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Bordeaux 2011: On Your Marks…

If you think of Bordeaux as “Bored-oh” then prepare for hibernation, as the primeurs are upon us. Twitter is already alive with comments and teasers from a number of critics who have deemed it appropriate to head out to Bordeaux before the official week of tasting (they obviously read my guide for critics). These individuals include James Suckling, who is always one of the first to taste, Neal Martin, Jeannie Cho Lee and a handful of others who are perhaps less vocal on Twitter. And of course Parker has been out there already, tasting from the weird seclusion of his hotel. And in general the comments seem more positive than negative; the vintage clearly has to be viewed in the context of 2009 and 2010, which everyone seems to agree wil not be matched by 2011, but the wines are not receiving universal derision. Even Parker, who tweeted a week or two ago “HEADING BACK TO BORDEAUX NEXT WEEK TO TASTE 2011s-ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN THIS VINTAGE IF MY instincts are correct” (the capitals are his – don’t ask me why), a strange judgement considering he had never tasted any of the wines, has made a volte-face with his more recent comments on his bulletin board, where he wrote “the bottom line is that the vintage is better than I expected“.

I would argue that the bottom line is that it is important to taste before judging. It’s not really rocket science is it? Regardless of what anyone might think of Bordeaux, the winemakers and the wines at least deserve that. Indeed, every wine deserves individual and considered analysis, and with that in mind I leave for Bordeaux on Saturday, and will spend five days tasting the latest vintage. Longer would be better, and I already know I won’t be able to taste every big name, but I’m certain I will get a good overview of the vintage and enough tasting experience to report on Bordeaux 2011 commune by commune.

Nevertheless, the news with Bordeaux 2011 is most likely to centre around pricing rather than quality. Those in Bordeaux have likened the vintage to a variety of other recent years, including 2001, 2006 and 2008. If this is the case the prices need to come down in a massive drop from the ridiculous levels seen with the 2009 and 2010 vintages. If the vintage is comparable to – let’s take 2008 – then it makes sense that the prices need to come down to below the level of the 2008s in order to sell, otherwise why would anyone buy 2011 en primeur when they could buy the very similar quality 2008, a finished wine in bottle, for immediate delivery, with the same/better notes and scores, for less money? I doubt, however, that we will see such a price drop. The Bordelais remember all too well the 2008 vintage, which they viewed quite negatively but which I thought good (but not amazing – nothing like the subsequent primeurs tasting 2009 or 2010) and which they priced relatively low (I say relatively because for me most Bordeaux – even after a price drop like we saw in 2008 – is over-priced). Then, mid-campaign, Parker came out with effusive notes, high scores and all of a sudden the prices climbed and primeur sales woke up. Those estates that went early, at a lower price, got burnt. A few wines now trade at many multiples of their release price, but pretty much all climbed in price to some extent. A lot of potential profit was lost.

And in this vintage there is no doubt; Parker has made clear, through his bulletin board, that he is not going to trash the vintage. Comments such as “tasting 2011s was more fun than I thought” and “very rewarding to those who got it right” clearly indicate that, to Parker’s palate, there are some very good wines in this vintage. No proprietor is going to release early at a massively reduced price when there is a potentially high score in the pipeline. I suspect we will not see a hurried, sell-this-drinker’s-vintage-quick campaign, but rather one which waits for Parker more than ever. Most tweets concerning price clearly indicate prices will come down, but the Bordelais are cagey when it comes to how much. I expect a 10-20% drop; I do not expect the levels will come down to 2008 levels. Indeed, Jean-Guillaume Prats of Cos d’Estournel, one of the few who has given some real indication of how he intends to price his wine, has already stated his price will not come down to 2008 levels. Oh dear.

Enough of what others are saying, let’s get back to Bordeaux and Winedoctor. My own plan will be to begin my Bordeaux updates the Tuesday following my return (as for next week, a few blog posts, and no wine of the week on Monday, sorry). My writing will be hectic because as well as updating the Winedoctor site I will be putting the finishing touches to my forthcoming book, a pocket guide to Bordeaux (the title, not yet agreed, may well be something like “A 2012 Pocket Guide to Bordeaux” – imaginative, huh?). This will include a short chapter on Bordeaux 2011 alongside other vintage assessments, Bordeaux news and gossip, château profiles, a regional guide and so on. I’m very excited by it, and have been proof-reading a few chapters this week. One news item I have included is the influx of Chinese investment in Bordeaux in recent years, and with that in mind I have updated two profiles of minor châteaux today, both of which have been acquired by Chinese buyers; these are Laulan-Ducos and Lezongars. It seems so peculiar that, when we spend so much time talking about Bordeaux and the high prices of the wines, in much of the region near-unknown proprietors struggle to sell their wine and run in a near-bankrupt state. When Asian investors walk up with an open chequebook, who can blame them who selling up? As Gavin Quinney wrote on his blog recently, the recent string of acquisitions by the Chinese in Bordeaux to a “get out of jail free card.

