Thursday, May 27, 2010

Which is the Best Wine?

Which of these would you expect to be the best wine:

2007 Michel Lafarge Côte de Beaune Villages
2007 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune Bourgeots
2007 JF Mugnier Nuits Saint Geerges 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale
2006 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux
2002 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux

Wine shows differently throughout its lifespan. Some red Burgundies are fruity and enticing when young, then shut down for many years, and then emerge with less fruit perhaps, but with new layers of depth and complexity. Others have a longer initial period of delicious fruitiness, and then don't shut down as long, if at all.

I know it's cliché, but it's true - there are no best wines, there are only best bottles. This idea works in terms of bottle variation and in terms of context (the occasion, the food, etc.). It also works in regard to the time in the wine's life in which it is consumed.

What if you were offered a gift bottle of any of those wines - which would you choose? On paper, the Mugnier Maréchale and either of the Comte Armand wines would be my choice. They are the best wines in an absolute sense. They emerge from better terroir, and they should evolve and blossom in a more profound way than the villages and regional wines.

I believe that most Burgundy people, myself included, would say if forced to rank the wines, that either the Mugnier or one of the Comte Armand wines (probably 2002) are the absolute best. That notwithstanding, on the night that I drank them all together, the best wine was not one of those three. And this is an important reminder to think about wine in a more creative way than simply by asking which is the absolute best.

The other night I had the occasion to drink the above wines (and also a slew of whites) at a dinner in Brooklyn featuring Peter Wasserman, who spoke a bit about the wines as we ate and drank. We had lots of good wine that night, but I remember being tickled by how excited Peter got as he smelled his glass of Lafarge's Côte de Beaune Villages. He literally pumped his fist in the air as if he just scored a touchdown. "I love this wine when it's like this," he said. I understood exactly what he meant.

My favorite, what I would say was the best wine on that evening, was the 2007 Simon Bize Savigny-lès-Beaune Bourgeots. It was in a perfect place for drinking - open and expressive, perfumed with flowers, bright red fruit, and a lower note of earth. It was well balanced and delicious and it left a long and pleasing inner mouth perfume of pure Pinot. This wine was in a perfect place. If I were able to travel in time, and thereby compare the Bize Bourgeots with the 2007 Mugnier Maréchale in whatever future year it gets to a perfect place, I have no doubt that the Maréchale would be a better wine. But at this point in both wine's lives, the Bize wine is better. And that's part of what makes wine so much fun, I think.

3 comments:

Jack at Fork and Bottle said...

"And that's part of what makes wine so much fun, I think." or frustrating. :)

José Luiz said...

I still have one bottle of the Comte Armand 2002 left... How was it? Should i wait or not to open the very last one... Cheers, José Luiz

S.P. Mulligan said...

Love this quote:

He literally pumped his fist in the air as if he just scored a touchdown. "I love this wine when it's like this," he said. I understood exactly what he meant.

Good stuff. Know the feeling too.

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