When I first came to Bordeaux in the 1980s, the sign of a good well-made wine had always been one that would last for 20 or 30 years. Ripeness was not understood. It was about waiting for a minimum alcohol level and harvesting as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of losing the crop. The wines were hard and difficult to approach before several years. (The primeur tastings were really hard going then).
In the 1980s and 90s Rolland helped to change things, he knew about picking ripe grapes and spread the news. It spread slowly and then took hold going to extremes.
It was not only about the sweetness from ripe grapes it was about additional sweetness that cam from new oak – a sort of thick make-up that could cover any blemish. The very seductive 2009 with its ripeness and over exuberance was a case in point and perhaps a turning point.
Ripeness makes all grapes taste the same, it is even difficult to taste which grape variety it is, let alone where it has come from. Like any fruit that is over-ripe, it lacks tension, freshness – the crunch! There is a big difference between over-ripe and perfectly ripe where we still have freshness from the acidity and the fruit still tastes alive!
Ripe wines are rounded. Soft inoffensive. Cant help but like them but they dont move you.
We do not want rounded wines anymore. A great wine takes you on a journey with a beginning and an end. Rounded wines start and finish at the same place.
Great wines move you – you end up in a different place. All your senses are involved. Great wines are more oval shaped or even tear drop.
Bordeaux Sip by Sip Bordeaux Wine Guide Book – to order
Great wines are said to have four Es; Expression (of where they come from and their birth year), Equilibrium (a harmony between the fruit, structure, sweetness and acidity), Elegance (which comes from the balance and its subtle characteristics) and finally Emotion – that the wine loves you emotionally. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it is one of those unforgettable moments.