By Tasting Room Confidential Contributor Jeremy Cai
The basics are the same: Bordeaux has been described as straightforward in terms of production and flavours. Its cabernet sauvignon grapes, Bordeaux’s common base, thrives all around the world and the flavours are largely consistent. On the other hand, Burgundy’ pinot noir is less predictable and more complex, and is often known as the ‘Mozart’ (emotional and joyful) equivalent to the ‘Bach’ (intellectual and logical) of Bordeaux’s cabernet sauvignon.
‘Terroir,” which represents all the aspects and characteristics of the region, is one of the biggest determining factors in the demand, price and thus exports for both of these wine ‘powerhouses.’ Bordeaux’s production depends on the temperatures and moisture compositions near the sea, where most of its vineyards are located, whereas Burgundy’s weather is erratic throughout the year.
But in 2015, both Bordeaux and Burgundy saw some of their best conditions for winemaking.
The harvest kicked off in 2015 with its trademark merlot grapes, which were eventually blended with cabernet sauvignon and franc. More importantly, the quality has markedly improved as the juices have had a great jump in flavour, and the grapes have had less seeds and thicker skin which makes for stronger, more refined tannins. Winemakers have also said that they have never seen darker Bordeaux wine after only 12 hours of soaking, the process in winemaking by which the red wine receives its red color.
A scorching hot July, rainy August and then sunny Autumn was just what they needed to push Bordeaux imports into China, its biggest client, back up after two years of dropping sales. Crazy prices paid by the Chinese for Bordeaux wines are beginning to come back, after a drop in demand during China’s stock market crash, 2008’s global financial crisis, and the stopping of corruption by the new government (Bordeaux wines are popular bribes). The abolition of Hong Kong’s import taxes for wine has never come at a better time, to drive up demand for Bordeaux wines even further.
As a result, Bordeaux’s older vintage wines have also seen resurgence due to the increase in overall demand, adding up to over 400 hectolitres being shipped into China for 2015. US collectors have taken notice, as export demand to the Americas also increase. (We at Epicurio, however, believes that fine wine investment is appropriate only for people who have a genuine interest in wine, and the rest should be drinking them as per normal).
Bordeaux has always been more commercialised in nature than Burgundy, due to an older, more open exporting tradition, which has typically pushed up shipments even for mid-range Bordeaux selections over Burgundy equivalents, although Burgundy’s price and demand may be greater outside of China.
Burgundy has always been all about its terroir and farmers. The sensitivity of chardonnay and pinot noir, two of Burgundy’s basic varietals, makes for production difficulties due to the weather, which is more volatile than in Bordeaux.
It comes as no surprise then that Burgundy was a greater exporter to Europe itself than Bordeaux was, since it’s easier to control export prices if Burgundy was shipping to just nearby countries. It doesn’t hurt that Burgundy has that friendlier reputation due to its more homegrown roots (being largely family owned), which Europeans could gravitate to more. An awareness in Asia and the U.S, although growing, is still not enough to push Burgundy over its main ‘rival.’
Bordeaux and Burgundy: both excellent
Since China and the U.S are the biggest importers of French wine over the last year, we can see that Burgundy still has a ways to go before surpassing Bordeaux in global export. But it is certainly winning over wine lovers with its warmer, more dynamic taste.