Thursday, September 06, 2007

Something to Talk About

There are wines you drink. And then there are wines you talk about while you drink--but only to good friends, who also like to talk about wine, or your dinner companions will soon evaporate.

Burgundy probably grows more than its fair share of wines that call for conversation. The latest stage of my Burgundian adventure involved wine that was almost more fun to talk about than drink. It was from Vosne-Romanee, a viticultural area area of Burgundy that conjures up images of classic pinot noir wines. It's also where the famous (and famously expensive) Domaine de la Romanee-Conti has its origins. (image of vineyards in Vosne-Romanee from Wikimedia)

I suppose you could spend nearly $10,000 on a single bottle of 2000 Domaine Romanee Conti Romanee Conti (hey, it's on sale!), but I chose instead the 2000 Baron de la Charriere Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots ($29.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar). Oddly enough, though this was the most expensive Burgundy I bought during my spree at Chronicle Wine Cellar this winter, it was not my favorite, and simply represented good QPR in my book. But it did give all of us at the dinner table a lot to talk about as the wine evolved and changed and developed over the course of the evening.

The 2000 Baron de la Charriere Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots opened up with a nice bright ruby color and tinges of brown around the edges known as bricking. A quick taste determined the wine wasn't corked or oxidized, although we were a bit worried since there was some slight signs of seepage on one side of the cork. The first taste was spicy and rich, with very little fruit. At this point, we were expecting great things. We pulled the cork and let it sit in the bottle for an hour. Then we poured our glasses and gave them a swirl.

After an hour, the wine was much more aromatic, with black cherry fruit smells, cinnamon and spice. But it was more closed in the flavors department, with muted earthy notes. As we continued to drink the bottle, the earthiness of the wine began to emerge in the aromas, and the black cherry flavors developed along with more spice and growing complexity. Then the third glass had a metallic odor of tinned tomato paste which took us all by surprise. We let it sit, swirled it some more, and it became full of cinnamon, cherry, and earth. An interesting wine, but not one that most of us felt hung together very well.

During the hours we sat at the table, no matter what we started talking about, we always came back to the wine. "What are you tasting?" "Do you smell aluminum?" "Anybody getting cinnamon now?" These were some of the questions that we shot back and forth, swirling our wine and taking sips. I honestly can't even remember what we ate with the wine. All I remember was that this was a wine that was a better talker than a drinker--at least to my palate. Have you ever had a wine that fit that description?


Joe said...

What an awesome post. I have definitely had wines like that. The Clos Apalta (and Carmenere in general) was one, very intriguing but not quite sitting well with all of the tasters that evening. The Kanonkop Pinotage was also a great talker, but not everyone's cup o' tea. Burgundies are also frequently in this category. Cheers!

Jack said...

First, I'm disturbed about "...tinges of brown around the edges known as bricking." A V-R 2000? That tells me it hasn't been treated very nicely. (Seepage also shows. Seepage has nothing to do with Corked, btw!) So, just mark this down as a damage bottle and be happy it was still drinkable.

Second, the is the alt. label for Vincent Girardin, one of the most popular Burgundy negociants and producer (the word Domaine is front of the latter). Coincidentally, I've drunk more from him than any other Burg. producer.

Dr. Debs said...

Joe, funny you should mention the Pinotage. That's the other wine I've had (a Diemersfontein) that nobody could stop talking about and not everyone knew what to do with!

Thanks, Jack, for the information. I've had other wines 7 years old that showed little twinges of brown, but never a Burgundy, and of course am just getting to know Burgundian wines so this is great to know. As for the seepage, yes, I thought that's what I said, but looking back I should have put a comma after "corked," as in "wasn't corked, or oxidized, though we were worried a bit because there were some signs of seepage..." You are right, of course, that seepage isn't a sign of being corked but it can be a sign of oxidization. I've had 3 other Charriere/Girardin wines this year and they've all been terrific, and three more that I haven't tasted yet, so you may well be right that this was just damaged. Too bad, because it was my only one. Good thing I've got some more of the Corton-Renardes, though! That was terrific.