A week in Bordeaux with Michael Steinberger

I’m not going to turn this blog into a simple reposting of wine news from other sources. However as I find interesting tidbits that are above average or unusually relevant, I will include them here. Today I submit for your reading pleasure a week long article series from Slate, in which Michael Steinberger spends some time in Medoc and St. Emilion talking with Chateau Owners, Jancis Robinson, and others, including an amusing argument in a bar over the increasing conflict between old guard Chateaus and the garagistes, the nouveau winemakers who are getting a lot of attention from Robert Parker. It’s a well written series of articles with some funny moments and some hidden travel tips for those who might consider a trip to Bordeaux in the near future.

Bordeaux in the springtime is not Paris in the springtime. In fact, there is a wintriness that hangs over Bordeaux no matter the season. The city is not without grandeur, perhaps the most dramatic flourish being the ornate Place de la Bourse, but it’s a forlorn grandeur—a “depressing opulence,” as Henry James, also no fan of the city, put it. If Bordeaux has any charm at all, it is of a raffish variety, entirely in keeping with the city’s waterfront location. (Bordeaux sits on the muddy, expansive Garonne River, which turns into the Gironde River and empties into the Atlantic just north of the city.) Home to around 650,000 people, Bordeaux has two main virtues: It is an hour’s drive from the Dordogne, France’s best playground, and it is the wine capital of the world.

Each year, scores of wine professionals from Europe, North America, South America, and Asia—distributors, importers, merchants, and journalists—descend on Bordeaux in late March and early April to sample the new vintage, harvested six months earlier. The en primeurs tastings have become a rite of spring in Bordeaux, yet a certain illogic permeates the proceedings. For one thing, the wines are way too young to be judged in anything more than cursory fashion. Everyone knows this, but no one seems willing or able to move the tastings to a more sensible date on the calendar (a year after the harvest would be infinitely better).

Read more of A Wine-Soaked Tour of Bordeaux.