If the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, then surely the snow in Bordeaux blows slowly with the…? Nope. We’re as rain-drenched as the Pygmalionic plains, fortunately something I planned for, returning from Canada with a brand new (the Bay) umbrella and proper rainboots. I’m grateful for the unusually pleasant weather we had in Toronto, as back in Bordeaux, most days are short and wet, so sightings of the sun are few and far between.
They say it never rains, but it pours. I returned home to another change in environment: my landlady has, for family reasons, decided to move into our apartment with us and now sleeps on the couch. She’s quite friendly, and is a good person to practice French with as she does not speak English. But the loss of common space and, frankly, the smoking, is starting to rain on my parade so I’m on the hunt for new lodgings.
That said, it’s good to be back in the swing of things, catching up with classmates and who did what over the break. We start out with a bang – a week chock-full of economics and statistics with a German-Swiss professor from New York University (NYU). He starts with a refresher on microeconomics, and before long we are drowning in supply and demand curves, market scenarios and other graphically represented concepts. It’s actually pretty impressive that we manage to stay engaged all week, as I found these subjects rather dry in my undergrad days. It helps that the concepts are interspersed with lessons from life in New York or Washington – like how many Starbucks are required in Manhattan to garner the most available consumer dollars, or the odds of buying a good quality used car in Jersey.
We cover a lot of ground: the impact of climate change on wine quality, the impact of wine experts on wine perceptions and prices. There’s a tasting mid-week, organized by one of the students in a different viticulture program, which presents a range of wines from Domaine la Suffrene in the Bandol region near Marseilles. It’s far too exciting an experiment to pass up after a few days of statistics, so the degustation turns into a blind tasting in short order. There are some lovely (sighted? visible?) rosés, and 5 reds which are covered. Among them is a 100% Mourvaison – an old French varietal that is also related to Negrette – which is becoming quite rare (I actually couldn’t find any English websites that talk about it!) It’s quite tasty – smells a little sweet and has elegant tannins despite its youth, I’d drink more of this but it is an unusual find.
The results are in, and a few days later, we look at different ways that scoring can be manipulated to change the outcome. The Mourvaison comes in second (or third, depending on which method one uses), and we walk away not quite trusting any wine scores, anywhere, ever. One particularly interesting tidbit is the way this fictitious restaurant won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its wine list (Wine Spectator’s response here) which, if nothing else, certainly highlights that when money is involved, perfect objectivity is harder to find.
The final test for the week is another blind tasting – to see how consistent our palates are when tasting multiple combinations of the same five wines against each other. They are all inexpensive Bordeaux wines, but my taste buds are not quite refined enough to be consistent, particularly after dousing my tongue with young tannins repeatedly.
It’s been a long week so the weekend is fairly quiet, aside from a stroll in Sauternes (the place of sweet wines), and some apartment hunting. Fingers crossed for some good news on this front in the near future.