Sipping on a bottle of properly matured, well cared-for wine is like running into the awkward guy from algebra ten years later at your high school reunion.
He’s turned out to be – hopefully – fleshier and more toned in physique than his younger, gangly self, with a smoother timbre replacing the squawky, pitched stutter of yore. And perhaps his then-clashing talents of number-crunching and collecting 70′s vinyl have evolved into a profitable online music entrepreneurship.
Everything about him is still there, just now in far better shape. It just took several years for that potential to develop into something more.
I’ve got both an Old World and a New World example that I’m excited to share with you:
Château Faizeau Sélection Vielles Vignes AOC Montagne St-Émilion 2006
This wine was released in BC in the fall of 2009. The Montagne Saint-Émilion area is just northeast of the principal Saint-Émilion appellation, and like its namesake, showcases Merlot-based wines, which in this case come from some older vines that have been green-harvested to concentrate flavour development in select bunches that have been left on the vine. From one French website, it appears that “flying winemaker” Michel Rolland seems to have consulted on the wine. The site also notes that the vineyard is made of 12 hectares of clay-limestone and sandy soil, and 50% of the wine was aged in barrel for 18 – 24 months.
Opened on April 16, 2011, thanks to my generous friend (and graphic designer extraordinaire) Lydia. Within an opaque core of blood red lies a soft and seductive nose of black cherry, plums, blackberries, baking spices, cocoa and licorice. The rich, velvety palate is gently concentrated with red and black berry flavours, a hint of herbaceousness, and secondary notes of cinnamon, chocolate, licorice and earth, finishing with refreshing acidity that suggests further aging up to another 5 to 6 years would be fine. Lydia, Natasha and I ate this with Mediterranean cheese and spinach pies, which tasted great – I would also recommend trying this with a piece of good dark chocolate or a meat dish with mole sauce to really play up the voluptuousness of this wine.
Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc Okanagan Valley VQA 2005
Sean and I had the fortune to visit with Poplar Grove’s winemaker, Ian Sutherland, two years ago on a holiday in Naramata. There, we got to barrel sample some varietal components of his Bordeaux blend, Legacy, including some Cabernet Franc, and I’m fairly certain it was at that moment that I became a believer in Cabernet Franc’s potential to claim the title of Best Okanagan Black Grape. The barrel samples were intense, concentrated and left us with black teeth for the day – Sean was especially hooked and bought a bottle of the 2005, and we’ve been interested in Cab Francs across BC since.
I visited the winery again this past weekend on the way home from a short road trip through Penticton, and Julie, the lovely lady managing the tasting room that day, mentioned that Poplar Grove uses the help of Bordelais consultant Alain Sutre. Apparently, Sutre’s advice vis à vis Poplar Grove’s Cab Franc is that extra hangtime is allowed for the fruit such that it’s picked within the precise and short timeframe wherein sugar ripening slows down but the rate of phenolic ripeness speeds up, letting the grapes build up extra flavour complexity without the excess of natural sugars.
Opened on May 7, 2011. Deep purple-black in the glass with some garnet hues along the rim, this wine displays a heady aroma of ripe plums, prunes, blackberry, currants, tobacco, cedar and spice. In the mouth, fine sweet oak tannins combine deliciously with a medium-plus body of ripe cherry, currant, plum, leather, spice, chocolate and licorice flavours and a medium-plus finish. A rewarding wine right now but could certainly hold up for another couple years if not longer.
This still had all the concentrated black fruit flavours and tannin of the original barrel sample, except worn and woven into a much smoother cloth. We sipped happily on this without food, however I would have loved to try this with some grilled rosemary lamb chops or rib eye seared perfectly medium rare. Finishing: 18 months in French oak barrels plus an additional 12 months of bottle maturation prior to release. $35 at the winery (fairly positive it’s now sold out)