LeDomduVin's Theory of the decades
for Bordeaux Vintages
|LeDomduVin's Theory of the decades |
for Bordeaux Vintages by ©LeDomduVin 2019
1. Is there a reliable theory of the decades for Bordeaux vintages?
And I would definitely agree, Bordeaux as a region cannot be taken as a whole and thus the quality of the vintages cannot and should not be generalized to the whole region, but by appellation (at least). And we cannot even say that Bordeaux is only 2 banks: Left and Right, as I already firmly expressed myself on the subject on a previous post (read it here). Yet, I did generalize it, I admit it, but it was for the purpose of simplifying a terribly complicated subject and making it more accessible to everyone.
And talking about my illustration above, it somewhat summarizes my theory of the decades for Bordeaux vintages based on my analysis and the combination of results (average and trends) from various vintage charts of both banks from long-established wine specialized sources (e.g. Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Decanter, Berry Brothers, Wine Enthusiast, etc...). And looking at it, you have to admit that there is a pattern or cycle per decade. Do you see it? It is obvious to me, but maybe it is only me, maybe it is not that obvious to you.
In any case, personally, I really do believe that there is a pattern, some sort of a law of the decades in Bordeaux, a vintage quality cycle, which, somehow, repeats itself decade after decade, no matter what... Climate change, global warming, pollution of the air, water and ground, as well as (on a more positive note) better and more accurate technology, better and more natural practices in the vineyard and at the cellar (Organic, Biodynamic, Natural, Lutte Raisonnée, Sustainable farming, etc...) may probably change this vintage quality pattern over the next decade (2020-2029) or two. However, when you look at my illustration, even the sceptic that you are can see the pattern.
Is my theory reliable? Well, "reliable" may not be the right word, but it might prove to be correct as it sure does seem rather peculiar to have a "similar" repetition of the superior quality of certain vintages ("years" if you prefer) decade after decade, isn't it?
Having lived all of his life in the countryside and being a local winemaker from the Côtes de Bourg, spending most of his time outside in his garden where mingled a “potager”, an orchard and a vineyard, he knew of and had a savvy understanding of the old ways about Mother Nature’s signs to anticipate the weather conditions, as well as the growing cycle of the vines and, to a certain extent, the quality of the up-and-coming vintage as early as early spring.
The auspicious ones:
- "Lendemain de Saint-Vincent ensoleillé, rend le vigneron joyeux dans son cellier." (meaning "Sunny the day after Saint-Vincent day, makes the winemaker happy in his cellar" - Saint-vincent is usually celebrated January 22nd)
- "Soleil à la Saint-Vincent, - Le vigneron s'en va en chantant." (meaning "Sun at St. Vincent, - the winemaker goes away singing.")
- "Pluie à la Saint-Bernardin, - Vigneron pleure ton vin." (meaning "Rain at Saint-Bernardin, - winegrower cries your wine." - Saint-Bernardin is usually celebrated May 20th)
- "Gelée de Saint-Fructueux - Rend le vigneron malheureux." (meaning "Frost of Saint-Fructueux - Makes the winemaker unhappy." - Saint-Fructueux is usually celebrated April 16th)
He knew so much about the various natural cycles and signs of Mother Nature, that he could almost anticipate the results and consequences the weather will generate on the vine's life cycle, like if it was snowing, frosting, hailing or raining prior or after this day or this day (meaning prior or after this date or that date), then this or that will happen.
