The rise of New World wines could be the reason why Bordeaux’s prestigious future could be dwindling, with both national and international sales dropping in the last year. This flailing interest doesn’t make a huge difference to big players like Château Angelus, but what about the smaller, less renowned wineries that are trying to get their own piece of prestigious pie?
Thanks to Emperor Napoleon and his infamous Grand Cru Classification of 1855, traditional winemaking methods have been upheld to ensure the quality and reputation of all Bordeaux wines. With climate change and a new generation of wine makers doing things differently around the globe, a lot of local Bordeaux wineries are having to decide whether to stick to tradition, or find a more innovative way to compete with New World wine methods. A few smaller vineyards are beginning to make their mark on the local and global market, by transforming the ways they produce, sell and market their wines.
Inferior is the new superior
Bordeaux Superior wines have a reputation for being inferior to their Grand Crus neighbours, however some of them still pack a punch. Château de Reignac came second in a blind tasting against Grand Cru wines such as Château Pétrus and Cheval Blanc, but has a much more accessible price tag. Château de Reignac also sells most of their wines direct online, so they can reach buyers and enthusiasts beyond the local market. Creating their own mascot, Reignyx the vineyard’s convivial wino who is featured on his own social media accounts, paired with weekly Facebook live steams from the château, gives Reignac a friendly online presence and a more modern image abroad.
Keeping it classy
In the sacred heart of the village of Saint Emilion, you’ll find Le Clos des Cordeliers. This is no classic château, but the old ruins of a cloister from the XIV century. Les Clos des Cordeliers has accomplished a small feat; they have revamped the image of sparkling white wine. Whilst their winemakers have kept the traditional crémant recipe, they are making it accessible to the public with a modern tourism style, with visitors able to enjoy a French style picnic within its limestone walls and ailing pillars. Parts of the ruin have been restored and transformed into a large boutique, tasting lounge, a restaurant and with further plans to integrate a music stage, bar and a privatized space by 2021. This dine and wine approach is in line with what is more common in New World wine tourism; the monks are rolling in their graves!
In 1936, the AOC rules were altered. And certain grapes were no longer grown as they did not ripen during that era’s climate. Some of these grape varieties included Saint-Macaire, Sauvignonasse, Castets and Macins amongst others. Now, there is a rebel in Bordeaux’s midst! Jean-Baptist Duquesne, owner of the unique Chateau Cazebonne in Bordeaux’s Graves region is giving new life to these forgotten grapes and doing something that nobody else has the courage to. Once forbidden, the whole world now has the chance to rediscover the original flavor of Bordeaux. With climate temperatures rising, these are the perfect conditions for these bio-dynamic wines to ripen. It’s time to do things differently and give rebirth to the first traditions rather than rely on chemistry to sustain the quality of modern Bordeaux wines.
Old World and New World wines and approaches are both bringing something to the table, and not just the wine! From ancient ruins to funky arty wine labels, ancient and modern methods are now colliding, mirroring and influencing one another. It’s a world of wine and one that we are all lucky to enjoy!
By Kalpana Wright