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Archive for November 2010

The Bordeaux / Burgundy Minefield

We can't call ourselves Bordeaux and Burgundy specialists, though I think our selection will grow as the company grows more generally, and once our online shop is (imminently) launched. Funnily enough the team love Burgundy, and whilst we probably have a more complex relationship with Bordeaux, it's certainly a region I have visited several times. Moreover we are doing brilliantly with our Bottle Apostle Graves 2005 (£15) made for us by Chateau du Seuil. So what are the snags to stocking Bordeaux and Burgundy?

Firstly there is the complex "open" market which means that well heeled individuals are often buying from the same sources as retailers, which means that outside of the very well established merchants with large buying power, there isn't much of a customer base to encourage us to dive in head first.

Claret might not be the go-to region for all of our groovy South Hackneyite wine lovers; Burgundy, and particularly Pinot Noir is a bit more hip. But there are still problems. The price rises over the last few years mean that we are pushing £40 for village wines (ie not Premier Crus) from the best locations (eg Gevrey Chambertin) and best producers. And this is generally for pretty young vintages too. It takes some effort to find much older than 2006 in reds, and similarly our Meursault spot on the list is empty whilst we find something younger than a 2008.

Bordeaux meanwhile suffers from being either a bit old school in some of our customers' minds, either in marketing terms or through being rather drier and savoury than some reds with more tannin and acidity. But perhaps the bigger barrier is placed in front of Chris and I as "professional" buyers: much of the Bordeaux that we get to taste is in general tastings where we are tasting wines from around the world. And if you try a Claret, then a Brunello di Montalcino, you can guess which is going to suffer by comparison. The trouble is that even we separate out the Bordeaux wines, I find that I'm always getting a question mark of "value for money" hanging over them - at all price levels.  Of course the wines we do have are exceptions: the aforementioned "House Claret", 2004 Haut-Bages Liberal Pauillac (£34) etc. But we're running out of our excellent 1998 Chateau Bellefont-Belcier St Emilion Grand Cru (£38) and I'm struggling to find a worthy 2000 or 2001 to replace it.

But we keep battling; a recent lucky break with a private source landed us some Francois Parent Chambolle Musigny (£35) and Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens (£45) from the great 1999 vintage are drinking beautifully and do provide a wine experience worthy of the price tags. So keep your eyes open...

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