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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux?

I have recently been reviewing my way through a number of wines being promoted as part of the Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux campaign, aimed at promoting mid-priced, easily-available wines typical of Bordeaux.

The wines were selected by the Association of Wine Educators and full details can be found on the GFWCB website.

Bordeaux, perhaps the single most famous wine-growing region in the world, was my first love when it comes to wine and I have been a fan of Bordeaux wines at various levels for many years.

In the early years, trips to France allowed me to stock on good, basic Bordeaux in French supermarkets where quality is good and prices low - more recently, with less foreign travel, I have tended to rely on our excellent independent wine merchants in Cambridge, so I have little experience of what the national retailers have to offer for Bordeaux.

And based on the selections sent to me for review, it is not that inspiring - the two best wines, I thought, came from The Wine Society (a Chateau Bourjaud Premieres Cotes de Blaye and a Perponcher Reserve Bordeaux Blanc), whilst the offerings from Direct Wines, who supply Laithwaites and Avery's, were rather disappointing.

And so I draw a number of general conclusions:

- spending more money is not necessarily a guarantee of a better wine; the (more expensive) bottles from Direct Wines wines were not as enjoyable as the (cheaper) bottles from The Wine Society;

- trust the palate; whilst the sample size is hardly scientific, to me there is a definite indication of which retailers have a good palate and which do not. Given a choice between being able to specify only one of region, grape variety and retailer, I would opt to choose the retailer on every occasion

- the distinction between liking a wine and not can be very slight and is way beyond the sophistication of a wine app; of two similarly-priced, similar style white Bordeaux I reviewed, I found one much more preferable to the other and I do not believe that any wine app would be able to predict my preference.

The first (a Dourthe Grande Cuvee) was expressive and fresh, but felt slightly clumsily made, whilst the second (the Perponcher Reserve) was poised, precise, balanced and elegant - do wine apps go into that level of detail ?

I would be fascinated to know what Vinopic's objective, scientific assessments of wine would make of these two very similar wines and whether there would be a distinct difference in the scores they achieve.

As for the GFWCB Bordeaux campaign itself, I am left unsure what to make of it.

The use of Dom Joly to present a short video about Bordeaux brings a fresh and unstuffy approach, as well as a new audience. It also has some nice visuals of the Bordeaux region itself.

The overall strategy feels right - Bordeaux is a food wine and the region's fame cannot continue to rest solely on its most famous First Growth reds given the volume of other, mid-range, everyday wines of all hues produced there.

However, the execution feels somewhat unconvincing - the visuals are not only bland, they positively blend into the background, whilst the idea of the food-wine link idea is not obvious and easily overlooked.

The slogan is technically correct, but clumsily worded and quite a mouthful.

The suggested food pairings do not seem to fall into neat buckets and are rather eccentric - pizza, lobster, chorizo, turkey, cheese and roast are not obvious food-matching groupings to me at least. And what if you have roast turkey with chorizo ?

Moreover, the seven reasons why Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux, even if all correct and true, feel more like a focus-group tick list than a reason to go out and buy the wines:
- Bordeaux has centuries of experience in producing food-friendly wine
- Bordeaux’s diversity of styles complements every type of food
- Bordeaux’s restrained style works with food not against it
- Bordeaux wines reflect the individual skill of the winemaker
- Bordeaux wines are not mass produced
- Bordeaux wines are not high in alcohol
- Bordeaux wine are for all occasions
And how many of these are unique to Bordeaux ?
Overall, then, at an executional level, the campaign feels workmanlike and functional, not vibrant and exciting. It is ironic, given that terroir is a uniquely French word and concept, that the campaign gives little sense of Bordeaux as a place - the vineyards, the old towns, the rivers - and that the first thing you come across on the website is a link to a pizza recipe by Jamie Oliver.

Yes, you need some kind of celebrity endorsement and yes, Jamie is this century's most famous food businessman (for reasons that completely escape me), but really, has it come to this ? Can the PR agency in charge of delivering this campaign think of nothing more novel or imaginative than attempting to shoe-horn the wines of Bordeaux into the UK's love of Jamie Oliver and pizza ?

By contrast, the boldest move - the Dom Joly video - is the most interesting and inspired.

Overall, it feels like the key elements are all in place - a focus on the more everyday wines of Bordeaux, an awareness campaign that Bordeaux is not just posh reds for wine snobs and crass billionaires, the link between food and wine.

However, I think there are much better ways to promote Bordeaux that could include food and tourism presented in a more aspirational way and showcasing the history, geography and terroir of the region as well as the UNESCO World heritage status of Bordeaux iself.

As for me, I'll continue buying great wines from Bordeaux - just from my local independent wine merchants who all have a really good palate.

For more information on buying good, inexpensive Bordeaux in France, see Wine Buying In France; Calais.

For more on two of the best Bordeaux I have had and reviewed here, see this Tim Atkin-recommended Rousseau de Sipian 2005 from Cambridge Wine Merchants and a rather more expensive magnum of Troplong Mondot 1998.

For those in Cambridge, or prepared to order via the phone or internet, I am putting together a list of the Bordeaux recommendations of the Cambridge independent wine merchants - check back in a while and it will be here.

Bacchanalia recommend '05s, Lezongars (GVDB) & Lestage-Simon (Haut-Medoc). For boat pushing duties Haut-Marbuzet.

Charles Hardcastle of Joseph Barnes Wines in Saffron Walden recommends Chateau la Claymore 2006, Lussac Saint-Emilion (£16.99 before discounts).

Santiago Navarro of Vinopic recommends Chateau Toulouze Graves de Vayre Bordeaux 2006 (£12.99).

Hamish Wakes-Miller of  www.bellawinetours.com suggests the following from Adnams as affordable (under £15), interesting and good quality: Chateau du Pin 2009, Jouanin 2009, Thebot 2008 and Chateau Falfas 2008.


Good Food Would Choose Bordeaux - http://www.goodfoodwouldchoosebordeaux.com/
Association of Wine Educators - http://www.wineeducators.com/

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