What if wine was a religion, (and I’m not saying it isn’t, so don’t get all fired up with me)? I mean we have all the fixin’s of a great religion: millions of devoted followers, charismatic leaders, a great tradition. Robert Parker could be our Pope, Jancis Robinson could be our Archbishop of Canterbury, and Rudy Kurniawan could be our Judas. There would be saints; Mondavi, the twins Ernest and Julio Gallo, Rothschild, Winiarski, Barrett, Lehmann, Biondi-Santi, and Swift. We have wine bibles, songs about wine, wine holidays, and old pagan wine gods.
Now, I’m only writing from a Christian point of view here, and I mean no disrespect, but wine as a religion would look a great deal like any major religion. That is with one major exception, to date, no wine geek has bombed a beer garden, so followers are mellow and non-violent.
All great religions have Holy Sites, places of significance to the faithful, where miracles have occurred, or great religious buildings have been constructed. Wine has these sites all over the world; the United States, Italy, Spain Argentina, Australia, Germany, South Africa, Chile, Portugal, and France. And we make pilgrimages to these places in the form of wine tourism or we simply buy wine from these places and pretend we are there.
Where would wine’s Jerusalem be? Well, we could run a contest but if you’re a wine drinker you know the answer. It’s Bordeaux! No other place fires the mind with anticipation of greatness, no other region is more powerful, more commercially cleaver, more important as a source of complex age worthy wines. 700 million bottles flow from here every year, not to mention some of the world’s priciest. It’s Rome, Jerusalem, and Mecca all rolled up in a French chapo!
I programmed the WineDar to take me to the very heart of Bordeaux. About half way between the North Pole and the Equator, between the Gironde, Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, with the Atlantic to the west we stopped in Saint-Emilion. Now, I might cause a fist fight, or at the least a lot of bad words in French, calling Saint-Emilion the heart of Bordeaux, but if you look at a map it looks like the center to me. Some will argue that Medoc is the heart, or perhaps Graves. Certainly the wines of Medoc are more famous, but in WineDar I trust, so it’s Saint-Emilion for Le Grand Chai 2010.
Now, I had a certain Ah-Ha moment with this wine, a turning point in my wine tasting life where I think I began to understand French Wine. Normally I like robust wines, and this wine certainly was powerful. Not like a weightlifter’s strength, think more like a full Philharmonic Orchestra; strong and powerful, yet elegant and refined.
Right from the start this wine had me hooked with a beautiful nose. It was just a purely wonderful combination of cinnamon and plumbs. As is the case with Bordeauxs, Le Grand Chai had the mandatory deep ruby color. I’d love to simply describe the taste as great, maybe toss in an awesome, but wine always seems to require all the other stuff that no one really gets. I’m not going to do it, the wine tasted awesome! I wish I had purchased more; the wine will age and keep until 2020. The grape was Merlot, not blended, which is a bit unusual for Bordeaux. This will be the second Merlot that I have tasted that has earned a place of high esteem in my wine-tasting memory banks, I’m flat out impressed. I have acquired a California Merlot that is supposed to be quite special that I plan to review very soon, so we have a bit of a competition going here.
I doubt that there is a reader who has not tasted a Bordeaux wine. No I’m not going to give you any recommendations, go to a good wine store, give a price range, and ask for Bordeaux. Really big or really good wine shops will break down the region to sub-regions: Medoc, Haut-Medoc, Pomerol, Saint-Emilion and Graves. Don’t ignore the lesser districts where you could find some absolute diamonds in the rough, places like Listrac and Moulis, Ente-Deux-Mers (between two seas) or the area called the Cotes, a good wine guy will guide you. Seriously, you can go nuts with Bordeaux wine; vintage charts, Classifications, First and Super Seconds and Lesser Growth, but don’t. I recommend you just buy a bottle, or if you’ve got the cash, a mixed case of several of the sub-regions and, explore, learn, enjoy and worship the wine of your choice.