There can't be many more frustrating experiences than coming up with a great idea and then seeing someone else get all the glory for it.
History is riddled with examples. There's England, which invented the world's most popular sport, football (or soccer as it is bizarrely known in some parts), only to see other countries play it so much better. There's Heinrich G?bel, whose invention – the light bulb – was acquired by Thomas Edison, who everyone now believes invented it.
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In the world of adult beverages, distiller Nathan "Nearest" Green should be better known, but it is the name Jack Daniel that appears on labels around the world. And then there is Bordeaux.
It is a rare day indeed when I find myself in the unfamiliar position of asking people to feel sorry for the patricians of Bordeaux, but they must surely be feeling as though someone has subtly and surreptitiously pulled the rug out from under them in recent years. Most painfully of all when it comes to the very essence of the vaunted region – the Bordeaux blend.
The Bordeaux blend is the name given to the mixture of grapes – typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot – that goes into making the style of red wine synonymous with Bordeaux and the style we have been told – repeatedly and ad nauseum – is responsible for the greatest wines on earth. The willingness of people to believe this theory is baffling (as is the very same people's ability to simultaneously hold the contradictory belief that Burgundy also produces the supreme example of the winemaker's art, but that's another story).
Anyone who has poured a glass of very ordinary Claret – and there are vast oceans of Bordeaux wine that don't even achieve that modest ambition – will question the wisdom of the scribes and self-appointed experts who go into ecstasies at the very mention of Bordeaux. Yes, the best wines are glorious, but they amount to a tiny percentage of the flood of mediocre wine produced each year in Bordeaux.
The problem for Bordeaux is that they have marketed to well the idea that these wines are the most pointy of pinnacles in the wine world. Everyone else believed them and subsequently tried to copy the Bordeaux style; there's hardly a wine region in the world that hasn't at least attempted to produce a Bordeaux blend.
And the big problem now is that some places are clearly doing it better than Bordeaux, as we shall see from our list of the best Bordeaux blends, as judged by their aggregated critic scores.
A note about our critic scores, by the way. Wine-Searcher collates scores from a wide range of critics, from influential single palates like Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson to publications like Wine Spectator, all adjusted for the 100-point scale. To generate a wine's aggregate score, Wine-Searcher uses a Bayesian methodology to calculate a weighted average, since not all critics are equal. This score is calculated for specific vintages of a wine, as well as across all vintages.The World's Best Bordeaux Blends on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Score||Ave Price|
|Harlan Estate, Napa||97||$1106|
|Abreu Thorevilos Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa||96||$581|
|Colgin Cellars IX Estate Red, Napa||96||$552|
|Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan||96||$623|
|Chateau Ausone, Saint-Émilion||96||$755|
|Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac||96||$680|
|Château Margaux, Margaux||95||$732|
|Château Cheval Blanc, Saint-Émilion||95||$696|
|Abreu Cappella Proprietary Red, Napa||95||$506|
|Sloan Proprietary Red, Rutherford||95||$587|
Wow, that's quite a result for Napa, isn't it? Talk of beating someone at their own game – the top three spots, and five in total, go to the Californians. Some of the wines universally considered to be the world's finest don't make the cut – Lafite, Lynch-Bages, Pontet-Canet: all absent. In fact, 15 of the 25 top-scoring wines are from California, which goes some way towards illustrating just how well America does France.
The Bordeaux wines do have an excuse, however. With many, many more vintages under their belts there is always going to be a greater possibility of a lower score dragging down the aggregate. Bordeaux chateaux have been turning out their prides and joys for more than 150 years, while California is really just 50 years old in terms of wide production of quality wines (and many of these wineries are considerably younger than that), meaning they have had the advantage of better viticulture as well.
The French winemakers must be looking anxiously westward and wondering just how good their American rivals will be in another 50 years.