Archive for December, 2007

2005 Peugeot Update

newclosure.jpgI took the 2005 Peugeot to a party last night, expecting it to represent the Garagistes with rectitude, if not pulchritude. Man, was I surprised.

I remember loving this blend when we put it together in the summer of 2006. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Franc. The Sauvignon we got that year had been mismanaged by a new grower we were trying (and did not return to), who left it hanging until it clocked in at nearly 28 brix before he called us to come get it. Since rocket fuel was not our objective, we added water to ratchet back the brix by a point or so and bring the alcohol down to a less incendiary level.

Even though the water was added before fermentation, it really hadn’t integrated even 10 months later at our blending trials. My notes remark on how something so alcoholic could also be so watery in the mid-palate. Luckily, our two other grapes filled the mid with texture (Merlot) and flavor (Franc), so the resulting Peugeot was nicely complex and lingered pleasingly.

But even though I remembered the blend fondly, the odd bottle or two I’ve uncorked in the last 16 months have been uneventful, even dumb. Toward the end of each bottle, after prolonged oxygen exposure, the wine usually began to shake off its grogginess and hint at its former glory, but frankly, I’d begun to wonder if that glory had ever existed at all.

At last, patient Garagistes, I can confirm: the glory is ours! The wine I opened last night was simply stunning. Beautiful, silky tannins, lovely round fruit caressed with chocolate and deep spice, and a finish that kept tapping my shoulder even with a party raging around me. And no trace of a watery mid-palate: so while the Merlot and Franc (contributing that chocolate and spice, I believe) clearly did their jobs, I think the water we added to the Sauv has finally integrated and that grape is pulling its own weight. Mmmm.

That jibe with your recent experiences?

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Topping Up

Mike and I got together for a brief survey of all the barrels and carboys, with the objective of topping up where necessary so as little oxygen as possible compromises our lovely friends.

We found the three 2006 Peugeot barrels each about a bottle down, so we topped them with some of the wine we set aside in 2005 as an experimental blend (same blend as the regular 2005, but with the Merlot and Franc totals flopped).

All the other barrels were down as well (which, by the way, is normal), but by not as much. We topped grape with grape, but at least for the Merlot, the amount was small enough (and the hassle of breaking up a carboy was great enough), we topped with a bit of Franc. In general, our strategy is to keep the grapes pristine, but the small amount we make often forces our hand. The additions were small enough not to present too much of a compromise, however.

One last note: Mike had a great idea of putting a certain amount of each wine into capped beer bottles for the expressed purpose of topping. That would mean it would be easier to top grape with grape without pulling from carboys (which would then need to be broken into smaller containers to minimize oxygen contact).

Anyone have a bottle capper?

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Vintage port

1948 Taylor Fladgate vintage portMy wife and I stopped by a friend’s house after Thanksgiving, where as luck would have it her father had recently opened a crusty old bottle of port.

Now, I’ve always liked port, but never really embraced it. Sure, it efficiently delivers both dessert and alcohol in one convenient glass, but it’s often more like a sweet, sloppy puppy than a poised, mature animal.

This was an entirely different species. To begin with, it was from Taylor Fladgate, one of the giants of Oporto. But better, the last time it had seen the great outdoors was 59 years ago. Yes, The Bicycle Thief had just illuminated post-war Italy, the Marshall Plan had just passed Congress, and Harry Truman was only a few weeks away from gaining the White House. That 1948.

The bottle had the telltale (and traditional) swab of white paint across its base, just below where the label would have been had it not rotted off decades ago. It’s a simple marker for those lucky enough to carry a bottle home that one side of the bottle is up, so the sediment (or “crust”) settles in one place for easy evasion when you (or your grandchildren) get around to pouring it.

Michael Broadbent, the charming lion of British wine critics, had this to say about the 1948 in The Great Vintage Wine Book:

Tasted 19 times [ Ed: ! ] since 1958, invariably magnificent. Still fairly deep and intense; beautiful bouquet, lively fruit, scented, citrus, vanilla; sweet, full-bodied, powerful yet perfect flavour and balance with glorious blackberry-like ripeness. Most recently lovely, shapely, ethereal.

Broadbent wrote this in 1991, but 16 years later, it crossed my palette as if we’d shared the same glass. What’s truly remarkable is that even at the close of its sixth decade, it’s still wonderfully alive and full. Deep, resonant layers of flavor, like floating down through successive panes of tinted glass, each a slightly different tint, opacity, and delight.

“Most recently lovely, shapely, ethereal.” I say, old chum: spot on.

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