Monday, June 16, 2008

Drinking Long-lived Wine...Young

Listen: sometimes you just have to drink the wine, even though you are positive that it is way too young. How else can you track its evolution, understand it in its entirety?

I bought a bunch (by my small NYC cellar standards) of Loire Valley reds and whites from the heralded 2005 vintage, and most of them require some cellaring in order to show at their best and most complex. At least that's what I hear - I don't have a lot of experience with mature wines from the Loire Valley, or from anywhere for that matter.

I want to learn about this for myself. I'm going to open some bottles, and then do so again in a few years, and then again, instead of tucking it all away. It's easy to read what more experienced people write about how long to age a wine. But there are no absolutes with wine, it is my own experience that matters most to me. Not that I don't appreciate input, but without building my own context then I'm just choosing people and following them.

Why these particular wines for this exercise?

  • Cabernet Franc is supposed to mature gracefully, to pick up many secondary characteristics to go with its youthful floral fruit. It is a part of some of the great long lived Bordeaux, like Cheval Blanc.
  • They're inexpensive, so I can do this 4 times in 15-20 years for about 100 of today's dollars.
  • They're natural wines - they have real tannins, no enzymes, nothing added except for a small bit of sulfur at bottling. I want real tannins, not artificially crafted. It just seems like I'll learn more this way.
It's more fun to do this with a friend, so my pal Adam came by and we opened two bottles. So here's what we opened, and we have sufficient stock to re-visit every few years for a while:

2005 Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny Vielle Vignes, $25, Louis/Dressner Selections. I loved this wine at the big Polaner Tasting and I remember wine maker Fredrik Filliatreau saying "Enjoy it now for the fruit, or let it age for the new flavors and the complexity." Seems like a good candidate for this experiment.

We decanted the wine and I was struck by the light red color, a very pretty cherry red. This is an elegant and graceful wine wrapped in layers of youthful aggression. It hits you with alcohol (13.5%), the tannins are ripe but not yet smooth or sweet - there is plenty of grip here. And the overall feeling is somewhat disjointed, not out of balance, but not yet harmonious. There are pure mineral red fruits with some cooling herbal notes on top, and a lovely floral aspect to the nose. After about two hours the fruit and the tannins were working better together, and there is very good acidity. There is still something herbal and lovely, but it vanishes, and reappears, and vanishes. It will be interesting to see how this changes with a few years in the cellar. I can envision this as a rose tinged beauty, very light and graceful. We'll have to wait and see...

2005 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal, $28, Louis/Dressner Selections. The cognoscenti say this wine needs 25-30 years. That's quite a bit of time, no? What does a wine like this taste like right now? Dense, dense, dense, that's how. We decanted and almost four hours later the wine was still a jungle, almost impenetrable. Inky dark color, barnyard aromas initially, then tobacco leaf, some muddy earth. This one buzzed on the tongue in a nice way though, very energetic for such a bruiser of a wine. The fruit is dark plums and blackberries, and it's really buried in this tasty soup of tannins and mud. Although I can tell that this will sort itself out as the tannins mature, it's hard for me to imagine this wine in the future as anything but a big muscular dense monster. Can it really lose serious weight? We'll have to wait and see...


Do Bianchi said...

have you had a chance to taste some of the older vintages of Olga Raffault that have been floating around? I've tasted 90 and 95 and they were great.

So important and right, your observation: "no absolutes in wine..."

Anonymous said...

You may be able to find some older Breton Bourgueils or Chinons around, and they aren't very expensive. Some 2002s, now six years old, are very nice. I've found that they do become more harmonious. I saw enough potential in that Sénéchal to buy half a case, the most I buy of any single wine.

Sometimes, to my surprise, I find I liked a wine a lot more when it was young and fruity than when it was of an age when it was "supposed" to be at its best, according to "expert" opinion. I have become more confident and independent in my own taste.

David McDuff said...

Mud and tannin soup, eh? Think of a briar patch, sinewy, thorny and hard. With patience and proper care, there may be roses waiting to emerge.

Brooklynguy said...

hey jeremy - i have not, but coincidently tonight i will drink the raffault 1990 with dinner (and another 1990 Loire wine too, more on that later). i hear good things and i'm excited.

hiya steve-i have no doubt that this will become something great, i just have trouble picturing exactly what that will be. i have a couple of breton picasses 02s in the cellar sleeping. soon those might provide some insight. cheers to continuing to learn our own palates.

mcDEE - no doubt. roses, i await thee.

Director, Lab Outreach said...

Exactly! We are told that wines appreciate with age. But we're not often educated about the implications of that age -- only told to expect to pay dearly for it. I bought a case of Burgundy from a producer I like (Confuron-Cotetidot) at Winebid. It was cheap because it was from the dreaded 2001 vintage. But I thought it would be interesting to drink one every six months to chart the progress, try to learn something about how "age" works.

I really enjoy your posts. Especially FNB. We seem to have similar tastes in sparkling wines.


(ps. I thought I already did this once but seem to have been foiled by the technology, so my apologies if 2 very similar comments appear)

Brooklynguy said...

hey jd - thanks for the kind words. FNB is lots of fun to do, although it's starting to strain the ol' wallet. that sounds like a great experiment with the confuron. i've enjoyed their wines in the past, one was an 01 VR.

Cliff said...

Great experiment! I missed out on Fillatreau but really enjoyed the Breton. Have you ever had the 2002 versions of their wines. They're still very young, but, with air, they can be very, very good now.