I find selecting a dusty Claret bottle from the cellar, opening, decanting, breathing and tasting it always fills me with a sense of unique excitement. The aromas and flavours are by now familiar old friends and have etched their way into my soul - never to be parted again. One can get seriously over romantic about it all once the jump to fandom has been made - and why not?! It is good to succumb to something that can deliver such perfection - when it's on form that is.
Sadly that isn't always the case and when you scratch the surface of Bordeaux you can find it to be an unsavoury cauldron of big business greed and jealousies - oh...and a lot of the wine is bilge! Still, my devotion remains unchanged and that is because drinking a fine Pomerol, Margaux or Pauillac still can be one of life's greatest pleasures. Having spent 20 years as a musician I would have to say that performing music beats it. But it is a pretty close second!! On the whole buying into Bordeaux has proved to be a thoroughly rewarding experience for me.
Bordeaux is a vast wine region of 54 appellations and an amazing 13,000 wineries making 700 million bottles annually. The vinyards stretch North, South and East of the City itself and are split by the huge Gironde Estuary. This then further splits into two famous rivers: the Dordogne and the Garonne. The Left Bank of the Gironde provides rich pickings for the best Chateau in the top AC's - The gravelly 'terroir' (a useful word that incorporates all the growing, climatal & geographical factors associated with a Chateau) is perfect for growing vines. Other great terroirs are concentrated around the old town of Saint Emilion and the tiny village of Pomerol. All produce different styles of mainly red wine and it's a fun ride tasting your way round the different AC's. Of course there are a myriad of books, tasting notes and knowledge of classic vintages going back centuries. It is a fascinating history peppered with scandal, greed, foresight, fortunes (made and lost) and it is very easy to become drawn in by it all. However, the bottom line is we are consumers at the end of a very long chain of distribution. As the Bordeaux wine trade has a nasty habit of treating the consumer with contempt it really does pay to tread carefully and take advice on initial purchases. A really good first insight to the whole kaboodle is Oz Clarke's brilliant 'Bordeaux' book which has a great overview and handy wine label pictures from the best estates. For tasting notes and excellent wine info online I would recommend Jancisrobinson.com and of course Robert Parker's website erobertparker.com. If you don't know of RP then let's just say he is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Wine! His annual scores on new Bordeaux vintages can see a wine triple in value in no time...and be left untouched in the case of a poor review. Such reviews can serve as great barometers but of course your own palate is the only thing you have to satisfy! If you are hoping to start a cellar that will gain in value then having top scores is vital.
There is a huge industry of broking and offering wine as futures so if you find yourself going in that direction be very careful and get a cross section of wine knowledge before parting with the huge amounts of cash required! Far better to just fill your cellar with YOUR favourite Chateau for YOUR consumption. Seems obvious I know! Having said that it would be hypocritical of me to say I hadn't also used fine wine as an investment vehicle. It can work out brilliantly and a cannily purchased brand can end up paying for all your other wines when you sell it on. However, it's important to remember that though wine has proved to be a robust investment vehicle, it can also go down in value! Therefore investors should very much be taking a long term view to see a decent return. Of course downturns can be seen as great buying opportunities. This online cellar is mostly aimed at people wanting to physically engage top wines. However there are a few top growths for other forms of appreciation to be found here! It's always nice to have something exquisite squirreled away - even if it's only to show off!