Whether you love it or loathe it, Bordeaux is a vibrant crossroads for young men and women looking to make a life with meaning. Regardless of the haranguing, the gnashing and wailing of the pen quills and the cursers, whether the Bordeaux ‘09 is worthy of stratospheric prices, there are folks on the ground who see a whole ‘nother view.
Two views here – from the East and from the West, both involve young women, looking forward to a future where their life has some significance, a meaning their own country cannot supply.
The young chemistry student from the Ukraine, studying in Pessac. Her once bountiful country now a mess of political corruption, in transition. She told me one telling story – they have to buy potatoes from Poland. How can one imagine a country, larger than France unable to even co ordinate the growing of one of the easiest and most basic things? She has chosen to live in France, for now, though she tells that they will never accept her. She is fluent, but foreign, her language isn’t perfect. “Even the people in Cognac complain that the way they speak French in Bordeaux is wrong.” That said, she sees the opportunity to be in a place where she can carve out a life, a place, perhaps even someday in the labs in Bordeaux?
To come to a country, where the language is so essential, not being able to speak it – that takes guts. How many of us sitting in front of our computer screens sipping our medium roast coffee in a room that is climate controlled, which of us with all our little complaints can have it so bad that we have to uproot our life , totally, in order to go forward?
“Would you like to go back someday?” I ask her. “Of course,” she touches her heart, “that is a part of me inside.” But it might be more a matter of if, not when.
She is young, pretty, healthy, intelligent, speaks four languages. She will make it in a world with six billion and counting. But, like so many of us in the West, she wants a life with a connection. She lost it, moving to France, to forge a life of meaning. The attachement will come later.
The other young lady from China, dressed tres chic as if she just came off the runways of Paris or Milan, lives in Hong Kong. Have you noticed Hong Kong is a pretty fashionable place these days? I remember the movie, In the Mood for Love, the women were so beautiful, tall, lanky, dressed gorgeously. Imagine something like that.
When she stepped in the room, everyone who had eyes and a beating heart lost their breath for a moment. She made a striking entrance. She was looking for her love, Ausonius. She was in the right place. How do you say it, she was in a beatific moment? She was having one of those moments when ecstasy upon and into her. I was tasting the same wines, it was easily understandable.
But all poetry aside, I had to talk to her, ask her why she was here. I read a Jancis Robinson tweet that she hadn’t seen any Chinese at the Primeurs 2009 tastings. I had seen plenty of them. I don’t know if they were just on the same route as mine, but I was going to talk to one that seemed simultaneously representative and atypical of the Asian Wave.
She was very approachable, spoke English well (easy for me, essential for the new Global professionals?). “What are you doing here,” I ventured to ask. “I love Bordeaux, working in Hong Kong for a UK wine company.” She was smitten with the spectacle of it all. She was part of the pageantry. And the ascendancy.
Jane Anson (@newbordeaux) tweeted, "Three years ago, 30% of Mouton Rothschild ended up in Asia. Today, that figure is 45%." That’s a lot of eggs in one basket. Or is it? With a potential clientele of 50,000,000, that being the middle-upper-middle echelon of China, perhaps looking to the East isn’t such a bad idea. For our young lady, one of 1.2 billion, it is surely a way for a smart, motivated young person to look for a career far from the factories that make plastic baskets for laundry. Becoming significant in a sea of humanity, isn’t that what all of us imagine for ourselves?
I hear people say that the Asian culture doesn’t dovetail so well with the wine culture. Rich, heavy Merlot and tannic Cabernet, sitting in barrels for years. High in alcohol, expensive, taking years to mature. Maybe years before the trendy wines will be abandoned in favor of Riesling from Germany or Chardonnay from the Cote d’Or? Or Pinot Noir, like our stateside and Sideways phenomenon has produced? It could be a mess for Bordeaux.
I wouldn’t worry too much about this very established wine center. The Bordelais are smart; they are opportunistic, as one young winemaker told me. This isn’t their first rodeo, as we say out West.
But for our two young ladies from the West and the East, and for those young and young at heart, this is deliverance to a new world of options and freedom. And the possibility of a very fortunate life.