Discerning Elegance

In my quest to experience Bordeaux wine the way Thomas Jefferson experienced it, the wine that made him fall in love with wine, I’ve tasted a few watery, flavorless Bordeaux, like an Augey that was short on finish and a little too hot; a Les Caves Joseph that had hints of earth and chocolate, but was just too bland and flat or a Chateau Paradis that was too acidic to enjoy. The French are known for their laissez faire approach to wine making. They process as little as possible to let the true flavors of the grape and soil come through. The flavors of their wines are referred to as ‘elegant.’ It is the opposite of the big-flavored wines of the New World.

As an American and a novice wine drinker I unabashedly love the big flavors of a Lodi old vine Zinfandel or Robert Mondovi’s Bordeaux blend, Meritage. These are wines that surround me with their deep, rich berry flavors, and their silky chocolate, earthy finish. My hope is that as my tastes evolve, I will develop a greater appreciation for the elegant, subtle flavors of the old world wines.

One of the most important skills a child needs to develop is something that can’t be taught, and that is the ability to chose friends. It’s a skill that will carry them through life. My daughter seems to be quite taken with big personalities. They are the personalities that will promise to hold the football, and time after time, just like Charlie Brown, my little girl will run to kick it. Oftentimes, these big personality friends turn out to be as manipulative as they are dazzling. She’s still in grade school. As she matures, so will her judgment. She’ll come to appreciate the more subtle, yet genuine and honest personalities of some of her quieter, gentler classmates.

As I make my way through the ‘inexpensive Bordeaux’ aisles of my favorite wine stores, I wonder if the flavorlessness I taste is the French elegance I’ve read about. Or are these just bad examples of Bordeaux? I tend to believe the latter. Haut-Brion from Graves is the Bordeaux that Thomas Jefferson fell in love with. I have never tried it, but have read that it is an earthy wine with chocolate, plum and spice elements. It’s also very expensive. While I save up for a bottle of that, I will continue my search for an affordable, flavorful, yet, elegant Bordeaux. An elegant, balanced, subtle wine can be every bit as interesting and rich as a powerful, big-flavored wine.

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