He was like an encyclopedia of knowledge. The vineyard was his life, but he also knew a lot about all sort of food and animals, and also had amazing recipes that I wished I could have written in a book as they were so good, yet well guarded in his mind as he rarely wrote them down. It was all about using your brain and memory and pay attention to all things in general in life, being open-minded and curious and willing to learn more. Savvy? Things that my generation X and the following one, Y, the Millenials, are not doing anymore...
|The Evolution of Education over the last 30 years Mathematics by ©LeDomduVin 2019|
(Inspired by and translated from a picture found on and courtesy of www.apprendre-en-ligne.net)
3. The rise of the Machines or How Humans became stupid and brainless
Memory is (or "was" should I say) a thing of the old and wise from previous generations. My generation "X" (1965-1979) and the generation "Y" (Millenial - 1980-1994), (and don't even get me started on my kids generations, "Z" (1995-2010 or 2012) for my boy and "Alpha" (roughly 2010-2025) for my girl), don't have any memory anymore, as we rely too much on computers, tablets, smartphones, and other gadgets to remember things for us. Consequently, and sadly, we barely use our neurones and our brain's potential anymore.... (sigh).
Therefore, Baby-boomers and Generation "X" (understand Pre-Millenial for those who might not know or understand the concept...), I have a few questions for you.....
- Do you remember the time when we had to memorize first and last names, birth dates, home and/or work addresses, phone numbers, and other things about people in our immediate surroundings, family and friends, but also colleagues and coworkers, etc... Remember? We used to know these things by heart... But who does that nowadays? No one... Your phone does it for you...
- Do you remember these long opinionated discussions and debates after a movie or even about a book or an exhibition or an event or god knows whatever else you used to be excited and passionate about?... Remember?... Who does that nowadays? Barely no one... Now instead, you only talk about it for less than a few minutes and the interest has already shifted to the next thing... No more long conversation around a drink or two or not even dinner after the movie or the show to talk about it... You just go back to your social networks and posts with selfies and pictures of yourself in weird situations on which you struck a pose that has nothing to do with you or your everyday natural self... giving yourself and more especially others the illusion of a supposedly exiting life that in reality is far from reaching any kind of excitement.... rings the bell?
- Do you remember the quality time and special moments spent with your family and friends, or even with your kids, walking around, on a stroll somewhere, riding bikes or playing ball games, being outside, breathing the air, having a BBQ, smiling, laughing, sharing, enjoying these precious moments and the scenery (fixed in your brain as an unforgettable memory) without the distraction of your phone coming to life at each notification of all your social network accounts?... Remember?... I bet you don't.... as you are already too used to the bad habits you took with your smartphone over the last 15 years... too bad, these were precious personal moments that you forgot and probably won't relive ever... (if you don't let go at your phone and other gadgets).
- Do you remember taking the time just to take the time?... to do something that pleased you... whatever that was... read a book, listen to some music, write, draw, paint, repair small things in the house, fix the old bike or the car in the garage, go for a jog, walk on the beach or in the forest, play with your kids, look at the cloud's shapes, gardening.... feel free.... not being rushed by always having something to do for someone else or being reachable everywhere... Do you remember? Personally, I do, and I loved it...
Everything nowadays goes way too fast to satisfy the need for immediate results and instant gratification creating an ephemeral moment of personal satisfaction, which is nothing more than an illusion, usually evaporating seconds later, as the interest as already shifted to something else supposedly even more interesting.... (sigh)...
I see it already with my kids (they are great kids and I love them both), but despite my wife and I efforts to teach them and provide them with good morals, values, manners, social behaviours, and overall a good education at all levels (at home and at school), we can only and desperately witness how fast things go, interact and influence them in their daily behaviours: lack of focus, lack of attention, change of moods, impatience, attitudes, answering back, believing they have rights for everything, and so on, and so on.... (you know what I'm trying to say... yet I still and will love them no matter what..... and, to be honest, I believe that we might have been the same with our own parents back then... but, I don't remember being to such extent....)
It seems that communication and entertainment technologies in general, TV and computers then, but more particularly smartphones, tablets and video game consoles (over the last decade), have intensified and accelerated certain bad behavioural processes in our kids and in ourselves too, (let's not deny it), which became bad habits that are more and more difficult to get rid of, as we are becoming too dependent on them, and, unconsciously, even use them as a substitute for our brain.
