Le Wine Buff Teaches Wine Finance

My super fine readers would have to be asleep not to know about my longtime wine project as Le Wine Buff (WineLog) for Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter, WineLog).  Well, recently I sat down to lunch with reporter Ryan Flinn alongside my fellow ‘Buff Rebecca Chapa (Twitter, Facebook) and we discussed our efforts to get the word out about the quantity of affodable, high quality Bordeaux wine.  Lo and behold, Ryan Flinn put together a great article discussing just how relevant affordable, high quality Bordeaux wines within the context of the sky-rocketing prices of über-premium wines due to the rise of fine wine culture in China.  The article has already been picked up by Bloomberg, BusinessWeek and SFGate, so check it out at any of the prior links.  Cheers!

The Broke Wino Looks at Value Bordeaux

A new vinopanion of mine, Sam Klingberg, has been making waves in the vino writing webernets over the last year or so with his wine blog, The Broke Wino.  Sam contacted me recently to gather my thoughts on affordable Bordeaux wine.  As one of Le Wine Buff for Enjoy Bordeaux for the CIVB, I have been involved in a lot of great Bordeaux-centric wine activities over the last 1+ years, including a truly spectacular trip to Bordeaux this past summer.

The dichotomy between the high prices of First and Second Growth châteaux and the remaining thousands of much more affordable, yet still high quality wine producers and châteaux is a hot topic.  With the declaration of “vintages of the century” at least 3 times this decade alone combined with the increasing Asian markets, the prices of the high end Bordeaux have skyrocketed. Happily however, quality has also taken a great leap forward, all across the board.

I sent the thoughts in quotations below over to Sam and he combined some parts with some great recommendations from my fellow Buff, Megan Wiig for his own article on this topic.  Take a gander at my thoughts below and let me know your own thoughts in the comments.  Then jet over to The Broke Wino for Sam’s outstanding article, “Value Bordeaux is Not an Oxymoron.” Cheers!

Ward Kadel@drXeNoLe Wine Buff:

I think that one of the things for which Bordeaux has taken a lot of heat in the last few 10 years has been it’s seemingly regular pronouncements of the exceptional quality of each vintage since the truly great 2000s. The wolf has been shouting much to much this past decade and the wine writing field, wine social mediasphere and the general populace have all grown jaded with each new declaration. Looking at both sides, I think the Bordelaise have been very busy at tooting their own horn, yet I can’t deny that there has been a significantly large number of very good to great vintages in Bordeaux over the last decade than we’ve ever seen in modern winemaking history. Taste the wines for yourself…there are very few, broadly speaking, bad vintages in the “aughts.” But the arguments over whether these claims are hyperbole really don’t matter…it’s the wines that do, yo!

2000, 2005 and 2009 are deemed some of the best vintages in the last 110 years for Bordeaux. Whether the high end wines are good, great or epic doesn’t matter for the average consumer, but value or Quality to Price ratio does (QPR). When you’re strolling your favorite wine store or even down the vino section of your local supermarket, remember that these vintages don’t just mean that the $50-$500 wines are the shizzy…that quality extends all the way down to the $6 wines as well. This means that wine that would easily qualify for the first label of any given chateau is now relegated to their much cheaper second label; quality that can be had at a very affordable price.

Yet, regardless of vintage there are thousands of producers in the various AOC or sub-appellations of Bordeaux. The big classified Growths of Bordeaux get the press, but usually the true quality can be found in the smaller, unclassified producers that would be lovingly called family-run boutique wineries if they were here in the US.  Zingy and citrusy $8-$15 whites from Entre-Deux-Mers, minerally, balanced and complex reds from the Graves and juicier, fresh-tobacco driven red blends from the newer Pessac-Léognan AOC are all wines that throw down awesome QPR for any vintage, below $35 and usually less than $20. But honestly, this is just me talking, right? Go out and try some for yourself and see if you agree. Cheers!

Château Haut Guillebot, Bordeaux

As Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, I am paid a nominal fee for most of my participation.  I also receive free wine samples and my participation on this trip is courtesy of the CIVB.

Affordable Bordeaux in 2010: FTW!

