Bordeaux is steeped in tradition. Even in the old-boy network of wine regions, it’s a powerhouse, with more than 1,000 years of winemaking history and some 300,000 acres of vineyards planted. When I visited Bordeaux last fall, I thought this would be the last place to get a pulse on wine trends for the future. I was wrong. During the visit, I experienced two major trends that I think are significant for the entire winemaking world.
> Biodynamic Winemaking Techniques Organic winemaking prohibits the use of pesticides, herbicides and, for the most part, preservatives. Biodynamics takes these concepts further by adding a holistic approach. Timing planting, harvest and other activities to the lunar calendar and using natural means to combat pests and disease are just a few of the tenets of Biodynamics. Clos Puy Arnaud— located in the Cotes de Castillon region of Bordeaux— is run by Thierry Valette, who is dedicated to these techniques. Thierry is the former co-owner of a prestigious estate in St. Emilion and a former choreographer. Now he makes natural wines that dance on the palate. Visiting with Thierry is as delicious as it is inspirational. He explained that the all-natural practices of biodynamics are riskier than modern techniques. He adds, though, “When you take risks you are truly alive.” Great words (and wine) to live by.
> New Packaging Options Ever have wine in a tube? I hadn’t until my visit to Chateau d’Arche in the Sauternes region. Sauternes and other winemakers in Bordeaux are experimenting with glass wine tubes for selling smaller “glass sized” portions. The tubes are 10 centilitres (3.38 ounces) in volume. Sweet wines, like Sauternes, are perfect for the tube. Rather than purchasing a $40 bottle of wine, you can pick up a tube to go with dessert and, also, to share with your date, for only $10. In the Medoc, Chateau Anthonic makes the tubes available to retailers in order to let consumers sample their wines. With each case purchased, a retailer receives tubes to use for samples. Many retailers are hesitant to open a $50 bottle of Bordeaux for sampling purposes but, if you have a hot prospect, you can crack open a tube. (I’m not sure if these are approved by the FAA for air travel, but I’m excited about the possibility of bringing tubes on board so I don’t have to choke down the mediocre wine that airlines usually serve. That would be progress!)
Bordeaux has a beautiful countryside, a long tradition of winemaking and gorgeous, Old World chateaux in every direction, but it also has a group of driven, passionate winemakers who focus on innovation. If you want to experience a place where old school meets the new cool… Bordeaux is it!
To experience the tradition and innovation in Bordeaux first-hand, join The Wine Coach for the Bordeaux Harvest Tour in September 2010. Visit http://www.thewinecoach.com/bordeaux for details.
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator who creates corporate events, group tastings and team-building seminars. She is the author of “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine,” and can be heard each week on WBAL 1090 AM.