by Lapin Agile
They're whispering that "2009" could be one of the best Bordeaux vintages ever!
Something very important is being whispered about from person to person in alleyways, side streets, over cups of strong sweet coffee at the Ortakoy Princell Hotel in Istanbul; in lofts between sheets (of course); in the Eiffel Tower elevators; over lunch at Chez Marcel in the Marais district; in Mayfair it's mentioned rather matter-of-factly by one's tailor on Savile Row, don’t you know; at a private club over a scotch and soda and the Financial Times; by Emile, your doorman on Park Avenue, along with a wink and a nod of approval; perhaps by that lady at 53rd and Madison, the one with those two yappy poodles; or maybe overheard above the persistent techno beat at the "Propaganda" on Bolshoi Zlatustinsky 7 in Moscow. But what is going on?? What's being whispered? Simply put it's all about "2009." Was that a code signaling troops moving in the Urals, was it a Panzer division spotted crossing the border, was it a code that when matched to the Cyrillic alphabet would reveal a spy operation? Maybe it just stood for a newer version of Windows (please no..)?
Wrong all you aspiring Sherlock Holmes. “Ahh, but of course the great detectives do not see perhaps that when the first and last numbers are added and year repeated and transposed you get 11 00 92 0902 which represents a very special telephone number belonging to someone living in the business district of Turin, Italy and there my friends we will find the answer to our whispering mystery, sans doute non?” Wrong, Inspecteur Clouseau, join the other Sherlock wanna-be's. You are all benched for the season.
The 2009 whispering frenzy refers to a most anticipated banner year for French Bordeaux's. Some well placed wags who must obviously drink a lot, have decreed that it will surely surpass 2005 and in fact may go down as being the best in living memory, thanks to last year's perfect conditions of a wet spring and hot summer. Growers, a temperamental and suspicious lot in the best of times, are themselves becoming increasingly convinced that 2009 may be as good as the near-perfect 2005 vintage-if not better; the mix of nice warm days but cool, dry nights in the final days before grape picking began was the finest since 1949. That's stepping out on a grapevine limb. I tried remembering what the wine was like in 1949 and honestly didn't have a bit of luck. Apparently, for this go around at least, the cool nights stopped the grapes from over-ripening and added sophistication. July and August were ideally hot and sunny. Then just when drought threatened to stop the grapes from ripening and developing crucial tannins to help age the wines, the rains came. It sounds almost poetic.
My friends the Chinese, who have replaced tea with Bordeaux as their national drink of choice are not ones to sit idly about when there is money to be made off so many Capitalist running dogs; predictably, they are already trying to corner the market on the '09 vintage and already with some limited success. “Let a million vineyards grow”, that's my motto for the wine industry. But I am also philosophical, carefully pragmatic and look towards the future. This rush from Asia can only lead to driving up the prices on the Bordeaux beauties. I see a time when there will be little flags fluttering all across the People's Provinces of France and a fortune cookie in French served after every meal. From the United States, there should be a Congressional panel to look into this - whatever "this" really is. I'm just thinking that it would be darn nice to see Congress finally do something meaningful about an issue that I really care about - good red wine rather than waste their time developing meaningless political sound bites about all their hard work for consumption by an increasingly gullible public. To our British cousins perhaps those who follow the goings-on in Parliament might agree from their vantage point as well. I do enjoy sticking it to some things as you may have noticed.
Playing the futures game is quite possibly a reasonable approach to obtaining some decent priced wines that will more than likely increase in price in the future. The upside, say as an example you buy a case of Saint-Emilion at a per bottle price of US $14.00. At some point in 2011 you will get the call (not a margin call – those are the ones you run from) that the 2009's have made their appearance and please come and pick up you stash, your loot. With a little research you see that your wine is now selling for US $22.50, nice now you’re adding value. You can drink it now, if you must, or you can place it in your cellar for another 5 years at which time you will be enjoying a nicer, more mature and far more expensive vintage. Or you could also wait to give it to your children in the sure and certain knowledge they will be having one heck of a party and thanking the old man, the minute you are, well “down under.” One little word of caution (yes I’m sorry) there is a downside to all of this and that is you buy your wine, you decide like a wise wine investor that you hope you are, to hold on to it and when it is time to uncork you find it turns out to be, well, not as grandiose as some of the “experts” were saying. Still not a bad deal after all, I mean it’s not like buying a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafitte for a princely sum only to find it was well, remarkably like vinegar itself. There you go a crash course in wino economics 101. Whine all you want but I encourage you to investigate. Listen to the whisper!