Most Bordeaux drunk "far too young"

Many wine consumers do not wait long enough to drink Bordeaux when it has reached maturity and is ready to drink, says one Pessac-Léognan brand ambassador.

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Why am I hearing that classic dialogue from “Casablanca” in my head?

Capt. Renault: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!”
Croupier, handing him his money.) “…Your winnings, sir.”
Cant. Renault: “Oh, thank you very much!”


but yet there it is, on the mass market, long before it will be ready to drink…so dites-moi encore – tell me again, M. Ambassadeur, who are you blaming? (the ambassador, not Jason)

Nobody is buying wine at Target or Publix (or, outside the foire aux vins, even at Auchan or Carrefour and even moreso Monoprix…) to carefully curate for years – they’re buying something to drink this week, or even yet this evening.

Yep, it gets opened too young…but it’s not entirely the consumers’ fault.

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To a certain extent, most everything gets opened too young! (In other words, it’s not a problem limited only to Bordeaux.) As far back as the 1980s, I remember seeing a statistic that said something like 97 percent of all wines purchased in the United States are consumed within seven days of purchase.

Especially with Americans – who grew up on Central Valley jug wines, White Zinfandel, and a sea of inexpensive “plonky” Chardonnay – there is no history, no tradition of having a wine cellar. America has been (historically) about Jell-o instant pudding, Folger’s instant coffee, Quaker Oats instant oatmeal, etc., etc., etc. – it’s the “me” generation and instant gratification. The idea of buying wine (or anything for that matter) today and not touching it for ten years . . . HA! You’ve got to be kidding me, right?!?!?

Even in Britain and France – yes, it’s not like Tesco or Carrefour are cellaring the wines for you – people are “buying today to drink tonight.” The role of the wine merchant has changed from selling the client x number of cases of this, and y number of cases of that for the cellar (while the 10, 15, 25+ year old vintages of “this” and “that” that you, your parents, or even your grandparents purchased are now ready to drink).

Sometimes i wonder who is smarter, the winemaker making his or her Napa Cabernet ready to drink right now, or the winemaker whose wines are practically undrinkable now but will be in-f’ing-credible in 15-20 years . . .

I’m guilty of it too, of course. Although I have this week opened a 1994 Washington State Merlot, a 1994 Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2009 Cru de Beaujolais, I have also opened a 2012 Napa Cab, 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir, and a 2010 Pinot from the Santa Cruz Mountains . . .

Jason - I agree, although that said a lot of wine is designed to be drunk young these days with the large supermarket buyers demanding easily accessible wines that their customers can enjoy with tonight’s dinner.

The Bordeaux observation is interesting, to me it’s a pretty foul wine when drunk too young, the Cabernet’s in particular are far too tannic. But the Bordeaux producers keep pumping out the volume and people keep buying it and drinking it young…despite it not really being brewed to be enjoyed young. That said the varietal mix is changing a bit across the region with more blends appearing with far softer tannins - no doubt to maximise their penetration of new wine markets in Asia.

I am quite lucky here in Aus as one of our bigger wine warehouse companies does cellar wines and releases them across their stores at quite a modest premium. Good aged Riesling at $25 a bottle and reasonable Cabernet with 5 years at a similar price.

Friends over this weekend so some 2002 Greenock Creek Shiraz, some '96 St Hallet Shiraz, and some '94 Elderton Cab…so a good Barossa Valley vintage dinner.

Let’s also make the distinction between, say, Bordeaux wines like Mouton-Cadet or those with a “straight” Bordeaux a/c, and those châteaux-bottled wines that are the true essence of Bordeaux (classified wines from the Haut-Médoc, St.-Émilion, etc., etc., along with the wines of Pomerol). It is possible for people to find (red) Bordeaux which is ready-to-drink, but it’s just not very good. ;^)

Very few U.S. producers keep back cases of wine to sell at a later date, after they have aged a bit (or a lot); those few that do generally sell them within 5 years, and the markup are not necessarily all that modest. Few retailers here can afford to do that either. No, the two ways to obtain older vintages of wines here in the U.S. are either for people to buy them off a wine list (and pay the proverbial arm-and-a-leg), or cellar them for themselves (and there is very little tradition for that).

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
Credit: Juan Antonio Segal, Flickr