My Favorite Médoc
I’ve got Bordeaux on the brain and, lo and behold, I’m not the only one. A few things are afoot: the 2009 futures tasting approaches fast and furious (much anticipation) and Eric Asimov’s recent Wines of the Times tasting of the lower-priced crus bourgeoises was well-timed and broad in its reach. Unlike most Burgundy, Bordeaux – the masculine wine of France, adored by Brit and German alike since the eighteenth century – historically has represented a better value and a better bet on cellaring. And this has held true particularly in less-fêted vintages. In fact, some of the very first full cases I ever purchased were from the 1998 and 2001 vintages, Chateau Cantemerle and Chateau Pontet-Canet. At the time, right under the nose of my oblivious landlord, I’d strung off a part of our building’s stone cellar and constructed makeshift wine racks. The bottles were indeed values back then, and I cherished going downstairs with my cup of coffee on Sunday mornings and inspecting my holdings. (Heck, even at the cheap end of the spectrum, a Bordeaux label says, albeit groggily, “Laisse-moi, I need my beauty sleep.”)
Now more than ever, I seek out values wherever and whenever I can. The designer names of the First-Growths and the Napa cult cabernets mean less and less. (Don’t get me wrong: Bring me a bottle of 1987 Spring Mountain Cabernet, and we will talk.) Since the 2005 vintage, I have to agree with Eric Asimov that Bordeaux prices have skyrocketed to such an extent that exploring the better values and, quite frankly, interesting wines from, say, southern Italy and the Beaujolais, seems a wiser move. There is little need anymore to scrounge around the lesser crus on the Gironde estuary. All that said (!!) I confess an old-fashioned affinity for Médoc, especially 2005 Chateau Greysac ($13). I love its dark aromas of pencil lead, cherries, blackcurrant and plums, underpinned by austere, but never unappealing, notes of cedar, herbs, tobacco and bell pepper. Here is a wine where the Cabernet Franc does what it was always supposed to do: to etch complexity and nuance onto the folds of velvet fruit that represent a headline vintage like ’05.
While this wine would lend itself well to meaty dishes, you already know my penchant for lighter fare. I’d just as easily retire with it to a comfortable chair and nurse it with a good novel, film or diverting after-dinner conversation. If I had to label it, I’d call it my “library” wine.
No wonder the British also loved Port.