Expectations. They color everything.
Last night I sat down in my TV room with a good friend and a bottle of 1999 Haut Brion to watch the Mayweather–De La Hoya fight I’d Tivo’ed the night before. All day Sunday I avoided any media because I didn’t want to know the outcome. Seemed like everywhere I went a newspaper popped into my line of sight. Every time I turned on the radio a sports report was just coming on.
In any case, while watching the fight we sipped on this somewhat young Bordeaux. My friend was disappointed:
"God dammit…these fuck’in Bordeaux are so overrated I can’t believe it. I’m dumping all my 2000 in a couple years."
This is no small threat. My friend went nuts with the 2000 Bordeaux vintage and has a number of cases, most of which are 1st growths and other highly desirable bottlings.
His problem is that he’s got a "California Palate".
"Where’s the fruit? Can someone please show me a Bordeaux that has a bit of fruit that isn’t stuffed full of the smell of wet band aids and tastes metallic?"
He should have known. Bordeaux, for all the talk of an "International" style of wine that is supposed to be
taking over the world, really is quite different than CA wines. They simply don’t have the fruit that CA cabs can muster. They tend to be lower in alcohol. And they tend to have more of a herbal and "gout de terre" character. Yet, I don’t think my friends is alone in being disappointed when they taste these wines and find that they are nothing like CA Cabs.
Of course there’s a lot going on here that gets one to a point of exasperation. This wine, which was his, is not cheap. You’re hoping for a good experience from a wine the you back a bit. This "hope" is often enough to alter what your expectations are for the wine and alter your memory of the wine.
For my part, I enjoyed the wine. No, it didn’t have the kind of fruit you might find in a 1999 Napa Valley Cabernet. And yes, it did have bret and the wet band aid character that often comes with it. What I enjoyed was that it WAS different from what I normally imbibe given my access to far more CA cabs.
But it made me wonder how many of those folks brought up on juicy, ripe, fruity CA cabs will dismiss red Bordeaux as a disappointment when they start to investigate them? I suspect many will.
That said, the fight was a good one. It went well with the Schubert Riesling and Guilliams Spring Mountain Cabernet Franc…as well as the Haut Brion.
I expected De La Hoya to do well. And he did, though losing in a split decision. However, I didn’t expect him to keep up with Mayweather who is so damn fast and agile, while De La Hoya is a puncher and aggressive. But then again, De La Hoya is a DIFFERENT kind of boxer from Mayweather.
Perhaps you should pour your friend a glass of 2003 Bordeaux from a brown paper sack, but make sure there’s a bottle of Silver Oak in eyesight
Amazing! Although i’d guess the ’99 Ht Brion was young and less nuanced than it is likely to become, i can never seem to “get” this california palate thing. a good bordeaux with red and black fruit, herbs and vegetation, cedar and cigars generally has so much more going on than what i perceive as monolithic, no acid fruit bombs from california that i can barely imagine the comments of your buddy. one thing i do find about bordeaux though, they generally don’t perform well as the weather warms – burgundy, pinot, rhone and spanish reds for the summer, at least for my taste.
Having just gotten back from Bordeaux last week and sampling from barrells of up to 24 different Chateaux from the Medoc to St. Emilion, I have to take exception with your friends comment. I find the old world wines, in particular Bordeaux wines, have a character and complexity that you just cannot achieve in California. You want big fruit in your face wines, stick with California. But if you want balanced wine with harmony and finesse, look towards Bordeaux. Of course there are always exceptions, but I just find that there is much more substance in a fine glass of Bordeaux than a California Cab. Just my two cents worth.
Also keep in mind that these wine tend to pair well with food as well. Haut Brion is one of the less fruit forward 1st growths if you ask me. Try a 2003 Margaux! I believe that the California Cabernet revelution will no doubt have a big effect on where the future of wine is headed and also where Bordeaux is likely to evolve. Is it a coincidence that Bordeaux is becoming higher in Alcohol and Fruitier every vintage?
It seems to me that we’re lucky to have ’em both. Hoary sterotypes are just that: I say pull the damn cork, invite a few friends–including yours truly–broaden one’s wine perspective and appreciate the differences.
Who doesn’t like a fruity wine?
The French need to get with the program.
I guess that a California Cab is simply the better match with a box-fight ;=)