Alain Querry ought to be an ambassador. Not only does he do a fine job of selling the excellent St. Emilion wine he produces at Chateau Monbousquet, he manages to convince a listener that despite the sharp, ongoing price inflation, order and reason still prevail in Bordeaux.
Recent crops have been small and stocks are depleted, he explained during a visit to the city. Yet demand within France and worldwide for Bordeaux's red wines continues to grow. The situation has been made more difficult because 1978, thought to be a potential disaster well into August, has produced a small amount of wine showing great promise. "This year will certainly be remarkable, perhaps like 1975," Querry said. "You can smell it (the wine's character) in the vats. The color is dark. The grapes were in perfect condition."
As a result, there will be a temptation to increase prices again. Already the good 1976 wines have been marketed for more than the potentially great 1975s. The ordinary 1977s will carry an even higher price tag. With a limited amount of superior 1978 wine, it is inconceivable that Bordeaux merchants will try to hold the price line.
Querry, the diplomat, said he hopes for stability.
"We realize if prices go up we will lose clients," he said. "There is an effort to keep prices at the current level. We want to avoid what happened several years ago (a severe collapse of the Bordeaux export market for fine wines) at all costs."
(Here in Washington, Bordeaux prices are rapidly beginning to climb toward those elsewhere in the nation. Double-digit prices ( $10 and up) are to be expected. First-growth 1975s are now $300 per case and higher. Those 1970s and 1971s still on retailers' shelves represent the best investments today.)
Querry held out an olive branch ot American wine drinkers. "The consumer knows more than people will ever believe," he said, adding that Americans have become "more and more competent" in judging wines. If his judgment is proven true, it should show itself by a refusal to buy French wines at vastly inflated prices.
Unlike many Bordeaux wines, Querry's Monbousquet is better recognized in France than abroad and may be found in such three-star cellars as those of Taillevent and Laserre in Paris. But Querry sees the wine trade as truly multinational today and he is striving to reach and even balance between domestic sales and exports. "It's a question of presence," he said. "Today a top wine should be on the best restaurant lists around the world, not just in Paris."
The story of Monbousquet is somewhat parallel to that of Chateau Gloria in St. Julien. Like Henri Martin of Gloria, Querry and his father have shown great skill at upgrading their vineyards and becoming spokesmen for their peers, working tirelessly to promote their regions as well as their own products.
Monbousquet is not as full-bodied as the great St. Emilions -- Cheval-Blanc, Figeac, Canon -- and did not even find a place in the 1955 classification of the region. But it is consistently well made, early maturing and agreeable. The price in France was always attractive and so its fame grew.
Querry shepherds the wines of several other vineyards as well. Bouquet de Monbousquet is classified as Bordeaux Appellation Controlee. Chateau Bodet is from the Canon Fronsac region.Puy Razac is another St. Emilion and Chateau St. Louis comes from St. Estephe. These, along with Chateau Monbousquet , should be in local wine shops soon.
Querry feels too much importance is attached to buying "vintage" wines and objects to so much talk of grape varieties and the qualities they give to wines. There is much more merlot grape juice used in the wines of the Medoc than most consumers suppose, he pointed out, and much more cabernet sauvignon used in St. Emilion.
Non-vintage dated generics, he argues, are an asset to the winemaker because they allow him a freer hand to blend and can be brought to the consumer at more reasonable price. He holds up Gallo's Hearty Burgundy as "a good model" for the French not making chateau wines.
"In France," he said, "the laws aregeared toward the small producer of fine wine. In the U.S. it is the opposite. I don't think our system is better for the wine trade as a whole."
In his view, although much of the vocabulary of wine drinkers cosmes from an era when "severe" wines, heavy with tannic acid, were allowed to age for years before they were judged, consumers today seek wines they can drink almost immediately and put great stress on "lack of defect." Obviously that also may mean lack of character and puts great strain on any winemaker who wants to create something memorable. Tasting Notes
Two wines from Glenora Vineyard in New York State -- 1977 Chardonnay and 1977 Johannisburg Riesling -- showed distinct varietal character in a blind tasting recently. Conversely, a 1967 spaetlese Johannisberg Riesling from Constantine Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars , had thrown in the towel. Though still on sale, it can hardly be considered wine anymore. Other wineries represented were Horon Hill and Gold Seal (both in New York State) and Schlaraffenland of Texas.
Among California cabernet sauvignons showing well at another tasting were a 1967 BV Private Reserve, 1967 Freemark Abbey, lot 1968-69 Spring Mountain and 1969 Parducci. Contrary to a current rumor, it is apparent that California cabernet will age well if properly stored. Whether they have the 40-or 50-year lifespan attributed to fine Bordeaux remains to be seen. Of course, it also remains to be seen if Bordeaux of acclaimed recent vintages such as 1966 and 1970 lasts as long as classic vintages of the past.