second labels from recent vintages are
less oaky than their big brothers, making
them more pleasant to drink earlier and
better for pairing with food. Depending
on the property, either Cabernet Sauvi-
gnon or Merlot may dominate.
Special Occasion for Merlot
Lovers, $35+: St. Émilion Grands
Crus Classés
St. Émilion exhibits more subtlety than
its more imposing neighbor Pomerol.
St. Émilion’s Grands Crus Classés usu-
ally aren’t aged as long in or in as much
new oak as the hefty Pomerols, making
them more food-friendly and more at-
tractive early on.
Special Occasion for Cabernet
Sauvignon Lovers, $35+: St. Estèphe
and Pauillac Cru Classé
These two Left Bank communes show
the blockbuster power of Cabernet Sau-
vignon. At the Cru Classé level, they
will have significant oak notes of choco-
late and coffee bean, so advise your cli-
ents that they are best enjoyed with rich
steak or lamb dishes.
Vintages: 2008, 2009, 2010
and 2005
For any of these profiles, it is very easy
to suggest the recent vintages of 2008,
2009 and 2010. These are available
now, show ripe fruit and possess good
balance. Cooler years like 2006 and
2007 can be tough in their youth, and
Americans tend to dislike such wines.
Another vintage still available for
your More Than Everyday and Special
Occasion categories is the much-loved
2005. These wines are impressively
ripe, so they are easy-to-understand
for more palates.
Bordeaux is a dynamic region that is
changing dramatically. By focusing on
U.S. Bordeaux-style blends, we miss out
on the mother region’s diverse styles and
good values. It gets harder by the day to
find value in Napa, so why not look to
Napa’s original inspiration?
Scenes from the Left Bank: Graves vineyard, fall flowering in Graves, St. Emilion vineyard
One of the challenges faced by Bordeaux in
the 21
century involves promotion. With
so many producers, and with importers
handling multiple estates, few estates are
in a position to merit their own promotion
in the U.S. Moreover, to the American eye,
the bulk of clarets appear the same—with
labels projecting a château name, tradi-
tional graphic and just-the-facts appellation
data. The complicated nomenclature and
sense of sameness (
visual bells and
whistles) can put them at a disadvantage
on retail shelves—not to mention make the
somewhat subtle but important distinctions
among sub-regions harder to grasp.
Generic promotion of Bordeaux is diffi-
cult as well; clarets are essentially regionally
defined wines living in a branded world. That
said, retailers looking to tweak or augment
their French wine offerings may want to
examine the “Today’s Bordeaux” campaign,
whose focus on value is right in step with
today’s American wine lover. Now in its sev-
enth year, the campaign highlights a range
of 100 affordable ($9-$35 SRP) Bordeaux
(red, white rosé and sweet) available in the
U.S.; and this year’s selection featured a few
adjustments designed to make the results
more trade- and consumer-friendly.
A team of Bordeaux Wine Council-
appointed wine educators and three guest
judges blind-tasted 300-plus wines submit-
ted by importers. The scoring method used
this year was derived from the New Wine
Fundamentals Wine Evaluation Protocol
developed by Tim Hanni MW. The system
features a 0-7 ranking that focuses on as-
sessing the wines at a more hedonic level
that is closer to the way in which consumers
experience wine. In addition, to ensure better
availability of recommended wines, the
Today’s Bordeaux criteria required that the
wine be sold in one or more of the following
U.S. regions: Northeast (CT, MA, NH, NJ, NY,
PA, RI, DC); South (FL, TX); Midwest (IL, IN,
OH, MI); and West (AZ, CA, CO, NV, WA).
All 100 wines can be found at www., where they are
categorized by color and tasting notes as well
as occasions such as wines for gifts or dinner
parties. A variety of generic Bordeaux on- and
off-premise POS materials (posters, maps,
drop-stops, table tents, etc.) are available from
the Sopexa office in New York (
promotional paradox
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