Friday, May 16, 2014

Dumbed Down

 The weekend was all about other wines, but Bordeaux resurfaced, after The Reefer pulled out a very modern international example that could have come from one of many places in the world.  I hankered for something that really spoke of Bordeaux, and I guess the other guests did also.  So The Lancer dug deep in his cellar and brought out one that was served blind.

The initial impressions were indeed Bordeaux – that distinctive smell of claret, and the redder fruits and lack of blackcurranty notes spoke of Merlot.  Quite elegant too, and more St Emilion than Pomerol, and definitely with some age, around 10 years of age or older.  That was my decision before the questions.  It turned out to be Left Bank!  The Merlot made me think St Estephe rather than Pauillac or St Julien.  It was St Julien!  The wine wasn’t particularly structured, deep or firm.  Maybe the bottle-age was having its say.  I didn’t think top-flight St Julien.  Wrong again, it was 1998 Ch. Leoville Las Cases St Julien.  How did I not get close?

The vintage was a difficult one, with rain.  The Merlot was better than the Cabernet – so I was justified!  At 16 years old, it was maybe a little more mellow for Leoville Las Cases, possibly dumbed down.  According to the critics, it was one of the successes of the year.  Was it a cork issue?  We’ll need to try another bottle… 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homogenous Concern

There’s a lot of discussion over how the world of wine is coming together with the loss of individuality and reflection of sense of place.  The modern wine styles are becoming homogenous.  It’s easy to understand and accept such things when it comes to the commercial side of the market, as after all, the wine wines are made to a formula to deliver the goods, which happen to be the same thing around the world.  So a ‘good’ Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot might taste the same or close to it, whether it came from France, California, Australia, South Africa, Chile or New Zealand.  But surely fine wine stands above and beyond all that.  Wine signature, style and provenance must stand out?

The Reefer loves Bordeaux and Bordeaux-styled wines.  He served one blind, and went through the questions in determining what his wine might be.  I thought it a Bordeaux-style, with plummy Merlot fruit as its base.  The sweetness, cleanliness and fruitiness spoke of modern, New World winemaking.  Indeed, the wine was fruity rather than textural.  It looked youthfully bright.  Lovely accessibility and integrated oaking.  My initial thoughts were New Zealand near-top quality Hawke’s Bay Merlot blend, around 2009 or 2010.  France was its country of origin, from Bordeaux, left-bank, and 2010.  It turned out to be 2010 ‘Les Pagodes de Cos’ St Estephe.  Classy stuff, as far as the label was concerned.  No suggestion of St Estephe or Ch. Cos d’Estournel character was present.  It was a delicious amorphous red that could have come from any one of a dozen terroirs.  It’s the first time I’ve sensed a concern at wine homogeneity, with ‘top’ wine.  Worry is a result…

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Modern and True

There’s always the talk that wines are not what they used to be.  As the world has shrunk and the exchange of ideas, philosophies, wine growing and winemaking techniques has come together, homogenisation seems to be a result.  There is some truth to this, and most of it is good as the collective quality of the world’s wines rise.  With this is the thought that modern wines are not true to their origins and history.  I don’t see this, but if anything, modern wines can be truer than before, as spoilage and extraneous inputs have been reduced.

The Planner and Planette put on dinner and we both came up with some modern French whites, and they couldn’t have been truer to style if you tried.  The first was a 2011 Rene Mure ‘Clos St Landelin’ Alsace Pinot Gris.  More golden in colour, this was fulsome, solid, rich with stonefruits and honey, and plenty of body.  It’s in the sweeter style, but Alsace Pinot Gris has been that way for a quarter of a century, as ripeness levels at picking have grown.  OK, those with longer memories, looking back 30+ years will say that only dry styles are true.  There are still plenty of those around, but the goalposts change, and full ripeness, fruit extract and richness is a positive forward step.

Then a 2010 Henri Boillot Meursault 1er ‘Charmes’.  Paler in colour with more restraint.  Lovely nutty notes with white stonefruits.  And a silken seamless texture.  Lovely acidity, but with a softness, breadth and depth that speaks of Meursault for sure, rather than Puligny or Chassagne.  There’s no tropical fruits and butterscotch as in many New World Chardonnays, and the complex mineral and gunflint just making a positive, rather than overwhelming impression.  There’s the impression of butteriness.  This all speaks Meursault in its classical and true form to me.  Only this is spotlessly clean and shows no oxidation, premature or otherwise.  These modern wines are all what they should be, and maybe even better.    

Friday, May 2, 2014

Inexorable Maturity

 It’s a fact of wine life.  They all march on it time, heading to maturity and death.  It’s not a gloomy subject, as it is inevitable, and along the way, positives can and usually occur.  Wines become softer, smoother and more mellow, and develop greater layers of flavour, becoming more integrated along the way.

The Tall Swan surprised us all with a gift one evening, opening a bottle of 2002 Rene Engel Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru.  The domaine has long gone now, with Philippe Engel passing away, but his legacy remains in bottles of fine burgundy for us to remember him by.  By all rights, this should have had everything in its favour for long term aging.  A great year, a great maker, with fruit from a great site.  Other wines of similar pedigree are just coming into their own and have a long way to go.

Not this bottle.  Some orange-red with bricking.  Distinctly mushroomy and secondary, if not tertiary in aroma and flavour.  Too old, one might think.  But no, this was deliciously sweet and rich.  Hedonistic, supple and mouthfilling, Juicy with just enough acidity, and melt-away tannins.  Rather elegant and not a blockbuster or ungainly.  This had headed down the inexorable path to full maturity, and gloriously so.  One could be disappointed that it was so far forward, but then again, you couldn’t be disappointed with its appeal.  Time moves on for us all, but sometimes at a different rate…