A friend of mine recently sent me a piece by the American Association of Wine Economists, a group I very much admire. The article was an in-depth study that contrasted the ratings for top 2005 Bordeaux from the major critics (Parker, Tanzer and Spectator) with consumer evaluations from the Cellar Tracker website—in other words, it was a case of professional vs. amateur opinions on some of the world’s top wines.
Twenty years ago, I would have been mesmerized by this study. Bordeaux was my first love. I travelled to the region numerous times, participated in omnibus tastings several times each year, and read everything in print on the subject. I followed the vagaries of the vintage far more closely than I used to follow the Mets when I was a fan, and tracked the progress of each chateau with more interest than I devoted to the stock market when I dabbled in individual stocks.
Then the prices of Classified Bordeaux escalated out of sight, and I gradually lost interest. Most of the top wines are now being sold for inflated prices in Hong Kong. The AAWE article caught my eye, in fact, because 2005 was the turning point for me. I remember reading Parker’s barrel-tasting notes on the new vintage, and it struck me that most of us were never going to encounter these wines. They might as well exist in a parallel solar system. I cancelled my subscription to The Wine Advocate shortly thereafter. My wine interests have drifted elsewhere, and it’s not just me—I don’t personally know anyone who has bought, cellared, tasted or drunk Bordeaux in practically a decade.
It gets worse. Bordeaux used to be the benchmark for Cabernet-based wines produced around the world, the standard against which everything was compared. This may still be the case in the recesses of our minds, but in reality the only people who can voice an opinion on the issue are some collectors in Asia. I’m not about to take their word for it—not because they’re Chinese, but because they started drinking wine the day before yesterday, and because I don’t trust their ability to separate the quality of a wine from the status symbol it represents.
Remember Bordeaux? If you do and you’re an American, you’re either extraordinarily wealthy or have a cellar assembled prior to 1996. The Bordelais have Hong Kong, but we just have our memories.