Blind Tasting the Rhone

I currently have a lot of samples stacked up for tasting, and most of the bottles hail from the Rhône Valley, although Austria, Portugal and New Zealand are all represented.

When I have a large backlog of samples like this it is always tempting to open a dozen or more and just taste through them, especially when I have a busy period coming up (Bordeaux 2011 – my trip next week, plus all the writing up that will be required immediately on my return). But I resent doing this, because this turns an opportunity for a more thorough examination of the wine, taking my time over it, taking a second pour as required, into nothing better than a slurp’n’spit tasting. What’s the point of a busy winemaker in the Douro or Kamptal sending me a pile of bottles if that’s all I’m going to do?

What I’ve been doing instead is comparing and contrasting, blind tasting two bottles at a time, so that I get something out of the bottles (some useful palate education), but they get something out of me (some focused time). And because my family have been joining in the tasting and assessments (and I’m blown away by the tasting ability of all my three offspring, but my daughter especially – she wipes the floor with her two brothers) I’ve tried to pick out some easy contrasts. Here are the most recent two:

A 2010 Côte-Rôtie vs. 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape (both barrel samples)
This was meant to be easy, and it was. The only possible confusion might have come from the very primary nature of the fruit in both wines, but as both seemed true to (a) the varieties involved and (b) the climate the differentiation didn’t challenge anybody. My three teenagers don’t know their Rôtie from their Pape (yet) but once I gave some hints at which flavours (there was a classically sweet, brown-sugar crumble edge to the Syrah blackberry vs. the roasted-cherry Grenache) and texture (much more viscous in the warmer climate wine) then the wines were identified.

A 2010 Condrieu vs. 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc
Well, here is a pair that demonstrates the humbling effect of blind tasting; I hoped this would be another very easy comparison, but it was not, and indeed I backtracked on my first impressions. The textures were very similar, the acidities low, the aromas and flavours both reticent, at first at least. The Condrieu showed a lick of alcohol that made me think of the south, whereas the Châteauneuf showed a peachy character at first, which made me think of Viognier. But with a little time in the glass the Condrieu opened out to reveal certain aromatic Viognier characteristics, and the Châteauneuf hunkered down into a savage, savoury, rather wild character. I switched around, and got it right. My daughter, of course, once given some hints on Viognier aromas and flavours, spotted it without a hitch.

So this is fun, but also constructive and instructive, on several levels. Not only do I remind myself of the need to be analytical and precise when tasting (which blind tasting encourages I think), I also continue to show my children alcohol as something akin to music, art, theatre, film or whatever, to be enjoyed, mused over, investigated, discussed and respected, rather than as fuel for a binge-derived ‘high’. In each case we have tasted along with dinner, not a role for alcohol I was introduced to as a younger man. Will this mean their teenage years see different interactions with alcohol to those I ‘enjoyed’, one or two of which were very negative indeed? Who knows? I hope so.

The growers were Pierre Gaillard, La Ferme du Mont, François Villard and Domaine de Cristia by the way. Obviously I will write up all the wines as soon as possible, somewhere in the midst of a huge Bordeaux 2011 I suppose!

Two from Folding Hill

What I expected to find when I engaged with Twitter for the first time was a lot of gossip, breaking news stories and naturally the occasional scandal. I didn’t expect to discover somebody like New Zealand winemaker Tim Kerruish.

Tim might be a resident of New Zealand now, where he tends Pinot Noir vines on the northern terraces of Bendigo Creek, Central Otago, but he is a Brit who grew up in the Isle of Man. That’s funny, so did I! Spreading his wings he went on to university, to study medicine. Another coincidence – I did exactly the same! Tim studied at Liverpool University.

Err….hang on a minute. So did I.

