How many third growth châteaux are located in the Bordeaux appellation of Margaux? The answer is ten, but don’t worry, before beginning my journey in the Bordeaux Cup, I didn’t know that answer either. In fact, as a wine drinker who has always been committed to making wine as accessible as possible, Bordeaux had always been one of the pinnacles of inaccessibility for me. So much tradition, so much money, and in turn, so much of, at least what I thought at the time, pretension.
This is the land of Robert Parker, 100 point scores and drinkers who are willing to spend big bucks for one bottle of which they know every intimate detail. Yet somehow, my two teammates and I found ourselves winning the American leg of the Bordeaux Cup and now depart today for the region that is the mecca for most wine collectors who have intimidated me my entire life.
My intimidation stems from the fact that Bordeaux, more than any other region, lives by history, facts and figures. Knowing things such as the percentages of each grape in the blend, how long the wine aged, how old the château that made it is, and who has owned the château and for how long had always seemed to me to be necessary in order to drink Bordeaux. These facts and figures initially gave me the feeling that any time a Bordeaux was in my glass, a pop quiz would soon follow. How much did I really know about what I was drinking and did I deserve to be enjoying it? I often thought in my early years of wine that these facts and figures were a way for Bordeaux to maintain the elitism of their beverage, as if to say to others, “either take the time to possess the knowledge of our wine, or don’t drink it.” It’s a similar feeling I’ve experienced in regards to other art forms like jazz and modern dance, things I appreciate but will never have the time to fully grasp. What I discovered from my recent Bordeaux experience was that I could not be more wrong.
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These facts and figures everyone in Bordeaux spouts out with such excitement have nothing to do with intimidation and everything to do with how proud they are of the wine they make. To them, knowing the exact amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in their blend is like knowing the exact minute and second your child took their first step. If your friends know that information too, wonderful, but if they simply appreciate your child for who they are, you’re just as happy.
Wine is a passion for those who make it in the region, and they’re just damn excited we’re drinking it. It’s that excitement for the wine in our glass that I believe caused us to win the American leg of the competition in the first place: we went with our gut, and what spoke to us as something we enjoy, instead of worrying about every last detail. In the end we won because we didn’t overthink anything, worry about the facts and figures or analyze anything too much. We just enjoyed incredible wine made by a region that is one of the best there is at creating it.
Through this experience, Bordeaux has helped teach me what I love about wine, how fun it can be and how amazing the history and tradition surrounding it truly is. I like to refer to this region as the original creator of the wine blend. I am quite sure others blended wine before Bordeaux, but until them, no one did it as well, or has made it as famous. This region revolutionized wine and spread their indigenous grapes across the globe. If it hadn’t been for Bordeaux, that glass of Argentine Malbec or California Cabernet would never exist. With history like this, it’s no wonder the people associated with it are so eager to share it. I would be too. It will be a thrill to stand in the vineyards that have been growing these grapes for centuries.
I don’t see the facts and figures as an intimidator any more, but as a way to appreciate the wine more. I believe this is what Bordeaux would want. It’s not about quizzing our fellow drinkers to see who knows more, and determine whether or not we’re worthy to drink, but simply another way of being in awe of everything that went into creating a wine we truly enjoy.
And I’m not going to complain that the competition is going to allow me to drink a few glasses of Châteaux Lafite.
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