I was invited to a private tasting that consisted of Bordeaux wines from both the right and left banks. There were 12 bottles in all and we were asked to rank and comment on the selection and then report our findings to our host. Among the guests were Michel Rolland and his colleague Bruno Lacoste, who, I have no doubt, offered the opinions that were of most interest to our host.
Mixed into the 12 bottles were three of the host’s bottles from his own chateau and since the tasting was done “blind” it was his hope that Rolland would remark on his wines notwithstanding the prestigious company that they were competing against.
It was a happy ending since Michel Rolland, and my wife I might add, both loved the host’s wines and placed them ahead of their distinguished classified competitors. I was a bit more predictable placing the Pauillac vineyards Latour and Lafite at first and second place.
It was a small group of guests which made for an intimate dinner setting at which we drank 2 Magnums of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1986 followed by a Dow 1945 Port with the cheese course. It is not every day that one gets to chat with Michel Roland so I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Michel Rolland is of course an expert in Bordeaux wine. Vineyards-Bordeaux, the expert in Bordeaux chateaux. I explained that we have seen a dramatic increase in business for Bordeaux vineyards during 2011 and it is continuing into 2012. I qualified this by stating that of the 25 sales in the right bank last year over 60% were to Chinese buyers who then export their wine back to China. What this means is that as of 2012 a significant portion of the Bordeaux supply is not available any longer in the traditional markets of Europe and the US. I asked Roland therefore if we could be witnessing the beginning of a renaissance in Bordeaux wine.
His response was an enthusiastic “yes” and he added that the Bordeaux name has a brand power with wine that no other wine region can match. He went on to say that Bordeaux chateaux are significantly under-priced when compared to the universe of choices in today’s vineyard market globally speaking.
I could not help being somewhat in awe of the great man (I also liked that he and I thought the same thing about Bordeaux) but I have to say it was really refreshing to find him to be such a humble, likeable and down to earth person. Clearly passionate about wine and so open to share his thoughts and opinions.
Of course, I had to ask him what his favourite wines are – a bit of a leading question for someone with such influence in today’s wine world. He told me that his favourite wines are Bordeaux wines because they age so well and there is such a rich variety of older wines to enjoy whereas in the new world, Napa for example, it is hard to find older wines.
And then the slightly cheeky question to follow – “what is your personal favourite” – he answered that his favourites are from the year 1947… and the favourite of these, a Bordeaux right bank, Cheval Blanc. So Chateau Cheval Blanc St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe (a) 1947 is Michel Rolland’s favourite wine. Fine then, I’ll take a dozen cases please… after I have sold my house!!
Written by Michael Baynes.