Each year, before the last grape is even picked, the Bordeaux marketing machine swings into action. The best aspects of every vintage are highlighted, and the worst ignored entirely. It is easy for the consumer to become cynical about vintage reports, wondering where the hype ends and the truth begins. So, in the name of full transparency, here is one truth: not every vintage is the “vintage of the century”. OK, so you knew that. Here’s another (and this may shock you): no one in the business of selling Bordeaux – Chateau owners, negociants, wholesalers, retailers – wants every vintage to be outstanding. Surprised? Don’t be. Extraordinary vintages command extraordinary prices. And usually a lot of patience. The best wines may need a couple of decades in the cellar to reach maturity and continue to drink well for decades more. There is little appetite among collectors for outstanding vintages every year. No one could afford them. No one has room enough in their cellars. Ideally, one hopes for a couple of such vintages a decade, preferably decently spaced with a good five years in between. Every other vintage is allowed to be merely ordinary, of good to very good quality.
For a couple of years now, I have thought that 2007 might be one such vintage. The weather that year was…how shall I put this...not great. Conditions were cool and humid throughout much of the spring and summer. August was especially rainy. Thankfully, September and October were hot and dry, creating the conditions for a successful harvest if growers had the patience to wait. Not everyone did, and the quality of the red wines varies greatly. The best, however, offer ripe, sweet fruit and fine tannins, and should make for very good near-term drinking. For its combination of drinkability and affordability, we like to call 2007 a “restaurant vintage" because wines like this are what most diners want to purchase when eating out. It's therefore fitting that I first had the 2007 Tronquoy Lalande, St-Estèphe during lunch at a famous restaurant in Bordeaux, the reservations made by none other than my boss, Clyde Beffa. We traveled to Bordeaux last April to taste the 2016 vintage en primeur. What followed was eight days of non-stop tastings, often on little or no sleep. Clyde’s reward to us was a Saturday afternoon off and reservations at his favorite bistro, La Tupina. The wine list is exclusively from Bordeaux, and the menu classic Bordelaise: lamproie à la bordelaise (local eels in red wine sauce), roast pigeon, etc. The fried potatoes (frites) cooked in duck fat alone are worth the journey. Not wanting to abuse Clyde’s generosity, we selected from the wine list the 2007. This was the first vintage produced by the new owners, who also own neighboring Chateau Montrose. It was the perfect complement to our meal, and an ideal choice for lunch à la Bordelaise. We were so taken with the wine that we begged Clyde to ask our negociant partners to find us some, and he promised to do so. He was as good as his word, and the wine has just arrived in our stores here in California.
I took a bottle home late last week to enjoy as part of my usual Friday night ritual – steak and claret – and the wine did not disappoint. It is aging a bit precociously; at ten years old, there are already captivating savory notes emerging on both the nose and the palate, hints of truffle and licorice. This is clearly not a wine for the ages but it is showing very well now. The blend - 58% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Petit Verdot – has a bit more Merlot than is typical for the property. The immediate impression is of lively acidity and bright fruit giving way to more sweetness and richness with time in the glass. Plenty of red and black fruits, red cherry and blackberry. There is a lovely weight and ripeness evident here, a positively silky texture and very fine tannins. Overall, this is an exceptional value and everything one might hope for from the vintage, one that we should all be enjoying right now whether we're dining out or eating at home.