In fact, where is the time when people still had open-mind, curiosity, patience, interest, passion, desire, will, instinct, knowledge, skill and craftsmanship? Is it gone? Will it ever come back? Or would people, from now on, just be satisfied by mediocre results achieved too hastily due to too many screen distractions, as well as lack of interest, attention and/or willingness to do better?
And I'm not a progress hater or one of those saying "It was better before" (maybe a little...), as I fully embrace progress and new technologies, as long as they are made and used for the better, and as long as they do not compromise so much the natural part of our life and existence. Yet, we know all too well that the time spent on digital screens represent excessive distractions and affect cognitive and social development, especially memory building and interaction skill, for both children and parents.
We are basically becoming stupid, brainless, socially impaired and depressed individuals, empty of all sort of desires and wills and initiatives, solely guided by social networks only increasing our loneliness and individualism, addicted to lobotomizing games and unable to communicate with each other anymore.
All I'm trying to say is that it is saddening to realize how disconnected from reality and even more from Mother Nature we have become.
4. Better before....?
The generation of my grandfather, especially for those who lived and worked in the countryside like him, knew how to recycle and live with Mother Nature and somehow better protected the environment... I remember when I was young, back in the late 70s, and in the 80s, my grandfather already had different recycle bins: glass, metal, paper and a pit to compost the rest of vegetables and shellfish and molluscs. He had most of his vegetable and fruits coming from his garden and was buying whatever else he needed from other local farms or local artisanal Boucher/Charcutier and Boulanger/Patissier of the area. He always had a basket to do his groceries, no plastic bags (or very rarely, but he recycled them too). And I could carry on and on with many more examples.
Yet, on the other side of the coin, let's not forget that back in those days the use of harmful chemicals in the vineyard (both herbicides and insecticides) and within agriculture, in general, was common practice, as production was still about quantity, not quality, back then.
In fact, Mother Nature has been disrespected, soiled, damaged, polluted, asphyxiated, mutilated and overall disturbed in her daily work for the past 8 decades (since WWII, at least) by the unavoidable human factor (which definitely has something to do with that disturbance, despite the belief of some sceptics who still believe that humans have nothing to do with it).
Yet, I'm also trying to say that the human factor can also contribute to help Mother Nature when used the right way and for the greater good rather than to serve evil or vile interests. The recent comeback to more natural practices in agriculture, and more specifically in viticulture (Natural, Organic, Biodynamic, Lutte Raisonnée, etc....) is a proof that we are maybe witnessing a new age of reason for a small, yet ever-growing, community of concerned souls that are willing to change things to save our little planet.
Would this minority's realization be able to inspire the majority to understand that we don't have time anymore for sterile debates and inaction from the politics, lobbies and other major financial or economic institutions? Let's say that I'm really hoping so...but I doubt it will happen fast enough, unfortunately...
As, although this comeback to more natural practices is a blessing and a sign of hope, it is only done by a minority, the generation X, (my generation, roughly 1966-1980), already has difficulties to make a difference in this world and shift the trend back to more responsible behavior and more natural practices and methods, since it's people are too busy dealing with corrupt politics, greedy lobbyists, slow economic growth and development, as well as an increased living cost and more difficulties to make ends meet, etc.... than the 2 previous generation (Baby Boomers 1946-1955 and Boomers II/Generation Jones 1955-1965)
....and, despite recent protests and strikes to show and express their concerns and urge the adults (more specifically the politicians) of this world to do something and get into action to make a change, it probably will be even harder for my kid's generation (Generation Z, roughly 1995-2012) as they have inherited a messy and dilapidated world, where life is more complicated, and consequently (overall) most are not even interested (only a minority are) and like most generations before them, they will blame it on the previous one...
...and you know what? They are right !!!... by acting the way we did over the last 60-80 years (or even 150 years at least I should say) without measuring the consequences and the secondary effects of our decisions, actions and inventions, we put ourselves facing the wall against which we are pressed today (meaning in 2019).... and against which we will eventually crash into....
