To Explain The Bordeaux Varietals …

As far as I am concerned, there is very little that music CAN’T teach us about wine. Music in general, and Jazz in particular.

So I am going to return to the well of melody yet again, to draw up another analogy to address a matter I find myself speaking about quite often; The Bordeaux Varietals.

What are they? Why are they so important? What do they mean?

You can look them up rather easily, of course.

A, E, I O, U, and sometimes Y.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and sometimes Carmenere.

You can look up just about everything, really; from acreages planted to DNA fingerprints.

But none of that will tell you what The Jazz can tell you.

Remember, while we now often associate wine & jazz with the city (think austerely modern tapas bars playing soft electronica for the former, and smoky boho hipster beat piano bars for the latter), both in truth come from the country; from poor country folk who sought out magic as a means to get by, to get through, to get on.

The Brotherhood of the Grape & The Saint James Infirmary.


The twin pillars of Cabernet …

Cabernet Sauvignon. The granddaddy of them all, yet of the modern era, not a foundational saint. Yet so important, so dominant, that we cannot conceive of a world before. Duke Elllington, of course. All colors, all flavors, so complex yet so strong. So perfect as to in fact be misunderstood, as only the king can be. Duke Ellington of course. The essence you’ll remember forever, but whose harmony belongs to the components; the hue and tone birthed for the band of original angels. Cabernet Sauvignon, of course.


Historic Vineyard Series Merlot …

Merlot. So approachable, so genial, so maddeningly appealing as to become an almost guilty pleasure in an era of self-conscious posturing. Louis Armstrong, of course. So popular as to be forgotten for the true genius held within. So perfect that self-caricature seems almost inevitable, so influential as to earn its own undeserved bad rap entirely for the sins of its lesser brethren. Louis Armstrong, of course. In everything, is everywhere; you cannot even grace the stage without the trace. Merlot, of course.

sunrise at Ortman. Cheval Cab Franc

Rousten Cabernet Franc …

Cabernet Franc. The weird one; the acquired taste; the obsessive’s passion, the insider’s inside. Thelonious Monk, of course. The seemingly simplest and the seemingly most complex; the there-are-no-wrong notes. Thelonious Monk, of course. The one that’s all wrong that’s alright; the one you may not know on its own, but is in everything. The lullaby in the mystery, mysterioso, the clue that was right there all along. Cabernet Franc, of course.

Petit Verdot on the vine, Rousten Ranch, Monte Bello

Petit Verdot on the vine, Rousten Ranch, Monte Bello

Petit Verdot. The volatile one. The unpredictable one. The one that goes from funky to beautiful in the blink of an eye. Charles Mingus, of course. The one with the back-up role that won’t back up, the backbone in the front. The leader from behind. Charles Mingus, of course. The one with the chip on its shoulder, that gets no respect, that is far too demanding for the conventional. The mysterious, mercurial Petit Verdot, of course.


No Malbec on Monte Bello, sorry! But, it IS a Bordeaux Varietal …

Malbec. The muscle, the meat, the virility that defined a modern style still to come, the legend that found its home on farther shores, then returned home a hero. Coleman Hawkins, of course. The hard-driving, the black and soulful; the high-flying, the brass-tacks visceral. The monopoly on the market, the old that is new; of the old in the new. Coleman Hawkins, of course. The nine lives of a player that’s weathered it all; swinging in the confidence of its legacy. Malbec, of course.

Or, put another way:

—Complexity wrought so perfectly it feels familiar (Duke Ellington)

—The unencumbered exuberance and excitement of perfect technique set free (Louis Armstrong)

—The beautiful, captivating weirdness; the odd and unsettling thing that lifts conventional appeal up to extraordinary allure (Thelonious Monk)

—The unexpected, volcanic unpredictability of passion (Charles Mingus)

—Confidence, self-actualization, and moxie (Coleman Hawkins)

The Bordeaux Varietals?

Ask The Jazz.

Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Wine & Music, Wine and Jazz

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