Rod Dreher

Lots of buzz on the wine and food blogs about Eric Asimov’s Times column observing that the younger generation of wine aficionados don’t care about Bordeaux. Excerpt:

But for a significant segment of the wine-drinking population in the United States, the raves heard around the world [for the 2009 vintage] were not enough to elicit a response beyond, perhaps, a yawn. For these people, Bordeaux, once the world’s most hallowed region and the standard-bearer for all fine wines, is now largely irrelevant.
What happened? Plenty of Bordeaux is still consumed in the United States. In 2009, 1.29 million cases of Bordeaux wine were imported, accounting for 0.46 percent of all still wines, domestic and foreign, distributed in the country. While this percentage rises and falls year to year, it is still a far cry from its highs in the mid-1980s. Bordeaux shipments accounted for 1.69 percent of all still wines distributed in the United States in 1985, for example.
While the drop stems from far more competition in the lower-priced market, it also reflects a shift in the demographic of Bordeaux aficionados. For young Americans in particular, Bordeaux has become downright unfashionable.
Not so long ago, young wine-loving Americans were practically weaned on Bordeaux, just as would-be connoisseurs had been for generations. It was the gateway to all that is wonderful about wine. Now that excitement has gone elsewhere, to Burgundy and the Loire, to Italy and Spain. Bordeaux, some young wine enthusiasts say, is stodgy and unattractive. They see it as an expensive wine for wealthy collectors, investors and point-chasers, people who seek critically approved wines for the luxury and status they convey rather than for excitement in a glass.
“The perception of Bordeaux for my generation, it’s very Rolex, very Rolls-Royce,” said Cory Cartwright, 30, who is a partner in Selection Massale, a new company in San Jose, Calif., that imports natural and traditional wines made by small producers, and who writes the Saignée wine blog. “I don’t know many people who like or drink Bordeaux.”

My unscientific survey of myself finds that to be true, to a point. I mean, I like Bordeaux, and I like it more the older I get, and the more refined my tastes become. Bordeaux is more austere, its pleasures more difficult to find, but more rewarding once you discover them. But I don’t like it enough to pay Bordeaux prices for it. Two nights ago, we had a delicious 2008 Beaune (Burgundy) with dinner, via Moore Bros., the main source of oenophilic joy in the Philadelphia area; it was a wine completely unlike Bordeaux. It was light, somewhat tart, and vivacious. It was a wine that commanded your attention because it was so much serious fun. And it cost only $22. The point is not that it was “just as good” as a Bordeaux. The two aren’t really comparable, I find. The point was this affordable Beaune offered an interesting and enjoyable experience with wine, and loads of pleasure — and that’s very hard to find at that price point with Bordeaux.
Last month a friend came to dinner and we had a $50 Bordeaux he’d given us when we moved here. It was fantastic, offering a higher order of pleasure than the Beaune, or most of what we drink. I was thrilled to have had it. But it wouldn’t cross my mind to spend $50 a bottle for wine we drink around the house (well, actually it would cross my mind, but I’m afraid of Mrs. Dreher’s wrath). People my age, with my income, none of us talk about Bordeaux, or even think about buying it, for the same reason none of us talk about or consider buying a Mercedes. And because there are so very many less expensive and wonderful alternatives. It’s too bad, though, because I wish I knew more about Bordeaux. The more I drink it — which isn’t often — the more I like it. But I rarely have the opportunity to do so, because it’s so expensive. Should I ever have the financial wherewithal to drink serious Bordeaux, I wonder if I’ll even care about it.
An aside: when I first went to Moore Bros., Susan, of the staff, told me they would change my mind about Riesling. I was skeptical, thinking German Riesling is too sweet, but I agreed to be experimented on. I’m surprised and tickled to say it’s working. Who knew Riesling could taste so delicious and complex and unsugary? Last night we had a bottle of Haut-Medoc white Bordeaux (surprisingly inexpensive!) which I’d ordered more of after really liking it out of our last case from Moore Bros., and while it was wonderful, I surprised myself by missing the dry yet floral Riesling we’d had the night before with dinner. I keep saying, folks, that you need to find a good wine store and stick with it, because you’ll find yourself led to things you really like, but wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

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