I s it possible to write something new on a region that has been so widely covered, studied, dissected discarded, rediscovered, fought over, loved, despised… rinse-and-repeat?
I hope that even a brief dip into Inside Bordeaux will answer that question, and show that despite often being presented as set in stone, Bordeaux is continually evolving and constantly
worth assessing afresh.
When I moved here in 2003, the region was in the heat of the garagiste movement where 200% new oak was something to be proud of, and 'hang-time' was the word of the day. As we stand now, more than 16 years later, there is a clear evolution towards fresher, more sculpted wines, and towards winemaking that takes far more account of what happens in the vineyard – not just in the cellar. A changing climate is demanding that we ask new questions about what does and doesn't work in the growing of vines; a new generation of winemakers is demanding that changes are made. And above all of this, the reality of the vastly complicated range of soil types and micro-climates – the terroir – in Bordeaux is starting to be taken seriously: this was simply not the case even a decade ago.
I have tried to give you a behind-the-scenes look at all of these developments – and to consider how to make smart buying decisions as a result. You're going to find plenty of my own opinions in here, developed from over two decades of drinking and studying these wines, but I am very happy to say that much of this is formed by talking to, learning from, challenging and trying to unpick the advice and opinion of the various professors, consultants, historians, geologists and winemakers who work in Bordeaux, past and present.
I would also like to explain right up front why I wanted to attempt such a foolhardy project. I did so because Bordeaux is so familiar to so many of us that we almost stop seeing it. We have become so used to the blanket depiction of 'good' and 'bad' vintages (okay, 'best ever' and 'challenging'), Left Bank or Right Bank, that we forget one of the true delights of Bordeaux is its diversity, size and scope. I believe we have been overlooking many of the key things that will allow us to engage with Bordeaux afresh, and with renewed interest; it was this that I wanted to uncover and share.
It is becoming more essential than ever to stop the 'one size fits all' approach to Bordeaux. I hope
that this book gives you the tools to find unsung estates that sit on great terroir, just as much as it does to celebrate the very real achievements of the most iconic names of Bordeaux. And I hope it allows you to find great value in any vintage, no matter what the general critical opinion.
Partly, as you will see, I think we need to start assessing Bordeaux in the way that we more typically do for other fine wine regions such as Burgundy, Barolo, the northern Rhone – by its soils, and by how these individual soils react to different growing conditions year on year. You'll find this topic covered in detail in the chapter on Bordeaux terroirs, and you will see regular references to soils and climate within the chateau entries – along with clear ways to interpret terroir when it comes to purchasing decisions.
I didn't use a team of researchers for this book. Every chateau that has been written about has been researched, visited and/or tasted by me. There are nearly 800 covered here, and I have done my best to understand what motivates the people behind them, and to explain why they might be of interest to you.
And where I don't have the expertise, I went to ask the people whom I most trust, which is why you have entirely new maps and geological studies drawn from the work of professors such as Kees van Leeuwen, David Pemet and Pierre Becheler. They, along with other brilliant researchers and teachers, have helped me to put my own knowledge in context, and I hope it will allow you to do the same. And I need to add that none of this would have been possible without the expertise of Chris Foulkes and Carrie Segrave, who were the publishers of ( among many other titles) The Bordeaux Atlas by Michael Broadbent and Hubrecht Duijker back in 1997, and who have brought their expertise in the region to bear once again here.
Besides the soil maps, based on research by van Leeuwen, Pemet and Becheler, the maps of
temperature across Bordeaux come care of Benjamin Bois, a researching professor at the Institute of Wine and Vine (ISVV). Professor van Leeuwen contributed invaluable and meticulous expertise throughout the process. I am honored that they agreed to work on this project, and know that readers will find new understandings of Bordeaux opening up before them through their use, as I have.
My heartfelt thanks go to them – and to the numerous people, from London's St James's Street to the farthest corners of Bordeaux, who have joined me in this adventure. Their names are given on page 657.
Inside Bordeaux: by Jane Anson (BB&R Press) is available now for pre-order exclusively through Sotheby's Wine.