Critics, winemakers and merchants alike are sounding the death knell for garagiste wines.
Jean-Luc Thunevin and Francois Mitjaville – founding fathers of the garagiste movement – are distancing themselves from the concept which they believe has no long-term potential.
Banker-turned-winemaker Thunevin once epitomised the iconoclastic, fiercely independent, small-scale Bordeaux producer with his micro-cuvee Valandraud, launched in 1991.
The wine, which garnered high praise from Robert Parker, set off a trend which was fiercely criticised for being ‘anti-terroir’ from the beginning.
Now Thunevin has told La Revue du Vin de France that ‘garage wines are made by winemakers who try to compensate for a lack of means and poor terroir by applying modern techniques and efficiencies’.
Mitjaville, of Chateau Tetre Rotebeouf, said, ’Garage wine has no long term potential. I prefer the term petit-cru. Garage wine is not based on any notion of terroir.’
Many critics have always decried the term garagiste – coined by then-Revue du Vin de France critic Michel Bettane. Sothebys wine chief Serena Sutcliffe told decanter.com she has always been ‘dead against’ it, and she stresses the terroir worked by Mitjaville and Thunevin is first class. She refers to the latter as ‘a genius’.
But others now question the very concept of low-yield, very ripe, highly-extracted micro-cuvees. Bordeaux-based consultant Stephane Derenoncourt believes the success of wine made in such conditions usually comes down to a triumph of marketing over quality.
‘The majority [of such wine] is of no interest: ripeness, concentration and oak are not enough to make a good wine.’
And Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier – who says he ‘predicted the demise of this fad years ago’ – is one of many critics who say the wine isn’t standing the test of time.
‘If you taste a 1995 Valandraud against a Beausejour Becot from the same year, the Valandraud tastes pretty tired,’ he told decanter.com.
Merchants, too, confirm the style has been dropping off the fashion radar for a while. Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners said, ‘It was very fashionable to say “my yield is lower than yours, my Parker points are much higher than yours, my wine is blacker than yours.” Now consumers are turning back to famous names and great terroirs.’
Written by Maggie Rosen and Adam Lechmere