I’ll be totally honest with you. The wines sucked. Not because they were flawed or corked or old or cheap. On paper it was a very good lineup. It’s just that almost every single one failed to excite. Except for two wines. Two wines that brought the combination of complexity and vibrancy that make those elusive moments, when our senses just take us elsewhere, worth the never-ending chase.
Unsurprisingly, one was a Champagne, Gaston Chiquet, Dizy, Special Club, 2009. You know, writing about wine, in a blog, for free, is not a very obvious choice for a hobby. Sometimes I think this obsession is rather silly. And then I drink a Champagne and feel my life is really blessed, and since I have this need to express myself, why not write about the pearls of the world? For me, a great champagne is as much a balance of textures as flavors, in this case the fat and salinity of the nutty, mushroomy flavors against the slightly grainy, chalky finish, which is only possible because the fruit itself has such great, healthy depth. 2009 is considered an excellent, near-great vintage, although not as great as its classic predecessor. I guess this could easily coast to its 20th birthday and we caught it midway: vibrant, yet financed.
Alphonse Mellot, Sancerre, En Grands Champs, 2015
Mellot is a revered name in Sancerre. I don't buy nearly enough Sancerres (or Pouilly-Fumes) - not a lot is imported here and I always have different priorities when purchasing abroad - and until I tasted Vacheron, it had never crossed my mind to buy a red Sancerre. And now this, a single vineyard, old vines Pinot Noir, every bit as good a Premier Cru from Bourgogne, top class, deep, complex. I think the nearest Burgundian parallel is Gevrey, although this is lusher and would break the bank in any Burgundian blind tasting, as a joker.
Domaine d’Ardhuy, Gevrey-Chambertin, 2006
A bona fide Gevrey, this is more austere than the Sancerre, although the aromatics are decent, if not very exciting. I blame the vintage, not that I would expect an unknown producer to come up with a village wine that lasts 12 years. Although, to be honest, 2006 is such a charmless bricks and mortar vintage that I wouldn’t be surprised if the wines turn out too plain to die, a bunch of aged spinsters.
Alona, Elegant Reserve, Kedem, Carignan-Shiraz, 1016
This really didn't give much during the evening, but it was actually one of the better wine, with a Saint-Estephe-ish character (stones and iron) despite the idiosyncratic blend. The leftovers the next day were really singing, with meatiness that could be the Carignan just as much as it could be brett, and fits seamlessly inside the black fruit. A good job.
Catherine et Pierre Breton, Bourgueil, Les Perrières, 1996
A wine for the ages, because that’s how long it will take it to open. I heard good things about the vintage, and a 1995 we drank six years ago to the day was wonderful, but this is disappointing.
Robust and kicking in a grinding, foursquare way. Not flawed or obviously bad, but a previous bottle was better.
Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint Julien 4me Cru, 1996
At this point, we were waiting for the Bordeaux cavalry to storm in and save the day. On paper, this should have offered great pleasure, but it was a mildly fun wine (black fruit, cedar, a touch of mildew), but hardly as captivating as the Sancerre, which won the red wine bracket.
Chateau Roc de Combes, Cotes de Bourg, 2009
This is not the Bordeaux we were looking for.