Dis­ap­pear­ing Acts

Bordeaux seems to be los­ing favour on wine lists across North Amer­ica and Asia, writes What­ever the rea­sons, there is much still to ap­pre­ci­ate from this clas­sic wine re­gion

Hong Kong Tatler - - Life -

James Suck­ling.

was in bordeaux in Jan­uary tast­ing hun­dreds of 2012 reds in the bot­tle. While there, I was asked for my views on the global Bordeaux wine mar­ket by a num­ber of vint­ners and château own­ers. I re­counted a story that il­lus­trates how Bordeaux needs to im­prove its im­age in the world. The anec­dote takes place in a fine restau­rant in New York City called Craft. I was there with two well-known wine mer­chants from Bordeaux who, when com­bined, sell tens of mil­lions of US dol­lars of their wine each year. We sat down at the high-end steak house and we no­ticed that no bot­tles of Bordeaux were on the wine list— not a sin­gle one.

I asked the wine buyer of the restau­rant to come over to our ta­ble and, when I asked him why no Bordeaux was on the list, his an­swer was sim­ple: “Our cus­tomers won’t buy top wines from Bordeaux be­cause they are too ex­pen­sive. They don’t be­lieve Bordeaux that are in­ex­pen­sive yet good qual­ity are worth buy­ing.”

I cer­tainly un­der­stood his point of view about ex­pen­sive bot­tles of high-end Bordeaux, con­sid­er­ing a re­cent vin­tage of a first growth such as La­tour or Mar­gaux can cost US$2,000 to US$4,000 a bot­tle with stan­dard restau­rant markups—cer­tainly that’s not for ev­ery­one’s bud­get. But I couldn’t un­der­stand why his cus­tomers wouldn’t be­lieve that out­stand­ingqual­ity bot­tles of Bordeaux for US$50 to US$100 weren’t worth buy­ing.

For ex­am­ple, I just fin­ished tast­ing about 600 dif­fer­ent Bordeaux from the 2012 vin­tage and I was amazed at how many ex­cel­len­tqual­ity wines were avail­able. Many of them can al­ready be found on the mar­ket for US$20 to US$30 a bot­tle in a wine shop. Yet ap­par­ently th­ese wines are a hard sell in North Amer­ica and Asia.

From my per­spec­tive, Bordeaux ap­pears less popular in Asian restau­rants th­ese days. Late last year, when I re­viewed about 60 top wine lists in Hong Kong and Ma­cau for the an­nual Hong Kong Tatler Best Restau­rants 2015 guide, I no­ticed that less and less Bordeaux was listed—and find­ing in­ex­pen­sive bot­tles of Bordeaux was al­most im­pos­si­ble. Mean­while, of­fer­ings of Bur­gundy as well as wines from Italy and other re­gions were on the rise. In fact, top restau­rants in Asia tend to have more Bur­gundy for sale than Bordeaux nowa­days.

Many rea­sons for this quag­mire ex­ist, so it’s hard to put a fin­ger on one fac­tor. Per­haps the wine trade over­sold the ex­pen­sive bot­tles for in­vest­ment in­stead of drink­ing, lead­ing peo­ple to cul­ti­vate anti-bordeaux feel­ings due to the spike in prices? Or head­lines overem­pha­sised the high prices paid at auc­tion and con­sumers think that all Bordeaux are ex­pen­sive? It could be that con­sumer tastes are sim­ply chang­ing and many peo­ple don’t want to buy and age wines such as Bordeaux. They see New World, Ital­ian, Span­ish and Bur­gundy bot­tles as more at­trac­tive to drink young. Or maybe the younger set doesn’t want to drink what their par­ents or grand­par­ents drank.

I don’t have all the an­swers. But I still be­lieve that Bordeaux is an es­sen­tial ref­er­ence for all wine drinkers, one that of­fers some of the great­est ex­pe­ri­ences, from breath­tak­ing first growths such as Mou­ton Roth­schild to de­li­ciously fruity and re­fined reds from the Côtes de Bordeaux. And they don’t have to cost a for­tune—open a bot­tle and try one for your­self.

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