Sadly for me, that’s where the similarities end. Our respective periods of study at Liverpool overlapped by only a year, and I never met Tim. And shortly afterwards he hot-footed it over to New Zealand, where he now works in Emergency Medicine, that’s when he isn’t busy with his vines and his wine of course. From his 4 hectares of vines Tim gathers together enough fruit to produce just a few hundred cases of wine every year, sold under the Folding Hill label. The operation is bijou and there is clearly a focus on low intervention and high quality. His domaine is accredited under the Sustainable Viticulture Scheme administered by New Zealand Wine Growers, the fruit is picked by hand, destemmed and fermented in 30-hectolitre vats, with the cap submerged through pigeage or punched down by hand rather than pumping over. Only the best vats are selected, blended and bottled without fining or filtration, and what remains is sold off in bulk.

The wine you are most likely to encounter is the straight Folding Hill cuvée, but thre is also a special selection from the Orchard Block, a small vineyard in the lee of an orchard of old cider apple trees. Thanks to Tim I recently had the opportunity to taste both wines from the 2009 vintage. The fruit for both was harvested on April 16th 2009, and both are closed with a DIAM cork (hurray!) meaning a secure seal and zero chance of cork taint.

Folding Hill

Folding Hill Pinot Noir (Bendigo, Central Otago) 2009: Bottled under DIAM agglomerate cork. A pure, cherry-red tinge in the glass. The nose opens up over half an hour or so to reveal something very relaxed, fruit-dominated and accessible. The style kicks off as bright and strawberryish, but it soon becomes apparent that this is ripe and rich, but happily not sweet or over the top. The plummy fruit is concentrated and lightly savoury, with a little dark chocolate and mushroom polish laid on top. There’s a touch of truffle to it as well; this is certainly no simpleton! The palate has a gentle concentration with a fresh and acidic brightness, showing the mouth-watering tartness of just-ripe raspberry alongside the more savoury tones, and in the finish more challenging hints of pepper, spice and some tannic lick. Lovely stuff this. 16.5/20 (March 2012)

Folding Hill Pinot Noir Orchard Block (Bendigo, Central Otago) 2009: Like the domaine cuvée, bottled under DIAM agglomerate cork. Just 75 cases produced. This has perhaps a touch more concentration on inspection, the core of the wine a little darker, but the hue is still bright and vibrant. The fruit here is slightly more high-toned and elusive in character, but it also has that mushroom and dark chocolate character to it. The truffle isn’t here, but there are slightly wilder, more gamey feathered notes instead. Very solid and forthright on the palate, a much more reticent style than the first wine which is certainly more open and ready. This wine needs more time yet, and it says this more clearly on the finish with a seam of spicy tannin which will keep this wine going in the cellar for years. Savoury, slightly cerebral, and definitely worth a punt. 17/20 (March 2012)

All in all, two very good wines, the first for drinking now, and the second deserving of a year or two in the cellar I think (and I am sure the first could stand up to this as well). Well done Tim!

Taste Bordeaux 2011 with Bibendum

I just received an email from Bibendum entitled “Bibendum Bordeaux 2012 Tasting”. I’m sure they are referring to the 2011 vintage, tasted in 2012, but I did wonder if they weren’t taking an idea from my recent post, Bordeaux En Primeur: An Alternative Guide for Critics, and getting in early with a tasting of next year’s vintage.

Then when I looked at the date I see the tasting in question is taking place in May last year. Hmmm; this is going to be a difficult tasting to get to.

Putting such frivolity aside, I commend Bibendum on their continued efforts to bring the latest Bordeaux vintage to consumers; no longer need you depend on the words of critics and their pronouncements from on high. Unfortunately you do need to be able to get to London on May 9th, I presume this year rather than last, so those living in or near the UK’s capital city are at an obvious advantage. I recommend you go if you can; tastings like these were my introduction to embryonic Bordeaux, and the wines are certainly open to judgement; style of fruit, level of ripeness and quality and integration of tannins are some the key features to look for. Plus, you get to experience wines that may be beyond your usual budget, and there are always older vintages as well as the young. If I wasn’t heading out to Bordeaux for the primeurs themselves this weekend, I would certainly make the effort to attend.

Here is Bibendum’s email in full:

On Wednesday May 9th Bibendum will be hosting London’s largest 2011 Bordeaux En Primeur tasting at the iconic Lord’s Cricket Ground.

With over 100 wines on show, presented by the chateaux owners themselves, this is your best opportunity to taste the wines and form your own judgement on the vintage.

