Neal Martin is perhaps best known for spending more than a decade as Robert Parker’s ‘man in Bordeaux’. He has previously published an epic tome on the wines of Pomerol, and follows up with a novel concept, based loosely on his own Wine Journal website, where he would routinely sprinkle thoughts and recommendations for popular culture among his wine reviews and features. A lot of those were about music, his other great love.
The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide does what it says on the cover: do not come here looking for extensive tasting notes on individual wines. Instead, this book attempts to convey the substance of every vintage in Bordeaux spanning 1870 to 2020. As well as in-depth coverage of the weather conditions of each year, the vintage’s reception in the trade and media is assessed, with an update on how the wines look today. A single event, film and song is chosen to represent the year, or rather to act as an aide-mémoire in recalling it.
For each year Neal does pull out some of the star performing wines that he has tasted, with a brief impression rather than a tasting note as such. Obviously his experience of wines made in the 1970’s is more detailed than those from the 1870’s for example, but the book makes no claims to comprehensively cover every wine of a particular year. The event, film and music choices are sometime surprising too; Neal states that they don’t specifically reflect his own tastes, but are chosen as triggers for memories of specific events that might in turn let the reader connect more closely with that moment in time.
This is a highly readable book rather than a reference book as such, though of course the in-depth vintage summaries will undoubtedly be useful. But the point is to drink, read, remember and enjoy, and this book is very agreeable companion.
The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide is published in Hardback by Quadrille with a cover price of £35. From £22.45 at Amazon.co.uk at time of writing.