I’m not here to argue whether or not Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is worth a hundred million dollars, which is what it sold for at Christie’s a few years ago, because I grew up in household of people who sold art for a living.
An early lesson my father taught me about the value of art is that something is worth exactly what somebody else is willing to pay for it.
Likewise wine. Along with a fluid, you are buying a lot of history and frequently some real estate; an acre of Napa vineyard may run you upwards of a quarter million dollars whereas I know people who can set you up in Paso for equally rich vineyard for under $50 k.
You’ve got Burgundy subdivided into so many lieux-dits through so many generations that you might be buying rows of vines rather than acres.
But the piece is on Bordeaux, so let’s return to the Picasso analogy. Neither am I here to suggest that bottle of Barton & Guestier Red is worth ten dollars, or a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild ’82 is not worth $3000.
If it is or if it ain’t is up to you and your bank balance.
That said, I have been tasting wines for a number of generations now, and if you put two glasses of Bordeaux in front of me, side by side, with no label information given, and you tell me that one sells for twice what the other one sells for, I am confident enough in my gustaoception and olfacoception skill set to tell you which one sells in the three digits range and which one doesn’t.
And if I can’t, I am also confident enough in my patriarchal curmudgeonry to tell you to stick with the cheaper option, whichever it may be.
Point is, I couldn’t tell.
So, I am going to offer two sets of tasting notes, and at the end I am going to tell you what two wines I am writing about, but not which is which. Nor will I tell you which one sells for $80 and which sells for $150. If you love your Bordeaux, you won’t need to be told because you’ll already know, and if you don’t love your Bordeaux, you probably won’t even care since you will not be shelling out the eighty to begin with.
Here goes, and let the oak chips fall where they may:
Wine #1: A big nose, but the fruit holds itself in tightly, as if with reins—it seems to want to explode, but doesn’t quite get there. I pick up some boysenberry notes, but mostly dry, dusty earth with some chocolate in the subterranean levels. Large in the mouth, but it doesn’t deliver any massive wallops of sensations, which would be fine if there was sufficient subtleness to account for the diminutive lushness. This I failed to find. It is a drinkable and noble mouthful of Bordeaux, unquestionable in its pedigree, but lacking any pomp or circumstance. The balance and the finish are there, and the wine presents itself well, but does not ring any rafters in the Château.
Wine #2: A nose of equal restraint; there is cassis deep within an almost roasted minerality, like charcoal briquettes. The wine opens with a half hour in the glass and becomes richer, but no further fruit flavors develop—more cocoa and coffee, perhaps, but the currants grow no more current. A nice silky mouthfeel, with tempered acidity and tannins that play nicely against them, but nothing outstanding beyond a textural template—the sensory highs are muted, even with aeration. The finish is noteworthy in its length, which plays on the back of the tongue for a number of minutes, but all this means in a wine you are drinking with a meal is that you need to wait a number of minutes between bites, which may probably not be viewed as a plus.
The two wines were Château Gloria, 2009 and Château Saint-Pierre, 2010, both from St. Julien on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary, considered by many wine pros as the world’s epicenter for Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine.
So as not to end on too sour a note, I will also offer viewing notes on Picasso’s hundred million dollar Nude, Green Leaves and Bust:
Okay, I’m confused; is the bust in the title supposed to be the statue or the tits? Or is the randy old painter playing a joke on me; if so, it’s no funnier than the one played on him since this painting didn’t turn into a nine figure investment until he’d been dead for forty years. Ya can’t take it with you, can ya, Pablito? The leaves are green, delivered as promised, but look rather angular and tight. A few hours in the sun would allow for them to open a bit. There is an echo of the statue in the blue background, which is an interesting touch, but there is a notable lack of balance in the nipples, one being far nipplier than the other.
If it’s me, I’m taking the hundred million and buying Bordeaux.