Saturday, May 11, 2013

Perfection Past and Present

We all know wines are living, and they go through phases in their lives.  They can get better and they can and do deteriorate.  It’s fun to see the attitudes with wines rated as the best, as the disappointments of wines fading is only matched by the joy of seeing an under-rated wine come into its own.

The big dinner featured two wines rated as perfect.   100 points by one of the Mr Parkers I know, for one wine, and then another 100 points by LPB, the protégé. The wines I’m referring to are 1976 Penfolds ‘Grange Hermitage’ and 2008 Penfolds ‘Grange’, both attaining the ultimate score, by writers of the same magazine, for essentially the same wine, only 32 years apart.  It was a special occasion and indeed a fascinating one.

I’ve had the 1976 Penfolds ‘Grange Hermitage’ several times over the last three decades, and it truly is special.  Penfolds rates it as one of the greats too.  I last tried it 12 years ago, and it delivered everything ‘Grange’ is supposed to.  I remember the size, the richness and the traditional flavours, even though it was 25 years old.  It was magnificence and pretty well perfect to me.  This night, and with this bottle, still looking exceptionally youthful in colour and fruit expression.  But the tell-tale undergrowth, game and secondaries were there.  Not quite the complete richness, and thus the acidity a little more obvious.  Tannins just resolving some more, as it should.  A great wine without a doubt, but definitely moving along and moving out of the zone of perfection.

It was the first time I’d tried the 2008 Penfolds ‘Grange’.  I've tasted more than my fair share of this label, but am still keen to taste more to learn more.  But some wines have it all.  This is a more modern style of the famous ‘Grange’, with lusher and more polished fruit.  Greater smoothness and seamless integration of fruit, oak, tannins and mouthfeel.  The standout feature is its vibrancy and vitality for all its richness and ripeness.  My approach is liberal and positive.  It ticked all the boxes for having everything and more.  If I was a glass half empty man, I’d be looking for faults to knock it back a peg or two.  But there’s nothing to detract.  So from both perspectives, it is perfect.  At present.   

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