The most difficult thing about wine is to discover, and fast, what kind of wine lover you are. If you have heard about the Domaine Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin, or about the Château Rayas in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, you better know that when I started as a professional in the world of wine, at the beginning of the year 1995, nobody was interested in those wines, nobody, and I found the door wide open at Rousseau, where I started buying with the vintage 1994. Rayas came a little later as I was not in charge of the Rhône Valley, my partner during those years, was.
Rousseau wines were left aside as Denis Mortet or Philippe Charlopin took over, pleasing the wine critics, through their more concentrated, extracted and oaky wines.
Emmanuel Reynaud, of Château Rayas, went out of fashion during the nineties, as his wines were not concentrated enough to perform during worldwide blind wine tastings, also because wines had the reputation to be much better when his uncle was doing them. It is funny to notice that several “major” wines his uncle did, were actually made by him, like the 1998 or the 2001, as Jacques Reynaud died suddenly in 1997.
Fundamentally, Eric Rousseau or his father Charles, Emmanuel Reynaud and his uncle, have been doing similar wines for the last fifty years, it is the world that has changed around them, they have remained faithful to a traditional approach of wine and, when show business has taken over wine tradition, they have found themselves ousted from the wine nomenclature.
When they were considered to be the best, in the sixties and seventies, people use to open bottles after a minimum of ten years of cellaring, but, at the end of the nineties, the world of wine became similar to the world of fashion, something new had to happen every year. In the course of less than fifteen years, wines have been successively over-oaked, then over extracted and finally over-ripe.
Today, wines have come back to their original function, please the nose and the palate and be drunk till the last drop. That is why the good old classics are back in town.
What is the purpose of this short story?
Enhance the fact that you can like a wine nobody searches for. You only need to have a clear vision of what you want and, even more, of what you don’t want.
A 100 points wine is only a trophy if the wine does not speak to you. A 91 points wine is marvelous if it displays the kind of aromas that you like, if it sings a melody you want to listen to, if its sensuality meats yours. I do not want to drink the wines of Bernard Magrez, owner of Château Pape-Clément* and Château Fombrauge* among several other estates, even if I had them for free. They do not meet my esthetic or cultural criteria; I reject their conception (I also condemn, but this has nothing to do with the subject, the confusion they produce in the consumers mind about what a French wine should or should not be).
Ducru-Beaucaillou, Figeac or Haut-Batailley, are some of the referential Bordeaux wines for my taste. Vintage after vintage, freshness, complexity, precision and elegance, which are the four most important words in my wine vocabulary, have always been there: Through the scorching heat of 2003, through the amazing volume and power of 2009, through the delicacy and class of the vintage 2004, through the slick, almost skeletal structure of the vintage 2008, every time, balance has been achieved and harmony has been reached. I understand Leoville-Las-Cases can deliver here and there almost perfect wines, but, whether the wine is perfect or not, it does not talk to me, I pass my turn, I find it boring, I say I, not you. I have never liked Cos d’Estournel and I feel perfectly fine not having one in my cellar, and if it gets 200 points, I couldn’t care less. I leave the bottles to those who can enjoy them, so what?
That is what I want you to obtain from yourselves, a conscious choice. I love the wines of Drouhin-Laroze, I love the wines of François Mikulski, I love the wines at Domaine Arlaud and at Domaine Cécile Tremblay. I taste the wines of Domaine Trapet, I understand how refined they are, but they lack a little strength, I understand the wines of Roulot, but I find the expression of the different plots he has, too similar, a little like if the wine method overpowered the soil expression. I hear people talking about blasphemy, I don’t care, and I am free.
Price also is an issue, and a big one. Haut-Batailley is on my list as, not only do I like what the wine has to say, but I also appreciate the fact that I will not hesitate to open bottles to please my friends, as its price is SO reasonable.
Availability is also an issue. I don’t want to pay 8 times the price Jean-François Coche-Dury charges for his wines, as, if it is true he is a great producer of Meursault, he is certainly not five times greater than Mikulski, not even two, and maybe, in a real blind tasting, which means the same level of wine and the same vintage, I bet most of the people that pretend to know so much, would be deeply embarrassed.
Madoff was once a superman but the world discovered it was all fake. Ausone* 2001 is not a great wine even if it is supposed to be the wine of the vintage for you know who. Cheval Blanc 2001 same, Latour 2001 same again. If the wines were tasted blind, things would be different, as the truth is only in the glass.
You too, feel free, taste what we have to offer, compare with what you can find here and there, and go for what you have decided is good for you.
* I usually admire what Ausone achieves, but not in 2001. I have tasted two or three vintages of Pape-Clément that I have liked, especially lately, but I have a long record of vintages I have deeply disliked. Fombrauge, and especially the Cuvée known as
Magrez-Fombrauge is exactly the kind of wine I have no intention to ever drink.