It’s the time of year when, once again, the attention of the wine world is focused firmly on Bordeaux, the world’s most important fine wine region.
There are a number of reasons why Bordeaux dominates the arena of fine wine, and they aren’t all to do with the quality of the wine. A proper discussion of these would merit a long essay; here, I’m just going to make one point about the region, and this concerns the ageing potential of the wines.
Bordeaux made today is different to Bordeaux of the past.
Many argue that modern Bordeaux is better than old Bordeaux: the vinification is more controlled; the yields are lower; the vineyards more carefully maintained; the selection of the grand vin stricter.
It may be better. That’s not for me to adjudicate. But I can say that it is different.
The great old bottles of Bordeaux that we enjoy today come from a different era of Bordeaux. Even vintages as recent as 1990 and 1996 were from a previous era. They were made differently. They were probably less enjoyable in their youth. They were probably not as concentrated or alcoholic as their modern counterparts. But we like the way that these wines taste now in their maturity.
We cellar Bordeaux today confident that these bottles will age beautifully over 30 or 50 years, just as their predecessors did. Yet the wines of 2009, for example, were quite delicious as cask samples. They may well age fantastically. On the other hand, they may reach maturity at a younger age.
I think we should exercise caution when it comes to the ageing potential of modern Bordeaux. My guess is that these sleek, modern, ripe wines are not 50 year bottles. I may be wrong: the truth is, no one really knows. Hence the title of my post.
Bordeaux of today is different to Bordeaux of yesterday. Better? Maybe. Equally ageworthy? That’s a gamble. How lucky do you feel?