Friday, May 29, 2009

Bordeaux can be interesting. Really, it can.

There are many out there who still consider Bordeaux to be the king of wines. The most serious, the most age-worthy and elegant. I would say that most people who say these things, though, are over 50. They might also drive a large luxury sedan, play golf regularly, and, I don't know, think that rock music peaked in 1969. In my generation, we don't drink much Bordeaux. Usually the cheap stuff is boring, and the classed growths are too expensive. I won't even get into the cellar trickery and toasty oak elevage which often obscures terroir, is mistaken as terroir and wipes away any reminder that the wine is actually made from GRAPES.

That having been said, there is good, interesting, food friendly Bordeaux out there. It can be tricky to locate, but it does exist. Usually it costs $15-$25. It may be a second label of a Chateau whose style you like but can't afford on an everyday basis. Or it may be a well regarded, traditional Haut- Medoc. And occasionally, I do run into that rare Bordeaux for $12.99 or so that really overdelivers. Here are a few examples of Bordeaux that, if you've been turned off by the region lately, or prefer firmer, more traditional wines, you might actually like.

2005 Chateau Lanessan Haut-Medoc

Always like this guy. The '96 is also worth seeking out. This '05 shows the red fruit, slight herbaceous cab family aromas and flavors, and taut structure that, in my mind anywyay, young Bordeaux should show. This should age well for well over a decade.

2005 Chateau Laubarit 'Vieilles Vignes' Bordeaux

Biodynamic Bordeaux! We all know that biodynamic does not necessarily mean it tastes natural, but in this case the wine does. Sure, it's a bit ripe, but the wine does not get too fruity or heavy in the mouth. No problems aging this wine 5 years, during which time it will undoubtedly improve.

2004 Salle de Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc

Poujeaux is based in Moulis-en-Medoc, almost due west of Margaux, placing it southwest of the five famous communes of the Medoc. Competitor Chasse-Spleen is also located in Moulis. These are both Bordeaux 'insider' wines. Traditional and tightly structured, they do not get heavily pointed, gushing press from the 100pt scale crowd, but they are terrific wines for aging. So, it follows that Poujeaux's second label is also well made, and half the price of the grand vin. You won't be able to drink it in 30 years, but aging another 5 is not outside the realm of possibility. Darker fruits on this wine, with a core of minerality, some licorice rope, and a dense structure.

A famous colleague of mine signs off his Bordeaux columns 'Tous jours Bordeaux." While I won't go that far, let's try it this way:

De temps en temps, Bordeaux.

Concert Review: Animal Collective at The Fox in Oakland, 5/26/09

To catch an Animal Collective show these days is to see a band in transition. While the band slowly garnered a devoted following playing weird, challenging, noisy music, it was the duo of Feels and Sung Tongs in 2005 which really expanded the band's sonic palate, their critical appraisal and most dramatically, their fan base. With Strawberry Jam and this year's Merriweather Post Pavillion record, Animal Collective has fine tuned their pop sensibilities,without completely abandoning their knack for experimentation.

In that vein, the band's current tour is unlike any other of their previous ones. The set lists include a heavy dose of songs from their current album, with a few appearances from past records as well. This stands in stark contrast to the Animal Collective tradition of trying out almost exclusively new material on the road, offering a preview of how the next record will sound. On their current tour, the band is following the more conventional touring protocol of featuring songs from the current album for sale. Also, AC has sharpened up the live presentation: songs are tighter, vocals sung more tunefully and with greater conviction.

Perhaps appropriately coinciding with their greater success, broader reach and larger scale of the tour, the band played (and sold out, on a Tuesday night) the recently renovated, ornately styled Fox Theater. The band's performance of a few songs from MWP, especially the seriously catchy, sequencer and 80's synth driven 'Summer Clothes' (the Letterman clip from Tuesday night's youtube post was this tune), drew an enthusiastic crowd response. Not quite as enthusiastic as when they played the infectious lead single, 'My Girls,' and the Baltimore club music tribute, 'Brother Sport' as the last encore. Hearing the beautiful 'Fireworks' as well as a cool re-working of 'Leaf House' from Sung Tongs were also highlights much appreciated by the crowd. If I were to nitpick a bit, the only aspects of the show I was not too crazy about were the occasionally repetitive, drone like feel to a few of the songs, as well as a muddy aspect to the sound in the venue. It's a huge, cavernous theater not geared towards acoustics, especially performances which involve multiple loops as part of a dense soundscape. That having been said, the group seemed to balanced their more pop, melodic side with the avante weirdness which has endeared them to so many. Animal Collective has come a long way over the past decade or so. And as always with this group, I look forward to seeing what happens next.