The end of Napa and Bordeaux

Two regions that are synonymous with big, bold, heavy wines are losing their relevancy amongst a younger wine audience. As that audience grows in stature, knowledge, and buying power these wines could lose their place amongst the upper echelons of wine society.

Changing winds

Bordeaux was not always considered one of the greatest wine regions in the world, and Napa’s prestigious reputation is still new in the grand book of wine history. It was not until 18th century that Bordeaux became sought after. Given its location wrapped around an estuary leading out into the Atlantic sea, Bordeaux became a powerhouse as wine became traded for things like coffee. The region was in a perfect position to take advantage of the seeds of globalization, and laud it over other regions in France.

A glass of Opus One looking out over the Napa Winery’s vineyards. A collaboration between Baron Rothschild and Robert Mondavi, Opus One is a symbol for the luxury represented by the two regions.

The climate just isn’t right

While a new generation poses a great problem for these classic wine regions, climate change makes these problems increasingly difficult to solve with every passing year. While warmer summers have led to bumper crops and fantastic vintages, there is an impending doom on the horizon. The warmer vintages favor more intense flavors in the wines, so the wines of these regions move further and further away from a consumer looking in the opposite direction. Any solution in this realm, at least on the face of it, would appear unnatural which is yet another trait younger wine lovers are growing to despise!

Edit: But Bordeaux plants back

No sooner had I initially published this article was it brought to my attention that Bordeaux had made a big move in the face of climate change. The powers that be announced that more varietals would be allowed in their famous blends. Most notably for red wines were the additions of the lowly Marselan (though we could be seeing a lot more of that in the future) as well as Touriga Nacional. For white wines Albariño would now be a permitted part of any wine. Many would be surprised at the inclusion of grapes that are not native to France at all, Touriga Nacional being from Portugal while Albariño is from Spain, but the choices are deft. Both varieties will be well suited to the changing climate while fitting seamlessly into the style and characteristics that have become signature of the region. Heck they might even enhance them!

Business for who?

If the recent retirement of Robert Parker has shown anything it has shown his dwindling influence on the wine business. His influence helped to grow the bold and the beautiful styles of wines. As a result Bordeaux became entranced by its own prominence at the top of the mountain. Wine influencers from publications, distributors, and retailers flicked to the annual “en primeur” tasting of each vintage as they sought to gather notes and decide the value and prices of the wines almost two years before they were even released. Some in Napa, acting as the copycat little brothers have adopted this strategy of inviting well heeled tasters to try out their wines just months after harvest and years before release to gauge pricing, often priced at more per bottle than the average person will spend on wine in a year. To say there is an air of elitism about these wines is like saying there is a faint smell of pollution in that smog.

A lineup of Bordeaux wines.

Its the end of Bordeaux as we know it

No matter how you look at wine, wines from regions like the Napa Valley and Bordeaux are about to see their prominence come to a screeching halt. Climate change could push these regions to making wines they are not comfortable with, or find it very difficult to achieve vintages that command their price points without having to resort to over manipulation. At the same time no matter what they do, whether it is the business model and brand positioning that they find themselves adhered to, the process through which they make their wines, or simply the wines themselves, they are out of step and out of touch with a younger generation who are fast becoming the taste influencers of the wine world.

Wine and drink lover, making it a better experience to find and enjoy good drinks. Changing how we appreciate wine one bottle at a time.

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