The debate of the 'Five B's'

Every once in a while the debate of the "Five B's" come to the fore and things can get very tense indeed. We're not talking about Baghdad or Bosnia or any of the political "B's," but of the great red wine "B's." These are the B's of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Barbaresco. These wines are considered the finest wines of Europe (not including some of the greats from Germany, Spain and Portugal).

Burgundy and Bordeaux wines are from their respective areas in France, the Midi and the west coast. Brunello is from Tuscany, from the village of Montalcino and Barolo and Barbaresco are from the fabulous Piemonte region of northwestern Italy named after these two small, enchanting villages.

These wines can become, quite quickly, very expensive.

Burgundy wines are made from the very lovely Pinot Noir grape, arguably the finest area in the world for Pinot Noir. There are those in the wine world who accept that the Pinot Noir grape is doing well in parts of California and Oregon. There is no argument that the finest Pinot Noir still do the very best, in most years, in Burgundy, France.

The fine Bordeaux are very different animals than similar grapes (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) grown in the new world. Again, we see that the great houses will eclipse what is growing the New World in great vintages. Chateaux such as Petrus, Mouton and Lafite are legendary and make wines of superb quality and finesse even in "poor" vintages.

Tuscany is still the undisputed home of the lovely and spice driven Sangiovese grape. Brunello, which has its roots in Sangiovese is quite unparalleled in this fine grape and also continues to lead the way regardless where we turn for noble red wines of Tuscany.

The Barolo and Barbaresco wines, made from the broodingly closed in and powerhouse Nebbiolo grape are, to many, the kings of the great red wines. More and more wine writers are turning to the great Barolos and Barbarescos for inspiration when writing about "greatness" in red wines.

The debate continues over which one of the "B" wines are the "best." In other words, if we had $100 to spend on a great wine, where would we put our money? The debate among the wine geeks is something like this; If you were stranded on a desert island, what case of red wine would you want to wash up on the beach? (Say, if you had a corkscrew and the appropriate foods to munch on!) This kind of crazy talk goes on and on about the "B" wines and I don't think, after almost 40 years retailing wine, that the debate will ever close. Yes, we can say that we are comparing apples and oranges but, so what? Personal preferences play heavily with the "B" debate no matter how you look at it.

So, if you are dealing with a real wine lover who knows his or her wines, ask the "desert island" question about the "B's" and see where it goes. This can be a lot of fun!

See you next week.

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