Saturday, November 16, 2013

Duo Decade Paradigm Shift

The Apprentice was our host yet again, and there was a host of wines on offer to taste, drink and enjoy.  Among them were two wines, the same label, separated by two decades of age – Te Mata ‘Coleraine’, these being the 2007 and 1987 vintages.  The two years were very good years, but not the greatest.  The appealing thought is that everything about them is the same – the grower, the maker, the philosophy behind them and even how they are talked about and marketed for selling.

For the record, they were both lovely wines, truly elegant in the classical claret style. The 2007 Te Mata ‘Coleaine’ a very finely proportioned Cabernets and Merlot blend, but with good richness and poer.  Dark and almost brooding, countered by a hint of leafiness.  The tannins fine and the acid giving enough of a fresh piquancy.  This will age well, drinking at a peak in 5-6 years and holding more than another decade.  How can I tell?  Because the 1987 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ was still alive and kicking, and had the presence to hang in there for another 5 years easily.  Sure the 1987 is lighter, even more defined by acidity, and a little greener with currant and leafiness.  The tannins still there, underlining the mouthfeel, and the wine very much a living thing.  It’s an attractive drink.

However the wines aren’t similar.  The fruit sources are different.  1987 was a single vineyard wine.  2007 drew fruit from a much wider area.  The major change must be viticulture.  These days, grapes are much riper, the acidity and tannins taken to a further level.  The modern wine is better than the old in that respect.  A paradigm shift for sure.  Intentional or not?  The goalposts are ever-shifting, and whether Te Mata people like it or not, they must be carried along with it towards a riper, richer style.    

Sunday, November 10, 2013


We had a big afternoon and night with The Class Man tasting through a hoard of wines too numerous to work through here, but when all done and dusted, he opened a bottle of his favourite claret – Ch. Latour.  This has been his special wine and it has always appealed to him on a fundamental and basic level that words and scores can’t convey.  So, over the years, he’s collected it and drank it and shared many, many bottles with many, many people.

This night, he opened and shared with SWMBO and myself a 1995 Ch. Latour.  This was indeed a generous gesture, but I suspect he got a lot more out of it than us, and we did enjoy it thoroughly.  Still youthful looking with its density of black-garnet colour, this was classic Latour, with it’s masculinity and virility.  Plenty of black-fruited Cabernet Sauvignon at the core, but without any austerity.  I expected firm tannins and acidity, but no, it was was much softer, rounder, moutfillingly open, but stylish and elegant.  Elegance and Latour?  They usually don’t go together do they?  Well nearly two decades of age has softened it beautifully and jiven some layers of secondary interest.  This was a gorgeous drop, even if it wasn’t the driven sternness it can be.  I can see why it’s his favourite.

As the bottle neared its demise, he asked me what my favourite claret was.  I don’t drink it regularly now, but still taste plenty, but not to have a current favourite.  I thought hard without success, and then just as I was about to give in without an answer, Ch. Pichon-Lalande popped up.  I fell in love with the elegance and sweet finesse in the 1970s.  Not too far from Latour, it’s an opposite.  Feminine, lighter, easier to approach.  The Class Man brought up the 1982 Ch. Pichon-Lalande, one of my all-time greats, my last bottle shared with the AC Electric Man.  This bottle sensational.  Fully-developed for sure, with secondary and tertiary layers superbly interwoven.  This big and ripe vintage coming through as ripeness and weight.  This is one of the meatier Pichon-Lalandes for sure.  So delicious, and still my favourite.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Maybe I’m a control freak.  I know SWMBO is one.  Relatively so, as we all must know when to let go and be a little spontaneous.  The two bottles of premier cru Chablis had been calling out to be opened, and normally, I’d have waited to open them, at the right time, but what the heck, I took ownership of the issue and out came the corkscrew.  Ownership ensures things happen and happen well.

The two wines demonstrated that too.  Both from the Drouhin-Vaudon stable, Domaine Joseph Drouhin adding the name of the historic mill that straddles the Serein river to the title to announce their ownership of around 40 ha of prime vineyards in the vignoble.  We compared the 2011 Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 1er ‘Fourchaume’ with the 2011 Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 1er ‘Montmains’.  The former made from wine and fruit purchased from other growers, whereas the latter from their own vineyards.  The former was broader, more forward, a little nuttier and oxidative, the latter sweeter, more refined and crisper with great delicacy.  Both were typical and were as expected, but the differences were noticeably significant. 

There’s the input of the site at play here, as Fourchaume is the bigger, more robust wine, and the Montmains lighter.  But does ownership of the wines mean greater care in growing the grapes and the handling in the winery?  Ostensibly there shouldn’t be any difference in how the grapes are converted to wine, as the modus operandi philosophy is overarching.  But what about at a subliminal level?