OVER 100 CHATEAUX

This year there will be a record 100 chateaux attending and the list includes Angelus, Figeac, Gazin, Haut Bailly, La Conseillante, Lynch Bages, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases, Montrose, Pichon-Longueville Baron, Troplong Mondot and Suduiraut.

Once again we will be asking every chateau to bring with them both their 2011 vintage and an older wine. Over 150 important clarets for you to taste.

MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND

There has been much talk about the 2011 vintage. There is much debate surrounding the 2011s, but what are the wines really like?

Taste the wines, talk to the chateaux owners and decide for yourself.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW

Tickets cost £40. However, numbers are limited so please order promptly to avoid disappointment.

Bibendum Bordeaux Tasting – Wednesday, 9th May

Date: Wednesday, 9th May 2011 [I am sure they mean 2012 - Chris]
Time: 4pm – 8pm
Venue: Nursery Pavilion, Lord’s Cricket Ground, London, NW8 8QN
Tickets: £40
How to book: sales@bibendum-wine.co.uk or phone 020 7449 4120

Bordeaux En Primeur: An Alternative Guide for Critics

It’s not long now until the frenzy and fury of Bordeaux 2011 kicks off. I will be there, tasting the barrel samples, my seventh year tasting and reporting on the nascent wines at this early stage, my fifth year of travelling to Bordeaux to do it. But for some, I know it might be an exciting first trip to the region to taste. So here’s my eight-point guide to would-be critics – perhaps those looking to fill the shoes of Robert Parker, who must surely retire sometime in the next thirty years – on how to make their mark.

(1) First up, you need to get out there as early as possible. Make sure you hit the primeurs week, and don’t go a week later, all the châteaux will be boarded up. Go earlier, at least a week before everybody else, to make sure you taste the wines first; this will be useful when it comes to point 2, below. If possible go several months earlier, and taste the fermenting must. Even better, make your predictions from a trip out last September, just from tasting the fruit; that way you can be certain your report was filed first. If you missed that opportunity, then consider this; the primeurs visit might be a good opportunity to pass your judgement on the 2012 vintage as well. File next year’s report now!

(2) In your report, use the word “Scoop!” a lot. Remember to include the exclamation mark, this is an integral part of the phrase. Use the word “Scoop!” when reporting your scores, via Twitter if possible. If you are so inclined, and don’t have your own scores, just regurgitate Parker’s. Just be sure to use the word “Scoop!” when you do so. Remember: with every score, there’s a “Scoop!”.

(3) Ignore naysayers who criticise you for travelling out early to “Scoop!” everybody else. Michel Bettane was the main critic of this practice last year, as reported by Decanter here. Fortunately, as the practice is here to stay and Bettane said last year that if it continued “this will be the last year that we play the game” then it seems he won’t be there to bother/criticise you anyway. Provided he sticks to his word, of course.

(4) In your report, there are several key ingredients that cannot be omitted. The first is a comment on the weather during the tastings. If fine and sunny, say so, and comment that this is great for tasting, thus implying your notes and scores are the best and most reliable. If dull, cloudy and wet, make sure the reader is clear just what hard work this has been for you, and how much you have striven to make sure your notes and scores are still the best and most reliable. This is despite the fact that the effect of a change in atmospheric pressure on carbon dioxide solubility – the usual mechanism by which weather is said to affect the taste of wine – is so small as to render such comments absolute drivel. See here for more detail on this.

(5) The next key ingredient of your report is to mention horses, but this must only be done in the context of a visit to Pontet-Canet, or at least driving past Pontet-Canet, or perhaps looking at Pontet-Canet from a distance, from the tasting room of Grand-Puy-Lacoste perhaps. Yes, I know you will see a few horses dotted about the region in other vineyards, on both banks, but you should realise by now that these are rented by the châteaux for primeurs week to fool the visiting journalists. There is a reason the race course in Pomerol was ripped up you know; it’s because the Bordelais were so entertained by their “How many journalists will mention that horse I rented for a week in their reports” sweepstake that nobody was visiting the real horse races.

(6) By no means should you mention how attractive the many attendants at some of the châteaux are, or imply that those châteaux that employ the most beautiful girls might make the best wines. Neal Martin has that aspect of en primeur all sewn up, and you need to make your own mark.

