When it comes to vintage huzzahs, Bordeaux still does it best
I love it. The 2009 Bordeaux vintage is “spectacular,” “brilliant,” “superb, rich, powerful, sexy beasts,” “sublime.” As a result, the wines “won’t be cheap.”
In advertising this is known as “selling the sizzle.” In modern kulturspeak it’s “creating buzz.” And no one, anywhere, is better at creating buzz than those maestros of the art, the Bordeaux wine trade.
The quotes above are taken straight from an email press release I received yesterday from Berry Bros. & Rudd, the British wine merchant. BBR knows something about creating vintage anticipation. After all, that’s their job. Can you imagine if, here in California, Gavin Newsom’s PlumpJack wine stores told customers to “turn off the heating and sell the car to save up and sign up with us for the rollercoaster ride that will be Bordeaux 2009,” only substituting “Napa Valley 2009” for “Bordeaux 2009”? Dah Mayor would be laughed out of office, chased by angry mobs with pitchforks for taunting them in their economic misery.
How does Bored Dough get away with it?
It’s not just wine merchants who are spinning 2009, it’s the Bordealais themselves. “Nature has been extremely generous, it is sumptuous,” said Denis Dubourdieu, director of the Bordeaux Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences, adding, “you have to go back to the climatology of the 40s to find, perhaps, comparable conditions.” Remarks like this are bloody chum to the sharks who swim in Wine Spectator’s online site. “…the talk is already starting. Comparing the vintage to 1947?” someone wrote.
Over at the Wall Street Journal, when their writer, Will Lyons, recently reported on the ‘09s, he wrote, “Bordeaux does hyperbole well.” Indeed, they do. Of course, few people have actually tasted the wines at this point. But who cares? When they do, they’ll be dazzled. I guarantee it.
How many times have the Bordelais trumpeted a vintage of the century? About every 4 or 5 years, if not more frequently than that. And the market continues to let them get away with it.
Well, I’m not blaming Bordeaux. They know how to brand and market themselves; nothing wrong with that. Why can’t we in California play the same game?
To some extent, we have. I’ve written about the great 2005 Cabernets and the 2007 Pinot Noirs. So have other wine writers. But for some reason, California’s vintage assessments don’t have the weight or importance that Bordeaux’s have. Why is that? Is California somehow a victim of its once-proclaimed boast that “Every year is a vintage year”? Yes, once upon a time that was California’s mantra, its proud declaration to the world that shoppers need not fear buying a California wine from any year, because they’re all great. Of course, that’s not exactly true — especially since California’s winegrowing areas have spread far beyond Napa Valley, and even within Napa itself viticulture has crept up off the valley floor into the mountains. But maybe there’s still a residue of that “every year a vintage year” mantra, which robs proclamations of vintage greatness of their power.
But I think it’s more than that. Bordeaux has bragged about vintages of the century for so long, and so implausibly, that we kind of expect it of them. It’s part of the Bordeaux personality: oversized, glitzy, shamelessly self-promoting, egotistical, supremely confident if not arrogant. (California by contrast is self-doubting, introspective, ironic.) If Bordeaux did not boast, it wouldn’t be Bored Dough. And we — collectors, consumers, just-plain vanilla wine folks — wouldn’t line up to taste the sublime 2009s, if somebody just gives us the opportunity.