So it was with the 2001 Ch. Balac ‘Cuvee Prestige’ Haut-Medoc. The wine was from the property that the Bunny gals worked at around a decade ago. They had a great time, and made good wine, and came away from Bordeaux with a grand impression and a feel for the French way of life, as well a few bottles of earlier vintages. So at the dinner party, out came a bottle, the 2001. The cork was extracted with due decorum, and it was in very good condition. On pouring we could all see it was still youthful, quite black-red in colour and dense, even after 15+ years. But on nose, rather than sweet ripe blackcurrant and plummy fruit came the aromas of savoury green-berried fruit with herbs, stalk, a touch of leaf and loads of earth. Bordering grubby, some of us thought. The taste was the same, but the palate redeemed itself to some degree with its vigour, tannin grip and lively acidity. This was in truth quite coarse, rough and rustic.
We persevered with drinking it, mainly in deference to the Bunny gals. As it breathed more, the componentry came together. The grubby notes melded, and the wine’s vitality and liveliness became a positive focus. Then slowly, it dawned on us that the wine was ‘only’ a Cru Bourgeois’ when we may have been wanting ‘Cru Classe’. In the scheme of things this was a pretty decent wine that needed some air time to get rid of the bottle-stink. It sat comfortably in the Cru Bourgeois camp, and as the wine settled, we became more settled drinking it. We remembered its place on the ladder of quality, and we accepted our place in drinking it as it should be considered.