Monday, January 2, 2017

Drawn and Quartered

There comes a time when all wines need to be consumed.  It’s too easy to leave that special bottle in the cellar to get some more age, or bring it out for an even more auspicious occasion.  When we eventually get around to drawing such wines out to drink, they are often past their optimum.  Jubes had been holding onto such a wine, and so had we.  Hers was purchased apparently from my advice, and she wanted to drink it with me, but the time just didn’t come up.  Our bottle was one from a producer who I befriended, and I felt he and his wife were onto something special.  I didn’t want to open my last bottle.  The two wines were around a quarter of a century old – technically too old now.  Both were in the Bordeaux-style, one from 1990 in Martinborough, the other from 1993 from Waiheke Island. 
Martinborough is better known for Pinot Noir now but the 1990 Benfield and Delamare Martinborough could have proved the pundits wrong, but in reality the success rate of the Bordeaux varieties in achieving ripeness just couldn’t match Pinot Noir.  This is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  My tastings of this wine have always impressed.  On this night, it was yet again sublime.  Still dark red coloured, with orange and brick on the edge, this was integrated and complete on the nose with blackcurrants, earth, herbs, cedar and a touch of smoke and toast.  Extremely elegant in palate proportion, the flavours secondary and tertiary, but still with primary notes to prove its varietal provenance.  The tannins had not fully resolved and were in perfect balance.  Fresh acidity told of its cooler origins, but no green or herbal let alone stalky notes.  Bill Benfield and Sue Delamare practiced micro-viticultural management ahead of time.  A wonderful wine.

Next was the 1993 Stonyridge Waiheke Island.  Stephen White burst on the scene with an attractive 1986, then stupendous, history-making 1987.  Things grew better and better and the 1993 was from arguably the best vintage on the island to date.  The wine was majestic in its youth.  Now, with the benefit of hindsight, we know that viticulture has moved a very long way since then.  So the wine, though still black-red, with a little bricky-edge, was distinctly green, stalky and herbaceous.  There’s blackcurranty fruit for sure, the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, and the Merlot, Franc and Malbec playing a lesser role, but maybe the Petit Verdot out there.  On palate, huge extraction still, and loads of brisk acidity.  The power was still very evident and there was rawness.  This will go on for another decade, but it may never be in balance and attractive.  Nevertheless, it was easy to see it was a statement of its time.           

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