Medoc, France

Sep 29, 2017 - National Geographic Orion

There are certain places in the world that are known for producing the absolute best of something. If you want the best whisky on the planet, you must hit the heather of Scotland. For cigars, Cuba is the undisputed world champion. When it comes to wine, no place is more synonymous with greatness then Bordeaux, France.

Today, we explored the Medoc wine region near Bordeaux, the source for some of the world's most cherished, and expensive, wines. Sure, you can find excellent whisky outside of Scotland, great cigars from other tropical islands, and excellent wine from Napa to Naples. But while places such as California, Chile, and South Africa may be making waves among wine experts, they are just pretenders struggling to claim the throne long held by the envied vintage vines of Bordeaux.

Ironically, we learned today that most of Bordeaux's original vines died from a phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800s, and today's grapes are grown from the descendants of resistant plants brought from Missouri. Yet the romance and heritage of the French wine chateaus still charm wine aficionados and collectors. A new bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild, the iconic producer whose vineyards we passed on our journey today, can sell for more up to 1500 euros. And even after shelling out that kind of money, you should wait, licking your lips, for a good 15 years before the wine has aged long enough to reach its true flavor potential. A collection of ten bottles of the 1945 vintage sold for $114,614, or about $23,000 a bottle.

We broke into three different groups, each visiting different chateaus. I was on the group that visited Château Lagrange, an illustrious producer that was among the lucky few included in the legendary First Growth classification of 1855. While the château experienced a long period of decline, it was purchased by the Japanese beverage conglomerate Suntory in 1983, and has now regained its reputation as one of Medoc's premier wine producers. We visited the vineyards, witnessed the high-tech processing of the grapes (we happened to be in the area during harvest time and the fields were filled with workers), and tasted three different wines. The complex flavors of Bordeaux wine take years to reveal themselves, and we were able to compare a 2012 and a 2008 vintage. Alas, nothing from 1945 was offered.

While there has definitely been no shortage of wine on this expedition—we visited wineries in Porto, Galicia, and the Basque Country during the week, we certainly saved the best for last. Bottoms up to a great week!

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About the Author

Jacob Edgar

Cultural Specialist

Jacob Edgar is an Ethnomusicologist, world music tastemaker and global explorer with an insatiable curiosity for the diverse ways in which people express themselves through music. Jacob’s adventures have taken him to dozens of countries, and hundreds of the world’s greatest international music festivals, showcases and performance venues in search of exceptional musical talents. Since 1998, Jacob has been the main music researcher for the acclaimed world music compilations label Putumayo World Music, contributing songs and liner notes to over 300 Putumayo collections that combined have sold over 15 million copies. In 2006, Jacob founded the record label Cumbancha, whose artists include some of the top names in international music. In 2009, Jacob embarked on a new adventure as host of a new music and travel television program Music Voyager. The series invites viewers to discover the exciting sounds of the planet and broadcasts on PBS and other stations around the world. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College, where he was a double major in History and Latin American Studies, Jacob conducted field research on music and society in Central America. His love of music took him to the West Coast where Jacob was awarded the Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and graduated from University of California, Los Angeles in 1994 with a Masters in Ethnomusicology.

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