By Kori ~ April 29th, 2008.
Today marks the second “virtual meeting” of the Wine Book Club, where bloggers and wine lovers all over the world come together for book reviews and discussions every other month after reading a selected text. Our host for this edition is Tim Elliott of Winecast and the text he selected was Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution by William Echikson.
Historically, Bordeaux, and the French in general, have been very stogy in their traditions and winemaking practices. However, over the past twenty years, innovators have made their mark, modernizing the production, evaluation, and marketing of French wine. The result has been richer, fruit-driven wines that can be drunk younger than in the past.
William Echikson spent six months in Bordeaux following the growing season and harvest of the 2001 vintage, studying the changes in Bordeaux.
Noble Rot reads like a novel but it is not, it’s true. It is fast-paced and tells some interesting stories about the major players in Bordeaux. Here are a few highlights from the book that I found particularly interesting. Some of these just might whet your appetite for more.
“We don’t want to become like Mondavi in the Napa Valley [and cater to tourists],” he [Count Alexandre de Lur-Saluces] said. “One must merit a visit to Yquem.”
“When I started out, the whole group of wine tasters were little more than parrots for the powers that be in Bordeaux, just repeating the accepted wisdom,” he [Robert Parker, world renowned wine critic] recalled.
In Bordeaux the wine trade’s more progressive elements view him as a savior of sorts. They have realized that the region has a lot of wine to sell and that Parker helps sell it. The American revolutionary could have championed California wines. Instead, his first love is France. He loves French wines, and Bordeaux wines in particular.
If Robert Parker is the leading fan of new wave winemakers, [Michel] Rolland [famous enologist known as the Flying Winemaker] is their guru.
As France became richer and its population moved from the land to the cities, wine became, as in Anglo-Saxon countries, a festive treat [rather than an integral part of everyday life]. Since 1960 consumption has fallen by more than half, from about forty gallons per person per year to about fifteen gallons. While that is still far more than the average two gallons a year drunk by Americans, consumption of more expensive, higher-quality wines has increased in both countries. “We’re drinking less but better” is a common phrase heard these days.
Although the economics of fine wine may no longer look so bright, the quality of elite Bordeaux has taken a giant leap forward. If innovators like [Yves] Vatelot and [Jeffrey] Davies retain their determination to keep improving despite the inevitable, often cyclical commercial setbacks, wine lovers around the world will benefit.
While I found this book to be a good read, it is not for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about Bordeaux, the people, places, and history, this could be a book for you, and you can head over to Amazon or your book retailer of choice to pick up a copy. However, if you are looking for a wine guide or basic wine information, I would suggest that you look elsewhere.
If you’ve already read the book, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it.
Filed under: French Wine, Wine Book Club, Wine Books