Saturday, February 09, 2008

Steal this wine.

If you inflict yourself with superfluous wine publications, you will be (at least dimly) aware the 2005 Bordeaux has been touted as the "Vintage of the Century!" Setting aside such logic gyrations needed to say this only 5 years into the century, and also setting aside the fact we normally hear "Vintage of the Century!" twice a decade, this chant -- which has reached even our ears at the penthouse of Vinapedia Tower -- can be decoded as meaning "these wines are probably pretty good."

But, let's look at things a bit more carefully. What do we mean when we say "Vintage of the Century!"? My interpretation is that during said vintages, even the vintners who normally make pretty good wines stand an excellent chance of making spectacular, epoch-shattering stuff. The guys who are just a furlong down the road from the Big Names and have keen, sharp winemakers who mightn't have the resources, year-in and year-out to make monumental wines.
For these guys, who have to maximize whatever opportunity they get to make the world sit up and take notice, 2005 was such a year. The weather cooperated, the wine makers were in a benevolent mood, the harvesters were pleased with their daily rations of Gitanes and Gauloises and all went well. Thus, 2005 wins Vinapedia's award for Vintage of the Century of the Year.

Having our antennae now keenly attuned to the added excellentness Ma Nature chose to heap upon wines of that time and place, we waited for the opportunity to cadge some freebie tastings. Sure enough, Aloha Tom, flush with glee at his new Reyn Spooner shirts and Panama hat to cover his greying bald spot and focus attention to his greying beard and ponytail instead gave the signal: Aloha Tom's Wine Hut would be having a tasting of selected 2005s. These wines have begun to arrive and/or will be arriving shortly. I didn't ask which were which, because a man who goes around wearing shirts emblazoned with flourescent tropical produce is clearly fearless and therefore capable of anything when riled.

I must say that when you taste wines that are supposed to be Big Important Reds when they are young, you must use your imagination. These wines are not, in the overwhelming majority of the cases, ready to drink. They need rest. Repose. Lots of it. So you must think of what it'd be like to taste this wine after it has had time to calm down and take a shower and learn some manners. Like in the case of goverment statistics based on "seasonally adjusted data" there is some very educated guesswork at play. The better the wine, the less "guessy" the opinions.

Anyway. The tasting. I must admit that Aloha Tom, resplendent in his shirt adorned with stylized kiwi and passion fruit, selected his wines very well. Either that or he put out what he was sent and got very, very lucky. I went around and purposefully avoided looking at labels or prices. I avoided the edibles. All of the wines were wines I could see being spectacular with cellaring, and I was eager to find something for me to latch on.

(When I was but a mere lad of 18 -- those being the days when the drinking age coincided with the age at which one could bear arms for one's country or help elect its representatives -- I managed to score some 1982 Ch. Pontet Canet. It took my little all, but I bought a case, and the wisdom of that youthful choice beams back at me as I stand on the threshhold of respectable middle age.)

So I know what I'm after and I'm pleased to report I have found it.

Most of those wines start in at $75 per bottle and shoot skyward from there. Which is a pity, really. At the end of the night I reviewed my notes and I saw that my favorite wine, which I preferred by only the very slimmest, most translucent of margins to my second favorite, cost $270 per bottle. (Ch. Leoville Las Cases, in case you're stumped for gifts) Most of my other favorites frolicked and gamboled merrily in the $200-$350 per bottle range. But...what about that second favorite?

That, friends, is but a piddly $30. Three-zero. Thirty. Roll it over in your mind and let it fall trippingly off your tongue. Three Hamiltons. You simply MUST steal this wine and, while you're at it, steal a cubic truckload of it. It's the 2005 Clos l'Eglise Cotes de Castillon. Normally I'd hush it up, but I already got mine.

At some places you can get it for the "futures" price and even if you can't, you're only staring at $30/bottle, which is closer to "free" than its real worth. I have no higher praise for a wine than this: I bought, with my very own cash, two cases of it. None of this "Charge it to Vinapedia, Tom! and aloha to you and Mrs. Tom!" stuff. Out of my own pocket.

This wine, even it it remains a relative bargain to the other 2005s, will only go up in price. (The other 2005 Bordeaux's prices will certainly hit nosebleed altitudes pretty soon.) So get it now. As in, pause from your daily grind and order a case now.

Also, make sure you get the right one which is not the one in Pomerol (that one has a price tag to make your eyes water freely).

Here are my notes, verbatim: Pure ruby [color]. Complex and lively aroma. Cherry, raspberry and a little anise. Hint [of] minerals. Has a ripe sweetness, with a fruity sort of lushness. Elegant acidity and strong tannic presence for amazing balance. That earthy-mineral thing is pleasantly noticeable. Long finish. Very suave, subtle and long on the finish. I'd say this can only improve in the cellar, and I'd even say it can handle 15-25 years, though I might be tempted in 10 to check its progress.

Now, at this point the less attentive in the audience might start to whoop and holler about my previous railings against Big Red Wines. Which is wrong. I rail against wines that seek fame and fortune based on fat scores, not from hewing close to the varietal and geographical characteristics of a given wine, but borne of imitating other giga-point wines. This wine is very true to the Bodeaux character, not the Bordeaux caricatute. It is sublime and I'd give it 6 spades if Vinapedia.net would allow me.

-J.

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