We have pushed overproduction, consumerism, capitalism,etc.. while worshipping the power of money and entertainments to avoid facing the ugly reality of certain things happening right in front of our eyes. We made sure to keep ourselves too busy with non-sense and smoke-screen to be able to see...
....well... let me stop there, as, once again (and as always), I'm totally derivating into another subject, and it will take me to long to fully express what I was about to loudly rant about... but I can't help it, I'm a very opinionated person and what is happening to the world makes me sad and furious at the same time... it is difficult to only be a witness and not an actor of our own fate.....
....let's go back to the main subject of my theory of the decades for Bordeaux Vintages, shall we? Let's keep it light and zen..... (sigh)...
5. The theory or "law" of the decades (as I like to call it)
1. It is where I come from and where I grew up with my grandfather, and therefore is the place possess the most knowledge of and personal references too.
2. Bordeaux is also an easy target as it is probably one of the most (if not "The" most) coveted and documented wine regions in the world, covered by a countless amount of media on daily basis, and therefore where the most info and data about the quality of the vintages can be found.
3. It is also historically known to only produce 3 to 4 good to great vintages per decades, which comfort my theory....
1. Is there an obvious pattern on the quality of certain vintages when looking at the decades (on the illustration above or the table below)?
2. Could a pattern or cycle in the local climate and weather explains why or be the reason why some years are better than the others?
The quality differences between the vintages (for Bordeaux wines as a whole region for the purpose of this post) have been highlighted in 4 different colors to make it more simple and easy to read and understand.
|LeDomduVin's Theory of the decades - Legends|
for Bordeaux Vintages by ©LeDomduVin 2019
Do you see the pattern now? No? But you have to admit that the vintages in "Bordeaux" color form (somehow) a column, and therefore form a pattern, no?
Let me explain my theory with a very simple table chart with numbers, people like numbers to verify a theory, so let's do it with numbers, which will be more visual and easier to understand at one glance.
The following results are not solely based on my observation and combination of various wine critic’s ratings. They also include memories of what my grandfather used to tell me about the quality of these vintages, as well as what I witnessed and experienced myself when in Bordeaux, mingled with all the Bordeaux wines I tasted myself over the last 28 years of my career (as a well seasoned and travelled Sommelier and Wine Buyer, working in the wine industry for restaurants and wine retail stores on 3 continents).
Consequently, these results represent more a reflection of my unique point of view and opinion about the quality of certain vintages, combined with the wine critics and press scores, rather than being, solely, specifically or exactly, an average of the critics and press scores.
|LeDomduVin's Theory of the Decades for Bordeaux Vintages |
- Chart with numbers - by ©LeDomduVin 2019
If we take a closer look at this table, and more specifically at the Total Averages results at the bottom, we can conclude that there is a pattern and that over the last 80 years, some vintages have been recurringly better than the others:
|LeDomduVin's Theory of the Decades for Bordeaux Vintages|
- Quality Rank - by ©LeDomduVin 2019
I can already hear some people saying: "Hey, wait a minute..... this vintage was better than that!" and/or "...overall this vintage ended up getting better with age..."...etc...
I also can hear other people saying that it is difficult to draft a table like this one, as the climatic changes that occurred over the last 30 years, as well as new technologies and methods in the vineyards and in the cellars, need to be taken into consideration as they have influenced the quality of the vintages too. And therefore, this table is too generic or general and shouldn't be applied to the whole region of Bordeaux but rather to specific appellation to be more accurate and consistent.
And I will say yes, I hear you and I agree with you. You are right, it definitely should be applied to a more specific appellation to be more accurate and consistent. However, this is just an example for the people that never really thought of doing such an analysis or comparison before (and it would be too long and tedious to apply it to specific appellation).
|LeDomduVin’s Theory of the decades for Bordeaux Vintages |
by ©LeDomduVin 2019 - By Categories
The vintages ending with "2" are mixed, and despite 1982 which was a great vintage, and 2002 which offered great bargains for the quality, the rest were not that good. And 2012 confirmed it, good for some appellations, but mostly fair for the others and overall better than 2011 or 2013, but still not a great vintage.
