Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bordeaux with/without decanting?

2008 Chateau d'Aiguilhe

I've been behind in my writing. My bad. Just distracted by some things right now, most of them stupid. If only you could defriend someone in real life with a click and confirm. But what am I saying. An uncle of mine loves to say that most people are assholes, and for once, I'm inclined to believe him. So, before I publish anything I'm going to regret online, let's talk about wine.

The rest of my 2008 Bordeaux En Primeur order has been coming in. In hindsight, yes, I bought too much. People seem to be forgetting now, but initially, there was some excitement about the 2008's. The vintage was deemed better than expected, although not a truly great one; certainly, it was an improvement over 2007, with critics rating it between 2004 and 2006 in quality. And of course, the Bordelais made a statement by lowering prices by about 30-40%, with many of the top Châteaux releasing prices before the top critics had published their scores. It was with this sort of backdrop that I sent out one of my largest En Primeur orders (in my young wine-buying career). I remember so clearly . . . there had been talks for weeks that the First Growths would be dramatically lowering prices, and not waiting for Parker scores. Latour came out at $345 a bottle - recall that its 2007 was around $750-$800. I decided to go for it, and placed an order for a single lot. Alas, as you can see from the LCF archives from that year, I didn't get it. So silly . . . of course it wouldn't go through, who buys single lots of First Growths?

I find myself frequenting running out of wine in the house. These should be going straight to storage, but hell, I just paid for it, so might as well have a drink. I'll reveal what wine this is soon, but for now, its identity isn't important. A modern Right Bank wine, I wanted to see how it would withstand varying degrees of oxidation. So, a glass right out of the bottle, covered with plastic wrap to keep it relatively oxygen-resistant. The rest of the bottle into a decanter for a few hours. I tasted a glass of each that night, about 6 hours after opening the bottle. The results surprised me.

As a lover of traditional European wines, I have this belief that a great wine needs air to fully develop and reveal itself, especially a young one. All the great wines I've drank, dry, sweet, or sparkling, show nuance upon nuance, particularly after being opened for a day or two. And with Bordeaux, I almost expect it. But these modern, technical wines seem to be totally different. The glass with minimal air showed fresher, with more minerality, more fruit. Palate more integrated as well, most harmonious. The glass that was exposed to air was almost beginning to fall apart. Drying out on the nose, palate becoming thin, wispy in texture. Surprised? Definitely. And a bit troubling.

So, does that mean that these wines need to be drunk within a few hours of opening, and without decanting? Certainly, the wine shows more character, more pleasure from being less exposed to air. Doesn't that go against what a Bordeaux wine is, what a great wine is? Or am I jumping to conclusions? My approach was straightforward enough. Has anyone else tried something similar? What wine was it . . . what did you notice?

DF

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