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Book review: What Price Bordeaux?

>> Friday, January 14, 2011

What Price Bordeaux?
By: Benjamin Lewin
Vendange Press

What Price Bordeaux? is an unusual and an interesting book. But let me start with two things that I find annoying, to get them out of the way. First, the title. The book is about so much more than “the price of Bordeaux” and the title makes a disservice to the contents. Second, the footnotes. The author has a science publication background and that shows There are probably more than 400 footnotes in the book. If you are a person with curiosity (which you will be if you read this book) then you will find yourself turning furiously between the main text and the footnotes at the end, continuously disrupting your reading. If only they had been located at the bottom of each page. Many do contain quite relevant information and it is sometimes not clear why things have been relegated to a foot note. This said, the book is a treasure trove of information and odd facts and figures on Bordeaux, often giving very relevant information to understand the market for Bordeaux wines. Most of it is focused around the classification (primarily of 1855), the ratings and the evaluations of the top wines. Much of it has a rather American perspective but most of it is very interesting for anyone with a keen interest of what goes on behind the scene in Bordeaux. For example, what the relation is between the classification and terroir/geography/vineyards (none), or how the 1855 classification has been changed (twice), or what was the basis of the classification (purely price), and how should it look today if it was done again according to the same principles (very different). It is a book with a refreshingly critical point of view, if sometimes idiosyncratic. Anyone who believes that wine prices in Bordeaux has a relation to wine quality should read it, or that classifications are a help to consumers, or who doubts that Bordeaux is a land of brands, marketing and luxury goods. If it was written today (and not a few years ago) there would no doubt be a chapter on Lafite and China. In spite of some idiosyncrasies it is a book eminently worth reading if you are interested in the intricacies of Bordeaux wine politics.

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