Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


Why Have I Never Cared About Bordeaux?

As I poked around in the cellar last night, looking for something to pour alongside the rack of lamb we'd planned for dinner, I was struck by the fact that there's not, and never has been, much Bordeaux in my wine life. Curious, that! Bordeaux, after all, is considered one of the greatest wine producing regions in all the world. It has been the paradigm for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines the world over. But I've never been able to embrace it the way I have so many other wine regions and styles. Why not? First, we don't eat tons of red meat in our home, so wines displaying a) power and b) big tanins are not typically appropriate. Second, the flavors tend to be less appealing to me - too deep, perhaps - and that leather, tobacco, pencil lead thing isn't really my cup of tea (or glass of wine, for that matter.

Among the three Bordeaux options I encountered in the cabinet (and the one we decided to open) was a 1995 Chateau Gruaud Larose - a 2nd Grand Cru classé from a well regarded vintage. It can still be found in retail shops for as little as $60 (though we got it as a gift several years ago). The wine was certainly elegant, with a combination of cooked dark fruit, a bit of coffee, a very animale character (which echoed the meat rather nicely) and relaxed tanin from mild toasted oak, which was offset by the lamb. The wine was a good choice for the meal, but not one I'd soon repeat, given the many other options out there... probably a $15-20 Chinon (100% Cab Franc), next time. Incidentally, compared to today's Napa Cabs at 15+% alcohol, the alcohol here was a beautiful 12.5%.