Alternative Bordeaux: How The Right and Left Banks Are Getting Their Groove Back
A brief discussion with Bordeaux heavyweight, Alain Raynaud
There was a time when I would pick up a bottle of French wine and try to discern its quality by staring blankly at the label, then choosing based on price and artful script. Enter the experts: there’s a new collective of 149 Chateaux aimed at highlighting high quality Bordeaux wines at affordable prices—and like organic food and wine that is labeled as such, they come with seals of approval, visible on the bottles.
So, with an internet full of content about Bordeaux, I hope for your alternative dining pleasures you take pause to get acquainted with Alain Raynaud’s website for the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux, which quite loosely translated means “The Great Circle of Bordeaux.”
This carefully curated collective includes wineries within the Cercle Rive Droite, (droite means “right” in French) and the Cercle Rive Gauche (gauche means “left” in French), hence Right Bank and Left Bank producers. One or two NYC events per year host a fairly small crowd—a kind of insider’s club—so getting on board now is your challenge. On the social front, get acquainted with the wineries through the organization’s website, and follow ones that appeal to you on Facebook and Instagram for updates and event announcements. Finally, when shopping, look for the organization’s seal/logo on bottles, as each will have been panel tested and approved.
Now to the interview: Raynaud is a Bordeaux heavyweight champion—the former President of the Union des Grands Cru, he left in 2000 to focus on promoting the wines of his beloved region.
1. While those in the wine industry certainly know who you are, give us a rundown of your career in wine.
I was Born in Pomerol into a family involved in the wine business (château la Fleur de Gay). I graduated as a physician and assumed this position for 28 years. Even as a physician, since about 1964, I have always been in charge of our family winemaking practices under the advice of my father. And eventually I wanted to run my own château. My love for wine has been contagious enough to convince my wife Françoise to join me in his journey.
2. What inspired you to start the Cercle des Grands Vins de Bordeaux — what is the goal of these organizations?
In 1994 I became the President of the Union des Grands Crus up to year 2000, but this very well-known association was missing an important part of the Right Bank in Bordeaux. This is why in 2002 I created the Cercle Rive Droite. As a matter of fact we were missing the participation of the Left Bank. This is why this year we decided to create the Cercle Rive Gauche that is now participating to a new Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux. The main idea in this creation is to give the young wine connoisseur a large rank of wine expressing both high quality and reasonable prices.
3. You just had a big tasting of the 2013 en primeur wines – what are some of the initial thoughts of the vintage?
The wines we tasted are from the 2012 vintage and the growing season was especially wonderful throughout the month of August, with consistent temperatures, though there was unexpected difficult weather in September and these young wines are very interesting — it’s too early to tell what will become of them, however they are unique and hold great potential.