Le Wine Buff - Enjoy BordeauxI don’t think it’s any surprise to you fine readers that I’m a big fan of Bordeaux and even work for the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) as one of Le Wine Buff, video broadcasting each week from my vino-abode.  Well the kids at Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter) have hatched an incredibly rad new plan to create some fun on the interwebs, with oh, maybe a prize that might require a flight or two, woot!  I don’t want to spill alll the deets, but suffice it to say: it will be fun, it will be a contest on their Facebook page launching 11/15/10 (where you currently can see the awesome documentary short of our BDX trip in June), the prize is flippin’ awesome and you can get some of the gist by checking out my personal addition to the shizzy after the jump.  You’ll even find some wines taking home a WKBadge for their efforts. Cheers!

Bottles Away! - EnjoyBordeaux.com11/16/10 UPDATE: The Enjoy BordeauxBottles Away!” contest has finally launched on their Facebook Page.  Play hard and pick well and you could wine an awesome new wine fridge!

You’ve been hearing all the chatter: Bordeaux futures this year have been off the hook in quality, but also come with record massive prices. Can your fine self still find affordable wine from one of the most iconic and slammin’ wine regions in the world? Heck yeah and I’m hear to show to you how we do!

Enjoy Bordeaux#WKBadges - QPRWK2008 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc – $10

A zesty, citrusy white that kicks some serious QPR booty. Get some and get a lot.

2008 Les Vignerons de Tutiac Quintet Bordeaux Supérieur – $9

Crisp citrus flavors surround a very intriguing mineral core. Clean and exciting, like a nice slab of techno.

2006 Château de Bel-Air Lalande-de-Pomerol – $19

Let’s take a stroll on the right side of Bordeaux and agree to just enjoy the silky palate of toasty black cherry and both shut the heck up!

#WKBadges - QPRWK2005 Château Greysac Médoc – $11

All black fruit all the time from this savory wine that slides in from another expensive vintage…yet it still brings the value heat.

#WKBadges - OldWorldWK2005 Château Teyssier Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – $28

It’s unreal to find a Grand Cru St-E at this price, but I do what I must to please my fellow vinopanions. The complexity here is off. the. chain. Earth, black fruit, savory herbs and perfect balance, YES!

#WKBadges - QPRWK2007 Château Haut Mayne Sauternes – $19

It’s shocking sometimes, the value you find in sweet wines from Bordeaux. Here the sinuous mouthfeel combines with just-right sweetness for a delicious stickie to finish us off.

6 bottles, 5 AOC, Total Cost: $96 = BLEDOW!

All of these wines are tagged with “BottlesAway2010LeWineBuff” if you’d like to list them in your own WineLog.  Cheers!

The Wine Buff gang conquering Bordeaux (2) - Enjoy Bordeaux (Flickr)
The Wine Buff gang conquering Bordeaux (2) - Enjoy Bordeaux (Flickr)

As Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, I am paid a nominal fee for most of my participation.  I also receive free wine samples and my participation on this trip is courtesy of the CIVB.

Le Wine Buff in France, Bordeaux Day 2

Along the Quai - Bordeaux, France.The first day waking up in Bordeaux was a slight bit disorienting for this ‘Buff.  First off, I wasn’t tired despite all of my travel overnight the day before and immediately launching into almost a full day and night of awesome Bordelaise activities.  Indeed, I felt so fit that I decided to go for my first run of the trip, along the riverfront that we walked the day before.  Fearless Mutineer, Alan Kropf (Twitter) took up the challenge to join me in my jogging quest.

[The documentary short of the footage taken during our trip, “Meet Le Wine Buffs“, has now launched!  You can find it, as well as all of our 100 Days of Today’s Bordeaux on the Bordeaux Wine Vimeo channel.]

Mutiners in Entre-Deux-Mers - Bordeaux, France

Our pre-foie gras fitness activities accomplished, Alan and headed back to the Normandie for a shower and some breakie.  As we approached the hotel, I realized that I needed to get my espresso on and I peeled off to the commuter café that was across the tracks.  Here was I was determined to order on my own, with no interpreters. Whether I really was successful in communicating my coffee request or they were just really kind baristas, I got my double espresso with no communication issues to report.

Château Sainte-Marie
Château Sainte-Marie

Following a shower and a very fast breakfast, we all piled into our shuttle for the first excursion of the trip, heading into Entre-Deux-Mers and the alluring St.-Émilion, which was one of my favorite spots on the whole trip.  It was quite a feeling to look out across the rain-swept land that was outside our foggy windows…it was one of the tens of times on this trip that I found myself almost shell-socked by the beauty of Bordeaux and the fortuitousness that allowed me to appreciate it in person.  With more than a little tingling of anticipation, we pulled into the driveway of the very first Chateau of the trip, Château Sainte-Marie, named for the Virgin Mary.

