A Stunning Taste From Another Time
Wednesday - June 09, 2010
There are legendary wines that collectors and amateurs would seek out just to have once in their lifetimes. This list is well-known and includes 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc, 1945 Romanee Conti, 1978 DRC Montrachet, 1947 Petrus, 1997 Screaming Eagle, 1961 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle, 1929 Krug, 1971 Conterno Monfortino and a host of other mythical wines. Each is a wine lover’s dream.
And yet there are other wines that even a smaller handful of individuals have the chance to drink, wines that belong in the same pantheon of greatness as these better-known examples.
These wines are those even rarer occasions when a winemaker or collector is generous enough to share a treasure that they have stored for decades. It is something that was made in another period of time, when winemakers thought more of how the wine would age in two or three decades rather than years. They cared not for ratings and how quickly the wine would sell.
Often these vignerons had in mind the thought of their children drinking the wine when it was ready, rather than themselves. Sometimes the wine was quite undrinkable for many years but somehow these wines survived the test of time.
Survived is not the word - they flourished, and when they are consumed they are a revelation. It’s an amazing experience to behold the beauty of the winemaker’s passion and the earth from which it comes.
This is the case with a bottle that I had the privilege of drinking with a handful of friends at a farmhouse in Burgundy. The owner of the property said he would like to share something special with us and went to retrieve a bottle from the cellar. Portions of the farmhouse date back to the 15th century, when records show that it housed one of only three bread-baking ovens within a 20-mile radius. He returned with a bottle wrapped in a napkin to conceal its label and poured it gingerly into our glasses without disturbing its sediment.
The aromas that came rising from the glass were absolutely amazing, ineffable, even: sweet, ripe and stewed cherries, roasted coffee beans, freshly cured leather, vanilla, wet stone, mocha, cranberries and spices. It penetrates all your senses as you drink it in. Even more sweet flavors of red currants and other berries lead on to an infinity pool-like aftertaste. The texture is of crushed velvet, and harmonious. It is obviously from a great, warm vintage.
He asks us to offer a guess as to what vintage and appellation it hails from. A friend throws out 1971. I think it is older. I say 1955. Our host says it is older. He finally reveals the wine as 1937 Hospices de Beaune Volnay Cuvee Blondeau from Camille Giroud.
We are all stunned by this magnificent beauty. It is a time warp in a glass. It has so much life and energy that it is disarming. We wonder if anything winemakers are making now will ever live such a life as this. Is it possible that in 66 years something from the 2003 vintage would even be alive much less taste so good?
Our host is optimistic and says yes indeed. Yet will these types of wines ever be as coveted as any of the wines that I first mentioned?
That is doubtful. But for me, it is a wine and an experience that is certainly one of the heights of my personal pantheon.
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