Bidding Adieu (Boo Hoo) To Bordeaux

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - June 22, 2011
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Very expressive fruit

I am a bit depressed. I have been in the wine business now for just about 14 years. In this short stretch i have seen prices for wines increase considerably. You’ve seen it, too, not only with wine, but gas, rice, milk.

Today i read that one of my favorite wine areas, Bordeaux, is beginning to release its offerings for the 2010 vintage of wines.

And guess what? The prices are even higher than the 2009s.

The 2009 vintage was absolutely stellar in bordeaux and the 2010 is another rock solid vintage. But with a globally soft economy and perhaps an even softer United states economy, the bordelais have shamelessly said to the world, “if you can’t afford it, tough luck.” I certainly do not begrudge anyone for making money. And if the market can support the prices, then so be it - in fact, good for them. Like moths to a flame, bordeaux has flocked to the most affluent markets and where the most discretionary income is. Today that market is China.

They have inculcated the Chinese market with marketing and distribution and have in only a few years embedded themselves into the world’s richest growing wine market. it’s not a bad financial plan. Go where the money is or to whomever can afford to pay you the highest price. it makes financial sense.

But what about the rest of the world, those who have enjoyed the wines for generations? The traditional markets for bordeaux such as the U.s. and the U.K. are no longer the leading lights for bordeaux. With a prolonged U.s. recession, the prices for the top Bordeaux are well beyond the means of any average wine lover. Even many of the “lower classed growths” are floating beyond the reach of middle class connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts. These wines are truly only accessible for the highest income echelon of wine drinkers.

Smooth and elegant

So what is so depressing about that? it’s just the free market model playing out, right? Well, yes, but it seems that there are very few wines that will fill in the lower niches of bordeaux at the lower price points. typically, if things get too expensive, there is an alternative that fills in the gap. But, unfortunately, that gap is not being filled. What will someone who likes real bordeaux drink? It is truly rare to find really delicious bordeaux for under $20, especially in Hawaii. And because of that, many of today’s drinkers will never become fond of bordeaux. They won’t have the opportunity to taste really great bordeaux. It will be just too expensive.

I do not like to exaggerate, but perhaps bordeaux has out-priced the palate of a whole generation of U.s. wine drinkers. The new wine drinker will have to search for something else. rare will be the opportunity to smell the gravel of the great Chateaux of PessacLeognan, or the pencil lead of Pauillac or the clay and mocha of Margaux. The masculine black-fruit essences and pedigree of a First Growth will be something only read about.

Cheers to you, Bordeaux. recommendations: 2008 Chateau saint Julian ($18) very expressive fruit leaning toward the black fruit spectrum with a rich mid-palate laced with anise and vanilla. 2009 Chateau la Coudraie ($14) smooth and elegant, this is made mostly with Merlot, and thankfully so. it has no hard edges, just a graceful entry of black plums and cassis with a finish of spices and mocha. both are great values!


Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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