(7) You must, at least twice in your report, mention that there is much more to Bordeaux than the grand cru classé châteaux, that the region is full of unsung properties and overlooked appellations which deserve our interest. And that the region should not be criticised for ludicrously high prices, because that only pertains to the top 1% of the region. Stress that many of the smaller winemakers are struggling to avoid bankruptcy. When it comes to reviewing the wines, however, only taste grand cru classé châteaux. Do not report on little châteaux. That would be a waste of your time. Besides, all the best lunches and dinners are provided at the big-name properties. You aren’t going to be inundated with platters of foie gras and Sauternes if you choose to taste and take lunch at Château No-Name in Blaye, are you?

(8) Finally, on the matter of scores, you must use these. Make sure you score out of 100, as everybody knows Bordeaux drinkers don’t understand anything else. Yes, there are drinkers out there who get the idea that scores themselves are a blunt and flawed tool, and are not an inherent flavour detected in the wine, and there are even some that can get their head round the 20-point or five-star systems, but all these people drink Burgundy so you must not cater for them. Remember to give at least 100 points to two wines – especially weaker wines – as that way you are bound to be the critic with the highest score for those wines, meaning you will get quoted the most. Oh, and remember to write “Scoop!” at the end of your 100-point notes.

That’s my guide; stick to these eight basic rules, and you will be a famous Bordeaux critic in no time.

Carmenere: Bordeaux Saviour, or Rustic Nightmare?

I apologise immediately for the slightly sensationalistic title, but two recent items of news got me thinking about Carmenère in Bordeaux.

Cast your mind back only a week or two to my report entitled Experimental Margaux, a tasting of Margaux experiments organised by Yvon Mau and hosted in London with Richard Bampfield and Paul Pontallier at the helm. There, Pontallier gave Carmenère short shift, saying (as can be found in part 2 of my report if you are interested) that the variety was inherently rustic and, word-for-word, that a good Carmenère “is less rustic than a bad one“. There’s clearly no room for this variety, which originated in Bordeaux, in the Margaux vineyard.

Contrast that with the prevailing opinion at Brane-Cantenac; last October I visited this property (among a few other left-bank châteaux) and, in the process I learnt a lot about the vineyards and the many developments Henri Lurton and Christophe Capdeville have put in place. I’ve made a full report here, and my profile is due a corresponding update (in fact this is already done; it is lined up for publication next week). The highlight of the visit was a grand vertical tasting, starting with the 2000 and continuing forward through to a barrel sample of the 2010, and finishing with a taste of the 2011 Carmenère, a small-volume experiment from vines planted back in 2007 and which have borne fruit since the 2009 vintage. Although the variety has largely disappeared from the region because of difficult ripening (and other problems), Carmenère has been allowed back in at Brane-Cantenac because, in the face of warmer climate, later ripening varieties might be just what Bordeaux needs. Here’s a tasting impression of the wine:

Château Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) Carmenère 2011: A barrel sample (from one of five barrels filled) from the experimental planting of Carmenère on the upper part of the plateau. An amazing violet hue, vibrant yet deep. A very distinctive nose, bright yet concentrated and rich. There is a pile of dense, violet-tinged fruit but this is overlaid with bready-yeasty notes from the fermenting yeast. There are also exotic notes, floral and redolent of white peach and pear along with the dark, still-grapey fruit. The texture is full, with a firm alcoholic trace running through as a warm heat, along with masses of sweet, plump, soft and juicy fruits. On the basis of this tasting this isn’t a variety that would be able to stand alone although it could have something to contribute to a blend. A ripe, sweet, tannin-infused finish. Final alcohol likely to be at least 15.5%. No score.

We know today, with the release of this report, that Capdeville, Lurton & co. are to use the Carmenère I tasted (OK, not the actual mouthful I tasted, but you know what I mean) in the 2011 blend. What started out as an experiment has quickly been commercialised, it seems. Even if it is only 0.5% of the final blend, Carmenère is definitely ‘in’ at Brane-Cantenac.

So what is Carmenère? The saviour of Bordeaux as climate change continues, or the rustic grape of Pontallier’s nightmares?

Perfection: The New Norm?

Although there are nay-sayers who claim that Parker’s influence is on the wane, anecdotal evidence gathered during many visits to Bordeaux (so I suppose I am referring specifically to Parker’s influence for this region, rather than others he has written about in the past) strongly suggests otherwise. I have sat and listened to famous figures in Bordeaux describe their success measured in Parker points, and to rank themselves within their appellation based on how their Parker scores measured up against their peers. When Bordeaux proprietors use a critic’s scores to benchmark their success, and track improvement in the wine across a sequence of vintages, you know you have an influential critic on your hands. One who not only has the clout to influence the purchasing decisions of the consumer, but to influence the style of wine made within the region.

