I recently wrote this for a two-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Bordeaux scholarship program the Court of Master Sommelier’s is offering. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
“The soil in Saint-Estèphe is primarily gravel with a clay base; in Saint-Émillion, Cheval Blanc has an abnormally high percentage of Cabernet Franc, while Chasse-Spleen is thought by experts to be one of the finest estates in Moulis; Lych-Bages’ second wine is called “Haut-Bages Averous” and Château D’Yquem does as many as 13 passes through the vineyard, in order to pick their grapes at the optimal time. The word “Médoc” comes from the latin medio aquae or “between waters”.
For me, at this stage in my education, this is my understanding of Bordeaux. I learned it all from books, websites, message boards, conversations with colleagues and friends. I comprehend Bordeaux as a collection of hard facts. I can use this information to craft a wine list or to pepper my table-side banter, but it does not mean that I know Bordeaux.
Je sais Bordeaux, mais je ne le connais pas Bordeaux. On paper, I can tell you all about the classed growths of 1855, Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, and then some. But my knowledge of Bordeaux has a horizon that can only be surpassed by tasting a ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grape off the vine, running a fistful of alluvial gravel through my fingers, tasting with the winemakers in their chai, or walking through the door of a great Château. I want to know what Bordeaux means to the Bordelais. Who are the people who make some of the world’s greatest wines? What do they value? How does that appear in the glass? What aspects, beyond the hard facts, make Bordeaux a unique, singular experience in wine? What is the je ne sais quoi de Bordeaux?
That’s not something you can get from any book, and tasting these wines outside of the presence of the people and land that crafted them only communicates fractions of their magic. I would like to know the vérité of Bordeaux, and not just the idea. I have the humblest hope that I will be accepted to this program and be permitted to answer my questions.”
Coming soon: Rosé and my involvement in Cory Cartwright’s 32 days of Natural Wine.