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  • Shane Golden- Bordeaux, free-will and the one percent

    November 18, 2022 2 min read

    Shane Golden from Whelehans Wines Dublin

    Bordeaux, free-will and the one percent

    There is a sometimes useful folly at the heart of being human in which we convince ourselves that we are the sole arbiters of our destiny. Ploughing a lone furrow we carve niches into the pillar of life with our own bare hands through sheer force of will. Or so we think.

    “Look at my works oh ye mighty and despair”, pined Ozymandias, while nothing beside him remained. 

    Too often we forget that external vagaries of our existence shape us unconsciously without care or recourse. The lottery of birth means that a great many of the paths open to us  come somewhat pre-packaged.  It was ever thus, but that is not to say that our lives follow a path of simple cause and effect. Life is still a rich tapestry and we are its communion of weavers.

    There are few questions that define what it means to be human more than “Do I have free will?”

    The question is every bit as interesting as any answer. With centuries of discussion to call upon, we have yet to even reach consensus on  a definition. Life’s most interesting questions have no answers.

    While most of our decisions, thoughts, actions could fall under the category of deterministic, there is a spark, a 1`% in our soul that makes us unique, special and most of all human. We share 99% of our DNA with Chimpanzees, so 1% matters. This is what  adds colour, originality and most of all diversity to our existence.

    Now on to Bordeaux. Sparked by a somewhat jaded wine drinker who, turning away from the region, pined that “there is only so much you can do with a couple of grapes and some wood”.

    I couldn’t disagree more

    The vast majority of Bordeaux red blends are combinations of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with a number of supporting grapes. With over 8,500 producers in the region producing variations on this same theme, the uninitiated may be forgiven for thinking that this might produce a certain sameness. It doesn’t. 

    Bordeaux-style blends are now common in many parts of the wine world, both old and new. Within Bordeaux itself, sub-appellations have their own distinct identity. From the aromatic elegance of Margaux, to the power of Pauillac to the suppleness of St. Emilion. I could go on.

    Petit Verdot plays a very interesting supporting role. I like to think of it as the 1%. Even in tiny doses it gives blends a floral and herbal lift. Think of it as the salt on your dinner. Merlot-dominant blends with a touch of Petit Verdot can give off a spiced “Christmas Cake” flavour profile that makes for delightful drinking this time of year.

    The jaded out there may say that there is nothing new under the sun, but tiny decisions play outsized roles. Lucky for us that from vintage to vintage and through the relentless cycle of rebirth in the vineyard the resulting choices in your friendly, neighbourhood wine store are endless. And some of these choices were even made by your own free will.

    One percent matters.


    Make your own mind with the wines below: