Trial by Jury: Aged 'Value' Bordeaux

by Chuck Hayward

Trial by Jury: Aged 'Value' Bordeaux

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 1st, 2011

To drink, one must pull corks

Over the course of the past few months, evidence has been put forth that Bordeaux, as Rodney Dangerfield might say, “ain’t got no respect”. It's an observation that Matt Kramer made in a recent Wine Spectator piece as well as by Eric Asimov in the The New York Times. These articles attempt to discern the "whys" of it all. For instance, why is it that Bordeaux doesn’t get much love these days? But we aren’t asking that question at JJ Buckley, as our third annual tribute to Bordeaux sold out in record time, once again.

Each year, our tasting highlights one of Bordeaux's frequently forgotten attributes—they are wines of incredible value. And this year, we decided to investigate another important quality of Bordeaux—the capacity of Bordeaux's flavors and aromas to be transformed with time in the cellar. Spanning vintages from 1998-2003, with prices ranging from $25-$45 per bottle, this tasting was a great opportunity to examine the evidence firsthand.

The verdict? They were holding up magnificently! Going though over two dozen wines from the Left and Right Banks along with a few satellite appellations, everyone remarked on how well the wines were showing. In fact, there wasn’t a dud in the lineup. It was clear to all that wines don’t have to be grand cru classe to reap the benefits of aging.

The scene of the crime: La Folie Lounge

Some high points included a lithe and silky 2001 Rocher-Bellevue-Figeac that was seamless and mellow. As expected, the 2000 vintage showed its pedigree with each example exhibiting power and intensity and bottlings from Haut Marbuzet and Du Terte performing above their punching weight. The 2000s were just beginning to show a modicum of softness and breadth but clearly have the potential to go a few decades. Drinking them now is a bit of infanticide but if you like them young, make sure to splash in a decanter.

The biggest surprise, however, proved to be the performance of a few wines from not-so-well-regarded vintages, such as 2001 and 2002. The ‘01s displayed the elegance and finesse that come from ten years of aging, as each example was poised and balanced, hitting that plateau that can make Bordeaux so seductive. Many critics consider 2002 a further step down from the other assembled vintages, yet the ‘02s proved to be a revelation. Both the La Confession and Rol Valentin had a ripe purity of fruit that provided more power and richness than expected from a moderate vintage. These two vintages should be explored for well-priced mature wines.

What has impressed me about Bordeaux is not only the region’s ability to reinvent itself but its capacity to surprise. This tasting was focused on so-called value wines that celebrated terroir and the influence of vintage in a clear fashion to the amazement of seasoned professionals and enthusiastic consumers. Can’t wait to see what delights lie in wait for next year’s event!