My last post touched
on a lunch with some special classic wines brought along by a group of disparate wine
lovers. I remarked that only 2 of the 14 wines were of this century, including
the Mas de L'Écriture 2001 I brought to the party. The other was a Ruchottes
Chambertin F Esmonin (Burgundy
of course) and was the wine I’d most like to imbibe again. The oldest was 1966 Chateau
along with Graham’s port of the same year.
The event prompted me
to ponder some fairly deep personal matters – vinous of course. It distils down
to this - ‘has my taste changed to favour younger red wine’?
I discovered wine in
the early 1980s. In hindsight this could be considered the golden age of wine given
that, with the exception of the so called Bordeaux
great growths and a few equivalents, icon wines were affordable. A 10 year old
Palmer from a modest vintage back then cost me a similar amount after inflation
to the L'Écriture. These days Palmer is ×5 and up that of L'Écriture. Of course
much has changed in 30 years. Fine wine has become a serious investment and therefore
distorts values of course, but most crucial has been the revolution in wine making
know-how and equipment. Poor vintages are enjoyable rather than near
undrinkable or even a write-off. Often overlooked is that wines back then were usually
made to go with food, or more pertinently simply needed food, and traditionally
rich food at that. They also possessed less alcohol generally and the fruit seemed to be
in a lower key.
Most fine reds needed
to be aged. In their youth they seemed tannic monsters, or at least somewhat
hard, and most soon withdrew into a comparatively dumb period for several
years. With luck, a palatable complex wine would eventually emerge, usually
after several disappointing bottles had been broached along the way. Perhaps I
exaggerate a to make a point, but this did apply to plenty of well reputed
clarets I owned or tasted.
Some wines are still built
to age of course, but most have riper tannins and fruit making them more attractive
throughout their life. There are also new styles. So called fruit bombs mainly
from the new world are one that don’t appeal. Vibrant, expressive, supple and
perfectly balanced wines do.
Going back to my analysis
of ‘has my taste changed’ then perhaps the answer is not so much ‘yes’, but
more ‘my taste has grown to appreciate, and often prefer, certain modern
styles’. There are several Languedoc
domains making reds (from Mediterranean varieties) that I’m familiar with and
with a proven track record of ageing well for 10 years or more. Along with
L'Écriture, aged cuvees from Alain Chabanon, Virgile Joly, Mas Jullien, Marfée
and Ollier Taillefer have all given great pleasure and, in the future as a
treat, will continue to do so. Golden age the 1980s may have been, but with the choice and diversity available today certainly not missed by me.