Eric Zwiebel MS, wine director at the Michelin-starred Samling Hotel in Windermere in the UK’s Lake District, gives his expert opinion on the current state of play in Bordeaux.
What do you feel is the current reputation of Bordeaux in the world of fine wine?
If there’s one city in France that is known for wine, it’s Bordeaux, and it’s had this very special reputation for many years. But right now, there is a general drop in consumption.
What’s behind that fall?
It’s something that’s happened since the arrival of “new” countries, with the rise of the New World, but also in other parts of the Old World, and in other regions of France such as the Southwest and the Languedoc-Roussillon.
When you look back to the 1980s, the market wanted powerful, structured, and oaky wines, like most of the famous châteaux from Pauillac, St-Julien, St-Estèphe, Margaux, Pomerol, St-Emilion, and Sauternes. Prices began to rise, and that damaged the image of Bordeaux. There was a big push for exports in Asia, the US, and parts of Europe. The premiers crus were sold to the very richest, and everything else went to new consumers looking for low prices.
But since the Asian slow down, things have become more difficult for Bordeaux, and consumers in general have been leaving it behind.
How should Bordeaux address the situation?
To attract a young generation of consumers, the wines need to be easier to sell, and I would suggest four ideas need to be developed. Bordeaux should look at introducing more single-varietal labels. In viticulture, they should develop organic and biodynamic farming, and, in winemaking, they should use more amphorae and cement tanks and focus more on freshness. Finally, it would be good to see labelling that is funny and fresh.
Which parts of Bordeaux do you feel are working well?
We need to be more adventurous, with appellations such as Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Côtes de Bourg, Ste-Foy-Bordeaux, Ste-Croix-du-Mont, Moulis, Listrac, and Côtes de Blaye. All of these have some great wines that can be very attractive.
Which Bordeaux producers would you particularly recommend?
My selection of a few of these estates would include:
Médoc: Château Greyssac; Château Haut Condissas
Haut-Médoc: Château du Taillan; Château Citran; Château Belle Vue; Château Micalet
St-Estèphe: Château Beau-Site; Château Phélan Ségur; Château Graves de Pez
Pauillac: Osamu Uchida; Château Pibran; Château Larose Trintaudon
St-Julien: Clos du Jaugueyron
Listrac: Château Fourcas Hosten; Château Lestage; Château Clarke
Moulis: Château Maucaillou; Château Poujeaux; Château Chasse-Spleen
Margaux: Château Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre; Château des Graviers
Entres de Mers: Château Brondelle
Graves: Château Le Sartre; Clos Floridène; Château Nairac (sweet wine)
Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux: Clos Puy Arnaud; Domaine de l’A; Château d’Aiguilhe
Coteaux du Castillon: Château Beynat
Francs Côtes de Bordeaux: Château Cru Godard
Côtes de Bourg: Château Falfas
St-Emilion: Château La Grave Figeac; Château Haut-Segottes
What are your hopes for the future of Bordeaux?
I would hope that in future Bordeaux wine will be back on our table and not just be viewed as a piece of art!