Recently I listened to a conversation between a sommelier and the director of sales for Chateau Palmer. The history of the Chateau was fascinating, sold by Madame Marie Bumet de Ferrier in 1814 during a stagecoach ride for 100,000 francs to an English General, Charles Palmer, who stayed in France after the Napoleonic wars. Palmer tried to make a go of the wine business until 1844 when his money problems forced him to turn the property over to his bankers. The bank did little with the land until they sold it to the Pereire Brothers in 1853. At that time the Pereire family was involved in a battle with the Rothschilds to see who would be the biggest dog is the French wine business, and all suffered from Chateau envy.
At this point the sommelier asked about Chateau Palmer’s status as a third growth, which of course was not to imply that the sales rep had not washed in several days, but that she was looking for a lower cost. Unfazed, and using a book that I will need to find and read titled, “What Price Bordeaux,” the sales director went on to describe the terroir geography, the layout of the vineyards, and how there is really no relationship between the classification system, quality and price. The wine is worth the price, which is about $300 to $500 a bottle depending on the vintage.
Now before I hear too many ooohs and ahhhs I’d love to tell you I was at the table with these two, enjoying the wine in a five star Michelin restaurant in Pairs, tasting a bottle of 1961 Chateau Palmer. I’d love to tell you that, truely I would. Truth was I was listening to a podcast on my treadmill in my basement, banging out my three miles staring at a green wall.
The podcasts are produced by Sommelier Elizabeth Schneider and her husband who goes by M.C. Ice. The programs are called Wine for Normal People. Their moniker is “the podcast for people who like wine but not the snobbery that goes with it.” The podcast is perfect for my time on the treadmill or exercise bike. I’d recommend it for anyone with an interest in wine and 30 minutes to an hour to listen.
Now back to the table because the subject that I most enjoyed listening to them talk about was how Italians are far better at marketing than the French, or basically how to circumvent your own DOC. For example, with the Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino, its the Rosso that pays the producers bills while the Brunello ages. I never knew how fierce the rivalry between the French and Italian winemakers was until they talked about how the new super tuscans were similar to Bordeaux blends.
I had never connected the two before but makes perfect sense. Right off the bat I’m not saying they are anything like each other; the tuscans are all muscle and power while the Bordeaux are feminine and elegant. But they are similar in thought and design. And just to make it clear, I’m talking comparably priced wines, not a $3k bottle vs. $10.
It just so happens that our wine this week is a super Tuscan, the Duca di Saragnano Vecciano Toscana 2008. Now this wine was very close to a Bordeaux in taste. The Duca is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese. Take the Sangiovese and replace with Petite Verdot or Cabernet Franc and this wine might speak French. The color is intense, oh lord, RUBY red, I need another color name. The nose is more restrained than most Italians, with ripe fruit and a hint of vanilla, very enjoyable. You get that dry mouth feel that good Italian wines have, with excellent tannins that I found very tasty, and a nice finish. Remembering back to some of the Bordeaux I recently reviewed, yeah, these wines are incredibly similar.
So here is your assignment; go out and buy a bottle of Bordeaux and a super tuscan, make sure they are around the same price. Get four people together with some cheese and crackers. Covering the bottles is optional unless you fear bias, then pour, sniff, taste and compare. Consider adding some fruit and see how the taste changes, trust me your wine experience will improve with mindful drinking. Let me know about you experience, I’d really like to know.
Also, check out Wine for Normal People and let me know what you think.
“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.”