expected that there would be faults.

The classic 'French stink' was de rigeur and in wine tasting competitions a Merlot or Cabernet based wine could be identified as being French and not American, Australian or from New Zealand because of this.

The French used to say that it was terroir (the unique character of place, tradition and climate) that gave the wine individuality. In reality it was due to poor winery hygiene, outdated winemaking practices and the use of old and unclean equipment. Brettanymyces, high volatile acidity, bad sulphides etc. gave the characteristic stink.

Today, thanks to education, an international wine market and sharing of ideas between the 'old world' of wine and the 'new world' of wine the dirty old wines are a thing of the past, especially in Bordeaux (for anything put in a bottle with a proper label) although other 'country' French wines can still be suspect.

I was pleasantly surprised this Christmas in buying via the web a mixed case of Bordeaux wines from 2009 and 2010 vintage. The wines are clean, full-bodied and showing true varietal characteristics - some Cabernet dominant and some Merlot dominant. The flavours are outstanding for the price (about $12 a bottle) and the wines are robust enough to stand cellaring for a couple of years.

I'm a great supporter of New Zealand wines and love what's happening in Hawkes Bay and Waiheke with the 'Bordeaux varietal' wines but due to production economies of scale and a low volume market these are hellishly expensive to get a good, well-balanced wine from well-ripened grapes. Certainly there is nothing to be had at the sub-$20 level to match these French wines.

The poor old French have had a bad rap over the last few years with the growth of 'new world' wines but its nice too see that someone is taking steps to bring in some quality and good value offerings. Long may it last.

1 comment:

Richard (of RBB) said...

Washing your hands is important too.