LONG LIVE THE KING!
It is the epitome of sophistication and class; feelings of regality and privilege. This is how I feel when I'm engrossed in the majesty that is Bordeaux. For me there is nothing better than "experiencing" a fine bottle of Bordeaux and that what it is, an experience. It'll change your life, trust me! Bordeaux is a wine making area steeped in history and tradition, synonymous with elegance, prestige and sophistication.
For me, this is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at its absolute best!
The grapes permitted for use in Bordeaux reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Today Carmenere is rarely used and, in general, the first three make up the major part of the blend.
The vine was introduced to the Bordeaux region by the Romans, probably in the mid-1st century and wine production has been continuous in the region since.
I'd say the Bordelais know a thing or two about making wine!
In 1855 Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France's best Bordeaux wines which were to be on display for visitors from around the world during the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a chateau's reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality. With a few exceptions, the classification remains unchanged today.
The wines were ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). All of the red wines that made it on the list came from the Médoc region except for one: Château Haut-Brion from Graves.
The five first growths are arguably the most recognizable wines in the world and with good reason: Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. These usually fetch some of the highest prices when they are released.
I've had the privilege of tasting all the first growths and some from the best vintages on record. Recently I got to taste three 100 point wines along side one another. Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton Rothschild from the 1982 Vintage.
1982 is considered one of the best vintages in modern history, and it resulted in a night I'll never forget. As a wine geek, it really doesn't get any better than that. All were majestic in their own way and it was difficult to pick a winner but I'd have to give it to Margaux. It's surreal sometimes evaluating the quality of wine especially when those three bottles are priced at $4000 each! At that level of quality you're not just drinking an amazing bottle of wine, you are actually drinking a part of history!
If you haven't already, I implore you to discover Bordeaux for yourself. You won't regret it.
Now where to begin? If you prefer a bigger, bolder Cabernet-dominant style then explore the Médoc and Graves. Referred to as the left bank, wines from this region are big and powerful and have an amazing tannic structure. Look for flavors of cassis, blackberry, dark cherries, licorice, pencil lead and even oolong tea.
Within the Medoc there are sub-regions, each offering a unique and recognizable expression of this beguiling red nectar.
Pauillac for its richness, power and masculinity.
The enchantress that is Margaux. Feminine, elegant, graceful and poised.
Saint-Julien for a more rustic, funky, earthy quality.
Saint-Estephe known for its' fine acidity, structure and ripe fruit flavor.
Pessac-Leognan, unlike most Bordeaux Appelations, equally famous for reds and whites. The reds are earthy, mineral, smokey and ripe.
There are more regions; however, the best of the best can be found in these five!
Now if you prefer something a little softer, rich and velvety then you might want to check out the right bank. Generally Merlot dominates the blend here.
The wines from the right bank are generally more rich, softer on the palate and are a touch more fruit-forward. Lots or cassis, blackberries, chocolate, mocha and cedar.
Within in the right bank my two favorite areas are Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.
Saint-Emilion, wonderfully balanced, loads of minerality, sweet fruit and a lovely richness to the palate.
Pomerol, velvety and unctuous. Beautiful sweet plums, chocolate and peppermint are amoung the myriad of flavors that leap out of the glass. You'll also find truffles, roasted nuts and raisins.
One thing to be aware of when buying Bordeaux is to know your vintages. I don't want your first or next experience to be tainted by a poor vintage.
I'll go back as far as 1990, so…
Buy: 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010
Avoid: 1991,1992,1993, 1994, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008.
The whole Bordeaux area is just mesmerizing. To forget the world and lose yourself in a fine bottle of Bordeaux is journey you'll never forget, like a dream you never want to wake from.