Grand Cru tasting leaves me scratching my head.
Bordeaux are supposed to be the finest, most refined, subtle, quietly complex wines in the world. At the 2008 Vintage trade tasting hosted January 21st at San Francisco's Palace Hotel by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, I discovered to my disappointment that the 2008 red Bordeaux are uninteresting because their crisp tannnins lack the balance of fruit. Age will soften the not-overdone tannins, but how can it reveal invisible fruit?
This is in contrast to the 2006s, which while they had stronger tannins to the point where tasting them was almost painful, yet at the same time they showed such depth and richness and density and complexity that you could easily see how age will soothe and reveal.
But not the 2008s. None of the reds charmed me, disarmed me, or rose above blandness, in my humble opinion. The St. Emilions showed slightly more fruit, as did the St.-Juliens -- or any fruit at all, really. I still wouldn't cross the street for them, or cross the room.
These are solid brands, too: Château Batailley, Château Beau-Séjour Bécot, Château de Rayne Vigneau, Château Doisy-Daëne, Château Grand-Mayne, Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Château Haut-Bailly, Château La Tour Blanche, Château
|Ch. Leoville Barton|
Plainly I am not an experienced taster of young Bordeaux. I didn't see anyone else wrinkling their noses or looking disappointed, so maybe it's just me. But I love Lynch-Bages, and the representative from that area (there was only one Lynch-Bages, I don't remember which) showed me nothing at all. The best reds poured were merely tolerable.
The whites, by contrast, were just fine, thank you very much. The Sauv Blancs, and the SB/Semillon blends, were good. The Sauternes were rich and sweet, complex and delicious, toe-curlers, every one -- not a loser in the bunch.
And I might be, though style and approach should not be excuses for a lack of flavor and depth. "Subtle" is supposed to be a virtue, not an excuse. I understand the French downplay fruit because theirs are beverage wines, not cocktail wines -- but this is ridiculous!
I was vastly amused to bump into Miguel Boscana, of Rosenblum Cellars, who poured his own disdain on the Bordeaux for utter lack of fruit. These wines, of course, represent the complete opposite of Rosenblum's fruit-forward approach to Zinfandels. He insisted that the French don't know how to, or haven't the weather for, or possibly lack the taste for, fruit in their wines.
French red Bordeaux are, it's true, a complete crap shoot for moderately active American wine drinkers: At their best they are stunning; on average they are disappointingly bland.
What am I missing?