Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bordeaux Fan?

With much speculation about the 2009 vintage of Bordeaux floating around, I spoke with Robin Kelley O’Connor, director of sales at New York’s venerable Sherry-Lehmann Wine Merchants, about the effect of the economy on Bordeaux sales in the United States.  He was just back from Bordeaux where he tasted more than 1,000 wines from the latest vintage. For 20 years, O'Connor was Trade Liaison spokesman for the Bordeaux Wine Bureau in North America, and he served as the president of the Society of Wine Educators from 2003 to 2007.

O'Connor told me he was a fan of Bordeaux both personally and professionally. “For both quality and quantity, it is the single greatest wine region in the world. I love Burgundy, California, Germany, Spain and others but it really comes down to the magic of what Bordeaux can produce, its staying power and the mystery of how the wines age for so long. I’ve promoted $10 bottles as well as $500 bottles, but it’s the workhorse wines that keep everybody in business there.“

Although he has seen his store’s customers (Sherry-Lehmann sells to 42 states, Mexico and Brazil) trade down within the Bordeaux category ever since the 2008 economic downturn, they have stayed loyal to the region.

O’Connor began teaching consumer-friendly educational events at Sherry-Lehmann’s mid-town Manhattan store in 2008. “When we do Bordeaux tastings and seminars, we sell out immediately. There is more excitement than for other regions we offer, even when the prices are high. People really are interested in tasting the wines but also in education so we bring in the owner or winemaker. Many times the attendees have bought the wines already and so it makes sense to come and taste and decide when to drink them.”

His prediction for the 2009 vintage: It's a great vintage, comparable to the 2005, but it won't sell as vigorously because of the economy.

Read more from O'Connor about the American appetite for 2009 Bordeaux in my interview with him in Decanter magazine's June issue, which contains a full report on the 2009 Bordeaux vintage.