Stéphane Dupuch - Ch. Sainte-Marie

Our host that day was none other than the 5th generation vigneron, Stéphane Dupuch, himself.  He is a burly man, but with a youthful, happy face and is as quick to tell a joke as he is to give an opinion on French wine.  The winery proper was originally built in the 14th century and owned by monks.  The vineyards are situated on chalky-clay soils, perfect for their production of 50:50 red and white wines.  Stéphane believes that their land and climate is best suited for Merlot-based blends, but definitely not for Cabernet Franc, which is commonly paired with Merlot in such blends.  He compares the three white varietals in their Entre-Deux-Mers whites to the best parts of a woman: “Sauvignon [Blanc] is body, Sémillon is the dress and Muscadelle is the makeup.”  His whites were crisp and filled with citrus and minerality.  His Clairet was also a big hit, featuring racy acidity, a light to medium body and quite the juicy cherry and raspberry berry flavors, with virtually no tannins.  Clairet (not the traditional “claret”) can be compared to a fuller and bigger Rosé, or “Rosé on steroids”, as Rob aptly describes them.

Château Bonnet
Château Bonnet - Entre-Deux-Mers

After a visit with a boarder’s deer and the estate parrot and pooch, we headed off for to a Chateau for which I hold great excitement.  Château Bonnet, while the largest single estate in Bordeaux, has always been a favorite house of mine for wines that feature exceptional affordable value for their quality.  It is just above the small commune of Grézillac and features some 300 hectares of vineyards.  We were greeted by one of the luminaries of Bordeaux, André Lurton. Among many incredible accomplishments during his fascinating life, Lurton helped form the Entre-Deux-Mers and Pessac-Léognan AOCs, is the 40-year mayor of Grézillac and acted as director of the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) for two separate terms. Lurton looks and is surprisingly young for someone that has lived in the same room in which he was born for some 86 years!

André Lurton - Château BonnetFollowing a brief tour around the winery by Lurton, we were treated to an estate tasting within the very cool enclosed winter garden of the Château.  The wines were very vibrant, featuring medium bodies and great, food-centric acidity in the entire line, covering white, rosé, clairet and red. Lunch was held in the main dining hall of the Château, featuring a fascinating collection of artwork collected over the decades and plenty of well constructed, balanced wines from Bonnet.  Besides the delish fare, the real treat of the lunch was a secretive Lurton bringing out a decanted 1982 Bonnet Bordeaux AOC that featured dried fruit and herbs of black cherry, portabella mushrooms, tobacco and anise and completely altered my understanding of this entry-level AOC: these wines can age.

Château des Laurets
Château des Laurets - Saint-Émilion

Our last chateau of the day had an air of Great Expectations to it, with the chateau proper completely empty inside, yet looking somewhat well-kept on the outside.  The winery however, was all modern, with beautiful stonework.  Château des Laurets is very unusual in that it’s very large 150 hectare estate (90 under vine) actually spans two different appellations and is still the largest within the prestigious Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion and Montagne-Saint-Émilion.  The estate is very old (built 1860), but has recently been purchased by the by Benjamin & Ariane Rothschild in 2003 with the intent to gradually restore the estate back to an elite status. 2004 Ch. des Laurets "Les Laurets"We were greeted by winemaker Fabrice Bandiera and given a tour of the newly constructed and restored winery.  He was interesting in that he was one of the most progressive winemakers that we were to meet on our trip, even endorsing the use of such new technologies as staves and wood chips, if needed, in moderation.  The wines here were pretty impressive, particularly the flagship 2004 Les Laurets, that featured a luscious nose and palate of menthol, graphite, wet earth, and very dark chocolate with deep black fruit.  It had phenomenal balance and it’s bit unusual for France, made up of 100& Merlot.

Monolithic church in Saint-Émilion
Monolithic church in Saint-Émilion

Our final stop of this brilliant first full day in Bordeaux was in what I now consider to be the most beautiful hamlet that I’ve ever had the fortune to visit.  Saint-Émilion proper was almost devastatingly beautiful, with it’s ancient cobblestone streets, all stone buildings and the weather that alternated between sunlight, short heavy showers and floating clouds and rainbows…yes, and that was only in the first 2 hours there!  We only had a short time to tour the town, unfortunately, plus enjoy our Crémant de Bordeaux apéritif.  Indeed, during a delightful dinner at L’Envers du Décor with Stéphane Derenoncourt collaborator Frédéric Massie, I heard so much about its monolithic church, carved from a single block of limestone cliff-face that I excused myself and sprinted down the hill to check it out mid-meal.

Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, FranceHappily exhausted by the end of our long meal, we piled back into the shuttle for a very late trip back to our Normandie homestead and some welcome relaxation.  Our first full day was complete with full stomachs and full minds of many memories.

The whole crew at Château Bonnet.All of the wines from this trip will/are tagged with “LWB2010BDX” and my photos and HD videos can be found by day (Day 1, Day 2 for instance) and are also all tagged with “LWB2010BDX” on my Flickr.  My post can be found here for Day 1Enjoy Bordeaux also has a bunch of fantastic photos at their own Flickr and a great Day 2 recap.  Additionally, fellow ‘Buff Rob Moshein has his own slammin’ recap of both Day 1 and Day 2.  All of our tweets used the hashtag #LeWineBuff. Lastly, you can find the documentary short of the footage taken during our trip, Meet Le Wine Buffs, has now launched!  You can find it, as well as all of our 100 Days of Today’s Bordeaux on the Bordeaux Wine Vimeo channel.

I will continue to upload the wines as I write these recaps and then compile all of the links in one final post for this series about Le Wine Buff in Bordeaux. Santé!

Le Wine Buff in France, Bordeaux Day 1

Air France window over the outskirts of ParisFinally.  It’s quite similar to that feeling of gloriously painful anticipation that you once experienced before every birthday as a child…I was finally going to Bordeaux as part of Le Wine Buff program for Enjoy Bordeaux!  I have been a ‘Buff since late last year when the pilot program first kicked off.  The Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) sponsored the trip and we’ve been working for and with them and CreativeFeed to help educate the public on the thousands of affordable, high quality and downright tasty Bordeaux wines that are imported to the US. These wines are the majority from Bordeaux and don’t cost the same amount as the many techno gadgets I brought along with me on the trip.  So there I was…in Bordeaux and yet I had never even been to Europe!

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

I was also able to finally meet the rest of the crew in person.
Indeed, other than a brief encounter with my fellow Bay Area Buff Rebecca Chapa, I had yet to meet any of these vinopanions IRL until now.  I had also wrangled in the men who comprise Mutineer Magazine to embed themselves in our vinous midst, so now we’d have shoots for both our documentary and photo ops for articles in the finest beverage magazine on earth…sweet.

I landed off my Air France flight with the Mutineers in tow and we made it to our homebase, the Hôtel de Normandie dead center in the middle of the city of Bordeaux.  We arrived with nary a minute to spare before taking a guided tour of the ancient city (it’s only a couple of thousand years old…give or take a decade…).  Breathtaking was a word that was used once or twice and the depth of knowledge of our tour guide was just as impressive. Brigitte’s enlightening tour was provided as a courtesy of the Office de Tourisme de Bordeaux. Walking around an ancient city was bound to stir up an appetite and well, a thirst!  Here we were surrounded by fantastic appellations or A.O.C. of vineyards and I had yet to have tasted a drop of that tasty fluid known as wine.

Chez Jean
Chez Jean

Fortunately, the CIVB predicted this predicament and we landed for what was to be the first of a long string of epic dinners, at a restaurant just a few blocks from the hotel, Chez Jean.  Yum.  More walking around after dark provided some great photo ops as you can see in some of the pics below.

All of the wines from this trip will/are tagged with “LWB2010BDX” and my photos and HD videos can be found by day (Day 1 for instance) and are also all tagged with “LWB2010BDX” on my Flickr.  Enjoy Bordeaux also has a set of fantastic photos at their own Flickr.  All of our tweets used the hashtag #LeWineBuff.  I will continue to upload the wines as I write these recaps and then compile all of the links in one final post for this series about Le Wine Buff in Bordeaux.

So what was the final tally?

12 Chateaux, 8 A.O.C., 9 restaurants, 2 hotels, ~110 wines, ~9GB of photos and videos, 11 pages (10pt MS Word font) of notes typed on my iPhone and 22 hours of sleep, whew.


Touring the city of Bordeaux
Touring the city of Bordeaux, with Brigitte
Touring the city of Bordeaux, near the Opera

Touring the city of Bordeaux, near the Opera
One of the famous ancient arches of Bordeaux
One of the famous ancient arches of Bordeaux
The misting, mirror pond of Bordeaux along the Gironde
The misting, mirror pond of Bordeaux at the Place des Bourses along the Garonne.
The fountain at night in the main square along the Gironde
The fountain at night in the main square along the Gironde
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