The ones ending in "8" are also mixed, but usually better than ending "2", with good to fair vintages like 2008, or even Great to good vintage like 2018.
They show that, over a certain period of time, things usually revolve around similar axes and patterns, coming back or reappearing as a recurring factor after a cycle of a certain amount of years. For this example, we are talking about decades, basically what happens every 10 years (or so) in terms of weather conditions, climatology and the resulting quality of the vintages of a certain designated area (the whole region of Bordeaux for this example).
This combination of frequent rainfall, humidity in the air and recent climatic changes and global warming brought some disastrous consequences to Bordeaux vineyards. More especially in this last 2 decades: We all still have in mind the hail storm of May 26th, 2018, the frost of April 2017, (reminding us of the frost of 1991), but also the unprecedented heat wave of 2003, etc....
6. Why taking Bordeaux as a whole region rather than by Appellation
Atop of the reasons already cited above, the other reasons why I took the region of Bordeaux as a whole, and not by appellation, are that each appellation includes numerous microclimates and other factors, within the appellation, which can greatly influence the vintages and thus could challenge this theory.
For example, the microclimates within the appellation depend mostly on their proximity with the Gironde estuary (the Haut-Medoc on the left bank and Cotes de Bourg/Blaye on the Right bank) and/or the two rivers flowing into it La Garonne (Graves, Sauternes) and La Dordogne (Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and the rest of the appellations of the right bank) and the Entre-Deux-Mers in between. Therefore differ greatly from each other.
Also taking Bordeaux as a whole allows for preventing from getting too much into details, for example, the fact that the Left Bank is rather flat, with isolated small hills and gently inclined slopes, and therefore more exposed to wind and rain from the Atlantic and also subject to higher humidity into the soil. While the Right Bank rests on a limestone bedrock plateau extending from the Côtes de Blaye to the north and descending all the way south to the Côtes de Castillon, undulating all along with rounded hills creating a totally different (and much attractive, I must say) landscape than the Left Bank, with more microclimates and variation of temperatures (than the Left Bank). Consequently, all these factors create numerous microclimates and niches where temperature and humidity may differ from Appellation and/or even Chateaux next to/near each other.
I also could have taken into consideration the tremendous works and efforts, deployed over the last 15-20 years, into the vineyards and the cellars from the Chateaux owners and winemakers, in addition to new techniques and technologies, to produce better wines, thus increasing both the quality of the wines but also the vines and their environment. But their again, these are very influential factors that will have challenge the theory.
However, this last point, about new techniques and technologies applied in the vineyards and cellars, is a bit controversial, because some of the best wines of Bordeaux are now produced by people who leave Mother Nature do what she does best in the vineyards and adopt a minimalist attitude and approach in terms of interference with the winemaking part in the cellar.
In any case, all I'm trying to say is that I tried to do it at appellation level and in my opinion it is more difficult due to the many influential factors cited above... but not impossible.
A scary beginning of the year in Bordeaux, again, for this 2019 vintage, as early buds appeared on the vines due to excessively high temperatures late February-early March 2019, from 18°C up to 26°C (it was summer already) between 15/02 and 27/02, and 22°C on 03/03; putting back into the minds of the producers the eventual risk of a sudden frost, as temperatures went back to 13°C shortly after (after all, even if Spring will come on March 21st (in 3 days exactly), until then, it is still Winter....)
Yet, you never know... As, 2009, for example, was considered lost as two hail storms in May 2009 (first on May 11th and the other on May 13th), which destroyed thousands of hectares on their paths around the Côtes de Bourg, Premières Côtes de Blaye, Margaux, Graves, but most predominantly around St-Émilion and the Entre-Deux-Mers, with stones the size of ping pong balls, but ended up becoming one of Bordeaux’s greatest vintages of this decade. So, we will see, as per my table and my theory, 2019 should be a great vintage (like most vintages ending in "9", except 1979 and 1999, which were bad vintages overall).