“If only people could imagine the riches!” says a wine connoisseur friend, standing in the gorgeous ballroom of the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan. It is a sunny winter day, and celebrity wine writers have turned out to taste the ’06 vintage at Union Des Grands Crus de Bordeaux.
Each year the finest vignerons of the Chateaux of Bordeaux — many of them Chateau owners — showcase their wines for the media, wine store owners, and restaurateurs. I waive to many fellow journalists I know from the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and prestigious magazines. Many of the restaurateurs and sommeliers waive and recognize me. “Why haven’t you been in to our restaurant lately?” they ask, with a kiss on both cheeks, the French way.
We — all of us here in the room — are on a mission. We are here to find out what the ’06 is made of, if it is worth buying for our restaurants and stores, or what to write about it for our publication. So if you have not been to this sort of event before, let me set the scene.
Imagine walking into a room, taking a crystal glass, and having all afternoon to sip fabled wines like Chateau Rauzan-Segla, Chateau Figeac, Chateau La Lagune, Chateau Batailley, and dozens more. Beyond the famous wine, behold the plush, gilded surroundings, the burnished furniture, the elaborate architecture of the ballroom with its many-storied ceiling and opera-esque décor.
Then of course, you have the Bordeaux people, a combination of owners, winemakers, and sales staff - the men all very dapper and well-dressed, and the French women, well-coiffed and wearing the kind of elegant, fitted attire one does not typically see at the other end of the tasting table during an American tasting. Wine is poured with great charm and ceremony. Most tasters seem to know the representatives behind the tables from visits to the wineries, or appear to have warm friendships with them.