Book Review: Bordeaux by Oz Clarke

Bordeaux by O Clarke has been released this month and is a ‘must buy’ for Bordeaux wine lovers and newcomers to the scene alike.  This is not a stuffy tome pontificating about wines that few can afford but a very readable, well planned book absolutely crammed with useful information, maps and photographs.  This is also a book bursting with renewed vigour as Oz has breathed new life into an old topic.

The book won the prestigious Louis Roederer International Wine Book of the Year Award 2009 and Oz has completely revised and updated his work to encompass a new, unsung Bordeaux that no one should miss out on.

Oz revised the book to include the Bordeaux wines that are often under the radar: ‘the silent majority that is rarely written about, rarely discussed.’ 

The wines from Petit Chateaux, lesser known appellations, the Cru Bourgeois, the Bordeaux Superieurs and Second Wines . . . the Côtes:  Blaye, Bourg, Franc and  Castillon, the Fronsacs, Lalandes-de-Pomerol, and St Emillion satellites, the Entre de Mers, Cadillac and Graves.  I heartily agree with him as I have been singing the praises of these wonderful undiscovered wines for years.

There has been an explosion of improved wine making practices that have generated good quality wine from these wine makers and Oz writes that coupled with climate change this has resulted in some great wines that remain under promoted and deserve greater recognition. He explains:  ‘there is a vibrancy, a vivacity in the new Bordeaux which will guarantee not only its survival but its position of dominance.’

Bordeaux was his first love, so Bordeaux was his first tasting. And his first great wine.  His introduction ‘Why Bordeaux Matters’ explains his obsession:

‘What keeps drawing me back? What is it about Bordeaux I can’t get out of my system? Why do the names of its wine villages and chateaux play like music in my ears? 

Why is it the flavour of these wines, more than those of Burgundy, Barolo, Rioja, Barossa or Rhone, that meanders teasingly through my taste memory wherever I might be – whatever I might be drinking?  Why has this place smuggled its way into my soul – and why can’t I cast it out?’

It’s a good question and one that he attempts to answer in his book.  He covers over 300 chateaux and their wines plus recommendations of hundreds of affordable wines with invigoration, wit and insight.  His encounters include memorable anecdotes and instil a flavour of the region, its wine makers and its wines.

Within the pages you will find Bordeaux wines labels explained; the grapes grown, styles of wine – including the sweet white wines, the appellations, the soils, the micro climates and the weather, vineyard practices, wine making.

Oz also interprets Bordeaux as a business; its classification systems, the wine makers, oenologists and consultants, the great wine making dynasties .  He also discusses wine tourism and  Bordelaise wine and food and includes useful vintage guides.

This is a revitalised book on a new Bordeaux and Oz’s exhilaration is contagious. His vibrant enthusiasm matches my own for these lovely wines and I highly recommend that you try some for yourself.

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