My New York days are numbered and I am busy packing up all my stuff, part of which is going back to Berlin where I will spend the winter and part of which is going into storage here in NYC where I will return to search for a new home in the spring. This unexpected and unwelcome change is thankfully not the only thing happening now. On Sunday November 13th I am flying to BDX (Bordeaux) for a week of research, or as I sometimes call it re-search for a series of articles about BDX for the Grape Collective website. Why?
BDX and I go back a long way. In the spring of 1981 when I was a barman at the Tate Gallery Restaurant in London I tasted my first high-end red Bordeauxs (1971 Château Cheval Blanc was the most decisive experience) and was instantly fascinated. However, my love affair with these wines has been stormy with moments of complete elation, but also some painful shocks leading to periods of virtual abstinence. Of course, the dramatic price rises also dampened my enthusiasm for these wines, but that’s nothing specific to me. Most people have price limits for an everyday bottle and for special bottles, and when your favorite wines break them you either reluctantly abandon them or ration yourself. She who bought herself a 12 bottle case of a particular chateau in every good vintage now either buys a 6 pack (which have become very common since the post 2000 price rises) or buys none at all. This – the erosion of traditional markets and their replacement with nouveau riche markets – is unquestionably a challenge for BDX. The same must also be said of the almost complete disconnect between the market for the top 2-3% of the region’s production and the rest. These are subjects worthy of investigation.
For me there are other, more important reasons that I’ve decided to shortly return to BDX and one of them is pictured above. I got to know Damien Sartorius of Châteaux Léoville Barton, Langoa Barton (both in St. Julien) and Mauvesin Barton (in Moulis) last year in New York and stunned by how much he knew given his age. He is just 26. From the beginning he was asking me when I was coming to BDX and the better I got to know him the more certain it became that I would take him up on his offer to help me write something new about BDX. My goal is to shatter the unquestioned “truths” that are actually just oft-repeated myths and to hang all the boring journalistic clichés out to dry. What Damien is – a winegrower and winemaker with a profound understanding of all the technical issues relating to the production of red BDX with an extremely cosmopolitan appreciation of wine – made me decide in advance to give him a major role in the story.
Of course, every story needs to develop a life of its own, and my story will acquire it’s own dynamic very quickly once I get started. The flights are booked. During the next few days a program for my week in BDX will begin taking shape, then I will start work on the first of the series of stories I will be writing for the Grape Collective website. Of course, that is where my stories about the hipster somms of NYWC (New York Wine City) appeared. As in that series I won’t hesitate to say exactly what I think, and I shall also adopt an “anthropological” approach to my subject. However, BDX isn’t NYC and the nature of the land and the culture of the region will also shape my story.
To get me thinking I will be tasting and drinking some red BDX, as I did the other day at Racines on Chambers Street with Damien (Thank you Frederick Wildman for the invitation). That first serious taste in a long time immediately connected with my memories of that first Close Encounter of the Third Kind back in the London of 1981, it made me think back to all the sensational bottles that kept my love affair with BDX alive, and made me remember how for decades I yearned for a world in which I could afford to drink top BDX wines at my own expense from time to time. One thing I now know for certain is that this “better” world is never coming. The question at the front of my mind is therefore if there’s also some good news from BDX. Watch this space to find out!