Remember Peabody’s Improbable History from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show? That dorky kid, Sherman, who’d probably be an internet billionaire today, would do whatever Mr. Peabody, the dog, told him to and off they’d go, visiting Attila the Hun or the Spanish Inquisition in the Wayback Machine. They’d screw history up but manage to get it all back together eventually and the whole result was some fine campy humor that delighted my juvenile mind.
Some of you are asking right about now, what does all this have to do with wine from Bordeaux? Making connections between 1960’s cartoons and fine French wines is why I’m the author of this column and you are merely the reader. At least that’s what I have Brad Prescott, publisher of IntoWine.com, believing. And he signs the checks around here.
Alright. Here’s the connection. When you drink a Bordeaux, a really fine Bordeaux, that has been aged properly, you’ll travel back in time and think you’ve gone to wine heaven. In a sense, you will taste a time and a place that no longer exists. You’ll recall where you were and what you were doing when the wine was vinted and bottled. It’s like a connection to history. Pretty cool, huh?
A few weeks ago, I had some friends in town that I hadn’t seen for a year or so. The evening before they had dined at Gary Danko, arguably the best restaurant in the city of San Francisco. Being Greek, I’m pretty convinced that I’m a fantastic chef, so I invited them over for dinner. Realizing that I was following a pretty tough act, I decided a top flight Bordeaux was in order. Should I pull out that bottle of 30 year old Mouton Rothschild? I gave over $300 for that bottle and somehow couldn’t bring myself to open just yet. That bottle will have to wait until I am having Michelle Pfeiffer over for dinner.
I finally settled on a 1990 St. Rochebelle from St. Emilion. I had had it before, knew it to be exquisite, and knew my friends would love it. Out from the cellar it came, decanted it for an hour and a half, and served it with a marinated tri tip entrée. We thought we’d gone to wine heaven.
You’re probably thinking you’ll never do this. Keep a wine for 17 years before you drink it? Well, you don’t have to and here’s the secret. If, as I mentioned in a previous column, you make friends at a really good wine shop, you’ll be able to buy Bordeaux that already has some age on it. Then you can cellar it yourself until you’re ready to serve it.
The second part of the secret is that many, many very nice, drinkable Bordeaux wines are fine to drink right now or with only a couple of years of aging. Of course, that premier cru Mouton Rothschild or a Chateau Margaux needs at least ten years aging if not more. And you’ll pay a premium price for those too. But there are plenty of perfectly delicious Bordeaux for under $20 (or as the French say a bon marche) that you can pour anytime. I threw a dinner party for twelve people once and served a $10 Bordeaux that was just a couple of years old and everyone loved it.
Confused? Here’s how to think about it.
Buy some excellent Bordeaux (to the degree your budget can afford) that is worthy of aging. Cellar it properly. Also purchase some Bordeaux that is good and drinkable that you could have tonight or will be good in a couple of years. Those bottles will be quite a bit less, as we’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. Talk to a good wine expert. Explore these French beauties with some friends. Don’t be a snob about it. Expensive or inexpensive, Bordeaux wines are one of life’s great pleasures.
Now, Sherman, set the dials on the Bordeaux Wayback Machine!