Monday, August 10, 2009

Infanticide Is Painless

grilled tunaLately I've been opening some nice bottles before their time. Willful infanticide, yes, but I've been in the mood to drink great wine and I've been wanting to conduct a real-world test on how the wines are holding up and how they will likely evolve, rather than rely on received wisdom, no matter how well-informed that wisdom might be.

Château Pradeaux Bandol 2003
I'm well aware of this wine's typical lifespan — due in part to the mourvèdre grape's ability to resist oxidation, but largely due to Pradeaux's traditional, uncompromising winemaking regimen — but I figured I figured I should check in to see how this wine weathered the heat of 2003. Would this be an early drinker?

Um, no. Turns out this is classic Pradeaux, and you'd never know this came from a hot vintage. Which isn't to say it's impenetrable, for behind the wall of tannins this 6 year old shows great beauty, with a spicy, smoky nose of blackberries, pepper, grilled meat, and subtle hints of lavender and fresh green herbs. The balance, structure, and acidity here are impeccable, and if the tannins are rough and grip the tongue even on the fourth night sampled, the texture shows great grace and layers of purple flowers, silky cherry (fresh and dried, sweet and tart) and blackberry fruit. So, still tight, but complex and complete; it's definitely showing what it will become, particularly if given the ten-plus additional years it deserves.

Huët Le Mont Demi-Sec 2002
Why oh why does one of my favorite wines in the world have to be corked? Gah! And I had prepared an ahi steak with oil, salt, pepper, crushed cumin seed, and Italian salsa verde (flat parsley, oil, caper, and lemon zest) for the occasion. Instead, we waited another 20 mins to fire up the coals as we chilled down a bottle of...

Dirler-Cade Riesling Grand Cru Spiegel 2004
While I've never had a Trimbach, Dirler is my Alsace superstar, as their biodynamically-raised wines are so well proportioned, without the rock-em sock-em richness and residual sugar that so many other Alsatians bring to the table. That said, on nights two and three this shows a lot of baby fat and banana stank; in that respect it's not at all like the non-cru Bollenberg 2004, which has not one ounce of fat.

Before and after that awkward phase, though, this has an unbelievable combination of intensity, clarity, and purity. On the nose, a cornucopia of orchard and tropical fruits tumble onto acres of mountain stone; meanwhile, the farmer next door refills the kerosene tanks in his pickup truck. This is true even when the glass is empty. The body is very creamy and feels full on the tongue yet floats above it; it's warm and friendly yet delicate and poised; I'm thinking Grace Kelly or Michelle Obama. It's completely dry and very precise, with great structure, while plush fruit and filigreed minerals haunt the long finish.

My ultimate verdict: wait another five years before opening, then serve with a poached something-or-other in buerre blanc — this Spiegel was slightly overwhelmed by the fleshy tuna.

Renaissance Cabernet Sauvignon Première Cuvée 1995
Whereas many producers' tête de cuvées come from extra-ripe grapes or are lavished with expensive new oak, Renaissance does none of that. Instead, they pick and raise their best lots much the same way they raise their basic wines and let the terroir speak.

This isn't quite infanticide to drink this now. It's more like cutting a man down in his 30s (chilling enough, don't you think?). But over the course of three nights, this wine, which is 24% merlot and a mere 12.4% abv, proved that it will just get better. It kicks off with intense aromas of plum pudding, beef broth, black pepper, gray sea salt, blackberries, blueberries, and spice cake. It's structured yet velvety (more velvety than the "standard" 1995 cabernet), with a preliminary attack of sweet black fruit quickly giving way to bold tannins and a more austere rendering of the fruit. A note of cherry rings on the bright, brothy finish, and its spiciness is quieter compared to several other Renaissance wines, although a white pepper note lingers with the tannins for some time.

This is elegant and balanced, and the little bit left on night three shows a slight melting of the tannins and hints of blackcurrant and dried fruit on the palate. Although this was really good with the lamb that I grilled, it would have been even better had I decanted it 24 hours before serving.


Jack Everitt said...

Four for four, in Producers I Like. So thanks for writing them up.

Brooklynguy said...

hey Mike - looks like you use hardwood charcoal - I am hooked on the stuff. so much better that it is impossible to go back to the regular old briquettes. awesome news on pradeaux, i'll have to put some away. i was afraid of the 2003 situation - glad to hear it's not a problem. and i'm sorry about your Huet. hopefully you have more. if not, sometime when you're in NYC. never had a Dirler Riesling - their only wine i've not had. they are my favorite too, and that;s based on things like Muscat and Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. great post

(pyringni) - word verification

Wicker Parker said...

Thanks, Neil, and you're right -- hardwood charcoal is the only way to go. It smells much better, is cleaner, etc.

I managed to grab a few remaining bottles of '02 Le Mont, thank the stars, but thanks for your offer!