Parker undoubtedly has changed Bordeaux, in many respects for the better. The wines have certainly improved; I think there is probably a broader spread of desirable (perhaps not an ideal choice of words, but I’m trying to avoid using ‘better’ or ‘higher quality’, for reasons which will become apparent in one moment) wines coming out of the region today than there were 20 years ago. The story at so many châteaux – such as my recently revitalised Rauzan-Ségla profile – is one of regeneration, refurbishment and even rebirth that this has to be true. And this applies to many petits châteaux, as well as at the grand cru classé level.

But with a move upwards in quality – there, I said it – there has come also a change in style; this is why I shy away from describing modern Bordeaux as simply ‘better’. Bordeaux today is not the wine it once was. The Pontet-Canet of the 2009 vintage is not just a more convincing version of the 1994; today Bordeaux is ruled by richer, creamier wines, with slicker fruit, and more slippery textures. The winemaking has changed. The style has changed. It has, in many cases, changed to please certain palates. Or rather, one certain palate. When your success, and your sales, are measured in Parker points, that is inevitable.

We have seen some good examples of the benefit to the proprietors of garnering high praise (by which I mean high scores) from Parker within the last week, with the publication of his 2009 scores. There was a veritable feeding frenzy; some bloggers cried ‘scoop!’ (a word that always calls to mind the writings of Evelyn Waugh, rather than any hint of journalistic success) as they published the scores, with a focus on 19 (or was it 16 – there seems to be some confusion, and I’m not feigning apathy when I declare that I really can’t be bothered totting them up for myself) 100-pointers. Wide-eyed Parker followers managed to crash the erobertparker.com server as they scrambled to get hold of the scores, forcing a subsequent email-apology from “The eRobertParker.com Technical Team” (not from Parker himself, note). And naturally the prices rocketed; in the UK Smith-Haut-Lafitte – for example – went from £60 to £141 overnight as a result of its high score.

The conclusion – from the behaviour of the score-touting proprietors, price-gouging retailers and blood-crazed consumers – is to conclude that Parker still has a strong relevance to Bordeaux. Indeed he does. But admitting that a critic has relevance is not a conclusion that they are the sole, unquestioned, universal palate to which we must all reverentially yield. There is no denying that he moves the market, but he moves the market for a section of buyers, not all buyers. There are many Bordeaux buyers out there who have independent thought and have the confidence to identify that their palate and Parker’s are not one and the same. This is as important as ever with the 2009 vintage. The aforementioned stylistic shift in Bordeaux has been accentuated in the 2009 vintage; when writers use words such as “opulent” or “hedonistic” for these wines these are not simple metaphors. The wines really do have this style; the term that I thought fitted best was “velvety” (which just goes to illustrate how difficult putting a wine into words can be…..which is why scores were introduced, surely) but you could just as easily settle for Parker’s “glycerine”. The 2009 vintage is one that that has given us all more turbo-charged, glycerine-infused, unctuously “perfect” wines than ever before, so perhaps no wonder Parker refers to 2009 as “unquestionably the greatest Bordeaux vintage I have ever tasted“.

For those who prefer savoury, more classically styled wines, however, this is perhaps the worst vintage ever. And although I would place myself in neither the classically-savoury nor the sweetly-modern camp (I can see some pleasure in Bordeaux in all its forms….even the slightly fat and unctuous ones from time to time, as well as the drier more savoury types), I just want to give some recognition out to the lovers and drinkers of old Bordeaux. If you can remember when 89 was considered a strong score that really meant something, when Smith-Haut-Lafitte wasn’t ranked the same as Latour, when the word “scoop” wasn’t so over-used, when score inflation hadn’t crammed 20-ish wines to the very extremes of scoring (time to press the 100-point reset button, surely?), when scores didn’t have so much influence on whether or not you were the critic most likely to be quoted on the shelf-talker, when supposed ‘perfection’ wasn’t The New Norm, when tasting notes had more influence than numbers, and when there was more respect for the individuality of one’s palate, I just want you all to know that I hear you. I know you’re out there. Hold strong. You are not alone.