Sunday, August 12, 2007

1994 Leoville Barton and the New Bordeaux Future Campaigns

Will this be my last bottle of Leoville Barton ever? Will it be my last bottle of classified growth Bordeaux? Maybe? Hopefully not but with the rising prices of Bordeaux starting with the 2005 vintage, I can’t be certain.

Let’s start with the 2006 Bordeaux futures. This is this the year the Bordelais may have pushed wine lovers like me, who love to find wonderful mid to value priced wine but occasionally like to splurge on more expensive special occasion wines (whatever the occasion), out of the market for classified growth Bordeaux.

It all started with the much heralded 2005 vintage which is supposed to have produced some of the best wines since the dawn of man (or something along those lines) as proclaimed by all members of the wine press, a group I have to rely on as I’m not exactly attending the spring Bordeaux tastings. In a case like that, I can understand (but don’t necessarily like) a price increase from previous vintages based on quality. Maybe you pay more for a high quality Bordeaux compared to a diluted vintage from the year before. Prices were raised significantly higher than 2004. Sometimes double the price when they were offered as futures. Ok. That was 2005

However, the 2006 vintage, while praised for its surprising quality in a tough year with rains at harvest, will never go down in history as a great vintage. But, the Bordelais used the 2005 pricing as a base price and reference point for the 2006 pricing rather than relying on the base prices for a similar recent vintage like 2004.

This new pricing structure, in which I am left with the perception of paying more than I have in the passed for lesser quality wine, is the reason I feel the need to start distancing myself from Bordeaux.

To keep things in perspective, I have never been able to purchase first growth Bordeaux like Chateau Margaux or Lafite Rothschild. Spurge bottles for me, anniversary bottles, birthday bottles, graduation bottles, fall more in the line of 2nd to 5th growths like Leoville Barton, Leoville Poyferre, Lagrange, and the very very occasional Leoville Las Cases. These are the wines that I’m about to let go.

It’s possible to go online and find some “before and after” price comparisons by looking at 2004 and prior (say back to 2001) and 2005 and after. The example I’ll use here is Lagrange, a chateau that I’ve fallen hard for and I’ll compare $25 a bottle for the 2002 vintage to the $50+ for 2005 and $45+ for 2006 vintages.

It gives me pause and leads me to my current reflection. I find myself here after sharing a bottle of 1994 Leoville Barton with friends last night, wondering if this is the beginning of the end of classified growths for me. I like to drink these wines, they reward good cellaring, and they can (relatively speaking) become an incredible bargain if you buy the wines as futures in good vintages. (The 1990 Leoville Barton can sell for $250 but cost $40 as a future.)

For all my ranting above, note that I am talking about the 60 classified growth chateaux and that, thankfully for now, my dismay has not carried over so some of the wonderful non-classified wines coming from the less heralded regions of Bordeaux such as the Haut Medoc and satellite regions of St. Emilion. Wines like Gisault Cuvee Viva, Coufran, and other under $20 values that I’ve discovered over time. And this definitely includes some of the $10 (plus or minus) Bordeaux that I’ve had such as (insert Sherry Lehman wines here). These chateaux have been improving the quality of their vines and wines over the past several years and will go a long way in softening the blow of the “new world of Bordeaux pricing.”

The 1994 Leoville Barton…

The 1994 Leoville Barton was everything I could hope for in a mature Bordeaux. Dense and tannic with a layer of fruit underneath. It’s dark purple in color. Very earthy with notes of cedar and then dark earthy fruit. Blackcurrant buts its also spicy. It’s hard to tell exactly. Notes of tabac as well. Very tannic texture with a lot of grip and a long long finish. A+.

1 comment:

RougeAndBlanc said...

Toally agreed on the price inflation of Bordeaux (and Burgandy) wines.
My theory is always drink better wines in lesser years but seek cheaper wine in better years.