Monday, January 25, 2010

Grands Crus de Bordeaux

Last Friday afternoon I got to attend a special event. It only comes round once a year - the Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting - time for the new 2007 vintage. I admit I made a bee line to the back wall to my favorite, the Sauternes - they have a tendency to run out quickly from past experience. First look at the wine's color in the glass before tasting - it should be a golden yellow that will become progressively darker as it ages. Then the all important "nosing" of the wine to enhale it's aromas - dried pineapple, apricot, caramel, vanilla, honey, peach - miam Then the sip and swill it around inside your mouth so it hits all areas... Ah...very important. Take down thoughtful notes in the little book provided. Then you spit into the sipttoons, so you can go on tasting unfettered, but I have a hard time spitting Sauternes... After each taste/ slug of wine you rinse your glass with water and cleanse your palete with a plain cracker and a bite of fromage. This taster is well armed.
You are given one glass to taste all the wines as you enter - always an Austrian Riedel glass, only the best at the Bordeaux tastings.
The Marriott ballroom was jammed packed with serious trade wine tasters dashing about to get their slug of Bordeaux best wines served up by the chateau owners - a rare treat.
After 2 hours all that's left are the empties. I was ready to say,
au revoir till next year's Grand Crus tasting.
Which brings me to a book I'm waiting for, by cutting edge winewriter Michael Steinberger, Au Revoir To All That. Have you heard? Steinberger thinks French food has gone downhill in the past 25 years. French cuisine is in a rut, ruined by the invasion of le fast food (France is McDo's second biggest market), stringently high VAT charges, strict labor laws, the stifling dominance of the Michelin guides etc.
"The result is a sharp and funny book that will give Francophiles everywhere an entirely new perspective—political, economic, personal, and cultural—on the crisis in the country and food they love."
You can catch Michael Steinberger's
wine columns at Slate.
I passed Chateau Beaumont's table at the tasting, and remembered my stay at there toute seule for a few very hot July days while on a painting jaunt

I wasn't really alone - thousands of Bordelaise buzzing bugs kept me company at night - no AC or screens in a medieval turret. I was happy to bid au revoir Ch. Beaumont a few days early.

I spent last weekend recovering from too many sips of Sauternes.


  1. Janinne9:28 AM

    Amost as good as being there..
    I love Sauternes too!

  2. Jeanne9:43 AM

    Did you ever go to Willie's in Paris? If so, I'd enjoy hearing what you thought of it.
    I did chateau paintings awhile back for Willie's, a local
    wine bar in Minneapolis, that had been inspired by Willie's of Paris.

  3. William Ternay, Jr.9:58 AM

    A bit too early, on a gray windy & rainy day in Philly, to be thinking about wine tasting...
    But as usual, a wonderful PB distraction from what I see out my window.

  4. Elizabeth10:33 AM

    The high VAT mentioned today was lowered to approx.5% last fall for restaurants.
    An American friend who couldn't wait to take advantage was disappointed because the plummet of the dollar against the Euro ate up all the savings.

    A great idea to encourage dining out (and why not - it's an industrie premiere, non?...and a terrific little present to the French!


  5. while you were sipping I was
    spending at Sotheby's Americana auction and a couple of the antique shows which featured Americana-one at pier 92 and one at the armory.
    Had a great time, as always. saw 5 plays, one opera, the Cloisters, the American wing at the MET and "The View" with Julie Andrews. Glad to be back though.

  6. Divine...and I ordered the book which also sounds divine.

  7. That was a wonderful diversion, merci beaucoup! :-)
    Imagine, my father knew Riedel way before the glasses became so famous.

  8. A girl after my own heart! I love wine, and I love my dog Cooper too - perfect blog post combo!

  9. Anonymous2:22 PM

    I couldn't agree more. French food has become BORING, at least in the Languedoc-Roussillon. All the menus are alike and where, oh where, are the vegetables??? Surely not in that teaspoon of minute little pieces of this and that. Mind you, I am not talking of ****** restos about which I know nothing because of prices+ VAT. The more "normal " places are what I am griping about.

    This said, I still like the desserts!

  10. Ah I felt like I was there- thank you for sharing this with us! xo

  11. Françoise how right you are.
    No one can fault the French when it comes to desserts these days!
    Perhaps this is where all the innovation and talent has flocked to - the patisserie.

  12. I am just reading that book and am intrigued by it. I would love to go to one of those wine events, but I would have a difficult time spitting out the wine too :)

  13. Great photo-essay, Carol!
    I love that "portrait" shot through the wine glass - nice job!

  14. Eeep!
    I didn't even see that!
    what good eyes you have Nikon

  15. Good eyes indeed for Nikon!
    I just wanted to let you know that I linked you in my most recent post Re: Au Revoir.

  16. I would have great difficulties spitting the sauternes! Maybe at your next Paris visit, we should have a "snack" with some sauterne, some roquefort and some grenoble nuts? (Macarons as "dessert"?)

    Some further comments: I believe that Michelin has today less influence than in the past. The VAT was last year reduced for restaurants (as it was already before for the fastfood). ... and fortunately an Au Revoir is not the same as an Adieu! :-)

  17. Fun post, Carol! Love it. and some great photos you snapped there! wonderful watercolor, too, bien sur!

  18. J'adore Paris mais j'aime Bordeaux. Aprés Paris elle est calme et tranquille.

  19. Françoise's observation that French food - outside starred restaurants - at places that are affordable has become boring, which seems to go in the opposite direction Austrian gasthauses try to steer: I see more fresh ingredients, more vegetables, lots of emphasis on "Slow Food". I have also noticed an abundance of really well made sandwiches, with prime ingredients, offered in bakeries all over. I still miss the wonderful sandwiches bakeries like Marvelous Markets, Napoleon, Uptown Bakery or Firehook Bakery prepare in Washington DC, but some of those offered here are not to be dismissed, quite the opposite (and they are smaller, managable to eat in one setting, at half the price too).

    Maybe you should finally venture out from Paris and graze a bit around Viennese and the region around it. Well worth a trip! :-)

  20. I wish I had been here with you. That looks great!

  21. How can a tiny country like France possibly be McDonald's 2nd biggest market?

  22. we have done wine tasting at the farm here before, but not as serious as that....
    very nice to have met you.

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  25. Carol,
    I adore this post. Imagine not spitting out the Sauternes? Well if that gives you more inspiration for such a wonderful painting at the end, then cheers to that nectar! Don't you just love all these serious wine tasting alongside?


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