Inside Bordeaux: digging below the surface
Author: Mark Pardoe MW
It is 10 years since Berry Bros. & Rudd’s first foray into the world of wine book publishing, with Jasper Morris’s Inside Burgundy, arguably now established as the seminal book on its subject. What set that book apart was its focus on the immutabilities of Burgundy – its vineyards and geology. For that reason, unlike other books on the region which act as snapshots in time, it is as relevant today as it was when first published.
And today we have the official release of Inside Bordeaux from Berry Bros. & Rudd Press, authored by Jane Anson. Jane’s expertise is well recognised and, rightly, glowingly described elsewhere. For me it is just as important to impress that hers is an independent voice. Although published under the Berry Bros. & Rudd Press banner, there is no commercial angle to this book. Its contents and Jane’s opinions are her own; Berry Bros. & Rudd’s role with Inside Bordeaux – just as it was with Inside Burgundy – was to facilitate the arrival of a landmark book on a subject of critical importance and relevance to the world of wine.
And Inside Bordeaux is especially relevant because it too focuses on what shapes the wines, before overlaying the stories and backgrounds of today’s producers and the region. At the book’s heart is a wealth of new research, accompanied by new maps and illustrations that, for the first time, really manage to capture the essence of Bordeaux from its soils and topography. For those who may believe that Bordeaux’s reputation is based more on brand awareness, here is evidence – previously empirical – that the quality of Bordeaux’s most famous names are clearly tied to geological parameters. Much of this new information is provided by Kees van Leeuwen, now a Professor of Viticulture in Bordeaux, whom I first met at Cheval Blanc in 1994 when he was just embarking on his analysis of that château’s vineyard composition – ground-breaking work (in both senses) at the time. It is his forensic aptitude, blended with Jane’s lucidity of expression, that sets this book apart, and the maps of selected châteaux’s vineyards – which link the planting of grape varieties to different soil types – are a revelation.
Readers will also learn of Bordeaux’s history and heritage, the economics of the region and its En Primeur process, and enjoy the 1,000 or so château profiles, each designed to give a flavour of each property’s personality and potential, rather than dwelling on its history. What I also appreciate is the care and attention given to Bordeaux’s less-lauded regions, where so much remains to be discovered and enjoyed. The work that links less renowned properties to unexpected outcrops of favoured terroirs is intriguing and makes this book as beguiling for the amateur as it is essential for the professional.
Inside Burgundy never leaves my side whenever I am in Burgundy. Despite its impressive bulk of nearly 700 pages, the same will be true of Inside Bordeaux. With this book, Jane has achieved something exceptional that illuminates and breathes life into the region she loves and understands, not just for the present but for the future too.