It occured to me about halfway through yesterday's lunch that Christian Moueix threw for a dozen wine journalists at NYC's restaurant Daniel, that it might just be up to this elegant Frenchman with strong American ties to resurrect Bordeaux reds as a low-cost choice on our restaurant wine lists and as Friday-night options at our own dinner tables.
Time was back in the 1970s when blended Bordeaux -- known as "shippers' wines" or "negociant blends" -- could be had at reasonable prices and in great availability from such appellations small and big as Pauillac, St. Emilion or just everyday Bordeaux. Several things killed off this business, not the least of which was the emergence of the Oak Blend Raters, who started giving numbers to wines, thus calling all the attention to the top growths, including Petrus and other properties owned by Moueix and his family. Shippers wines were suddenly considered low-rent, and, while they didn't disappear entirely, their numbers and availability became relatively lean. Sure, those of us in the know or who had retailers willing to hand sell us wines could still ferret out petite Bordeaux, or small properties, at good prices. But, still, a good regional blend at a low price is a drink of beauty.
Could, just maybe, Moueix and his importer, Kobrand, bring them back? Why not? Certainly the 2005 vintages from St,-Emilion, Pomerol, and Medoc (as well as the regional Merlot Encore) and the 2006 St.-Estephe are all very nice wines, mainly in the $20 range, and certainly drank well with Daniel's wild mushroom risotto and Colorado lamb chop. And they showed their terroir -- the St.-Emilion had a little more minerality and acidity than the plumper Pomerol, the Medoc was approprtiately lean with dried fruits, and the St.-Estephe was power in a Velcro glove. The Merlot Encore, while not exactly Nouveau Monde, was certainly fruit forward.
As Moueix noted, his family has been buying grapes from other Right Bank chateaux for decades, so he knows where to go in St.-Emilion and Pomerol, putting together dozens of different properties in his blends. He admits to less experience on the Left Bank and buys only from two growers in St.-Estephe. "They are both well-regarded chateaux," he said, "so I can't tell you who they are -- unless I drink too much!"
He didn't, but his Christian Moueix Bordeaux blends certainly give the rest of us an opportunity to bring back the good old days.
Until next time...