Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Soulful Side of Bordeaux

by Eric Asimov

New York Times
August 24, 2010

Compared with the grand chateaus of the Médoc, the tiny Domaine du Jaugaret may seem irrelevant. The critics don’t score its wines, it’s barely mentioned in guides, it doesn’t play in the futures game. The winemaking facility is no more than a series of stone sheds with floors of dirt and gravel and walls covered in a mushroomlike mold. Calling it rustic would be putting it kindly.

Yet for me, the importance of a place like Domaine du Jaugaret in St.-Julien cannot be overstated. In globalized, commercial Châteaux Bordeaux, a world of brand-name products sold like luxury goods, where too many wines seem polished and lustrous yet lacking in character, Jaugaret brims with soul. Its proprietor, Jean-François Fillastre, epitomizes the French vigneron, one who tends the vines and makes the wines.

Vignerons like Mr. Fillastre make up the backbone of wine regions all over France, from Burgundy to Languedoc to the Loire, embodying the essential truth that wine is both agriculture and culture, a centuries-old expression of French character. (Indeed, Jaugaret has been in Mr. Fillastre’s family for more than 350 years.) But in the famous terroirs of the Médoc like St.-Julien, Margaux, Pauillac and Sauternes, such vignerons are the rare exception.


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