As I sit here drinking a reasonably priced and delicious bottle of 2012 Chateau Teyssier, a tasty and affordable Right Bank Bordeaux, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for this wine region and its behemoth Chateau’s. While still widely purchased and drank, even enamoured about when talking about the best wines of the region, it’s not hard to notice the steady decline in interest from sommeliers, the increased quality of Bordeaux style blends in other wine regions globally and the general lack of interest from a younger generation who feel, and rightfully so, that the wines of Bordeaux are just damn expensive.
Factoring in that Bordeaux is a maritime climate with distinctly different quality levels from vintage to vintage and then consider that the top vintages go for double the price of the poor ones and all of a sudden it’s clear why the average person doesn’t drink Bordeaux on a regular basis. We all want to drink good wines, interesting wines and ones that go well with food but when it comes to Bordeaux that’s just not attainable for most of us. We all see the bottle wizards online posting the most divine 1961 Haut Brion or 1982 Chateau Latour and that’s great that these people are able to drink this bottled history, but for the rest of us who’re not buying cellars at auction for reduced prices, or seeking out that perfect provenance bottle from the chateau, Bordeaux, especially aged Bordeaux just isn’t plausible. In recent years 2014-2016 wine quality has been up considerably. En primeur has even rebounded, given the quality of wines in 2015-16, which helped overall sales. Nevertheless, I question if it will be enough to lure a younger generation of wine drinkers towards the region. Let’s not forget that the majority of Bordeaux wine drinkers now are our parents and grandparents who grew up with far more affordable prices for these wines, even when inflation is taken into consideration.
While many Bordeaux wineries continue to invest considerably in new technological solutions for their often vast vineyards, many other high-cost wines have gone back to basics. That means hand-picking grapes, organic/biodynamic practices and low-intervention in the winemaking process. To be fair, the difficulty of managing organic/biodynamic vines in Bordeaux, where disease pressure is high, does present problems and this is a part of the reason why so few have adopted this style of viticulture.
I’m not suggesting that Bordeaux wines will disappear entirely or that there’s not a market for them, but I do question and wonder where the region is going and if they will be able to retain such success well into the future. The Judgement of Paris showed that the wines of Bordeaux are not invincible, is a new judgement on the quality of Bordeaux wines imminent? Let us not forget that “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” Is Bordeaux doing enough to change with the times?
What are your thoughts on Bordeaux? I personally really enjoy the style of a lot of Right Bank Bordeaux wines, such as the Chateau Teyssier, which is affordable, delicious and great for short term drinking. That being said I think they’re falling behind when it comes to a young generation of drinkers with more selection than ever to choose from. It will be interesting to see what changes if any will be required for Bordeaux to stay at the forefront of global wine quality and sales.