Thursday 28 August 2014

The hard sell of a modern claret – Chateau La Tulipe de la Garde

There are certain things which I feel only benefit from a hefty dose of tradition. Like gentlemen’s clubs, Christmas, and claret. And here is a perfect example. Château La Tulipe de la Garde has the kind of label which catches my eye like an eyecatching thing. Look at all of that gilt, that French, that boast of heraldry. Reminds one of the period when the English didn’t just drink Bordeaux, we owned it.

It’s only later, as the bottle casts an enhancing aura of the Old World over a microwaved supper, that my eyes escape the lure of the main label, and suspicions begin to arise that contemporary marketing may have got its mitts on this claret.

The back label disturbs me, with a claim that La Tulipe de la Garde is “a modern, fast upcoming wine in the Bordeaux area”. This bodes ill. I do not want to see the word 'modern' on my claret, any more than I want to see 'instant' on my coffee, or 'American' on my mustard.

And the lower band declares that this wine is a ‘limited edition’ – of 68,247 bouteilles. This actually strikes me as rather unlimited; it’s true that, say, Château Margaux only produces 130,000 bottles a year, but I suspect there is rather more demand for that. In this case, the term ‘limited edition’ might be replaced, by anyone other than a marketing department, with the term ‘production run’.

(I also note that 68,247 is an odd number – literally – and suggests to me, rather less positively, a producer determined to wring every last single bottle out of their grapes.)

‘Mis en bouteille au Château’, it declares traditionally on the back label, then ‘Ilja & Klaas Gorte, Père & Fils, Bordeaux/London’ – an agglomeration of Dutch, French and English which has rarely delivered success for anyone, let alone Arsenal.

And I then find myself engulfed in over-enthusiastic marketing. This wine has its own website. It has its own monthly newsletter. “Slurp with us!” they say, with irritating cheeriness. (If anyone ‘slurps’ at my table, they get a dirty look and a lesson in common decency.) The back label even carries a QR code to view a movie. It’s all too much.

The back label also tells us more about ‘owner Ilja Gort, who insured his famous nose for 5 million euro’s [sic].’ (Whatever the English left the Bordelaise in 1453 clearly did not include an education in how to use the apostrophe.) When it comes to famous noses, I am familiar with Mr Jimmy ‘Schnozzle’ Durante, and with the extraordinary nose of the late Karl ‘The Nose’ Malden, which now appears to have its own Facebook page, but I had not heard before of Mr Gort’s famous nose. Still, it’s important to insure such things, what with all these nose-thieves about.

I wonder if his famous nose registered, like my less celebrated nostrils, a bouquet with not so much fruit as veg, and with troubling notes of latex?

There’s a decent Bordeaux struggling to break free of its barrel wood here, like a claret in a coffin. There’s a shedload of sediment for a 2011, but let it breathe for a bit and what gradually emerges is a decent claret with a twang about the edges and a bit of weight and resonance.

But it’s too late. It’s been spoilt for me by all this contemporary marketing stuff. Unlike the St James’s clubs I associate with claret, I feel the Gorts (Pere & Fils) are trying to start a club desperate to have me as a member. And what I want from a Bordeaux is that slight aloofness of a status earned through tradition, rather than the noisy salesmanship of an upstart.

If this were a fashion label, I could understand all of this marketing, this desperate bid for an ongoing relationship. Buy a pair of jeans or trainers nowadays, and you sort of expect to find the manufacturers bombarding you with websites and movies and newsletters and QR codes. But a Bordeaux?

Especially when there are only another 68,246 bottles out there.


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