Mature Crozes-Hermitage, unfeasibly good Rioja, Chambolle-Musigny and red Sancerre

As I lack a comprehensive cellar laid down by wine-loving parents I do not try properly mature wines as often as I would like. Consequently, when Guy and Peter came around on Tuesday night for a sedate blind-tasting session it was quite a treat to try a couple of wines that were definitely ripe for drinking. I was delighted, and more than a little surprised to have a Rioja that was not only drinkable but also rather appealing.

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Sadly there was a heart-wrenching disappointment at the end of the evening. My bottle of Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1995 was totally oxidised and undrinkable. I’ve read many reports of premature oxidation problems with Baumard wines, but when a wine that was quite so joyfully stylish and thrillingly complex when young ends up getting poured down the sink I do feel more than a trifle irked. I’d been eagerly anticipating sharing what was my last bottle with some enlightened friends when it was properly mature. My hopes were dashed.

This dispiriting experience makes doubts loom in my mind about the two bottles of 2001 I have buried in the darkest recesses of my cellar. It would seem wise to liberate and imbibe them at the earliest opportunity – Baumard Quarts de Chaume it is just too good to risk ruining by keeping too long. When I next encounter M. Baumard I will encourage him to be less parsimonious with his [link2post id=”4533″]sulphur usage[/link2post].

Chambolle-Musigny 2006, Domaine Fourrier

This is a very tight, unyielding nose. It is clearly Burgundy, but where is the love? Where is the allure? The palate is also toilsome with pertinacious rigour – the fruit is overshadowed by rough tannins and spiky acidity. In the hope that a bit of decanter time will help this open up I shall return to it later.

An hour later and this has blossomed. It is still a bit tight, but the fruit is far more attractive and enjoyable with the tannins and acidity seeming distinctly less gruelling. That being said, I still find this to be lacking a bit of the charm I lustily crave from Chambolle. I hope this is because the wine is going through an awkward middle-aged patch; if you have some I suggest not popping a bottle for at least three years in the hope of it becoming less rugged.

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Sancerre rouge ‘Belle Dame’ 2003, Domaine Vacheron

Crumbs, there is some really classy fruit to this nose and definite sophistication to its mineral components. I’m pleased it doesn’t show the heat of the vintage, everything is in restrained harmony. When I’ve had this wine before I’ve thought I’d probably guess it as Premier Cru Pommard if I were tasting it blind; Peter has just proffered that as a guess so I cannot be completely bonkers in my analysis. There is an intriguing slightly green, slightly flinty character present which has more than a suggestion of white Sancerre aromas. Yum, now that is a tasty palate. It has a fine interplay between fruit and tannins, with a vivacious streak of acidity all of which work together to make this seem compellingly intricate as well as being engorged with charming fun value. Drinking very well now but there is certainly no rush.

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Crozes-Hermitage 1983, Paul Jaboulet-Aine

Ah, the mature softness to this nose is enchantingly delectable. Its combination of rich earthiness and subtle, polished fruit is really tweaking my aesthetic sensibilities. There is no doubt that this is quite mature, but there is no hint of being shagged out or generally past it. The same is true of the palate; it is soft, giving and sensual, lacking any hint of being dried out or tired. Its earthy characters are impressively complex and its enchanting array of flavours persist for a satisfying period of time. This Crozes, which does not claim to be any flash cuvee, demonstrates the brilliance that Jaboulet could deliver at the height of their powers. Quality of this level stylishly exceeds the exiguous, deficient efforts of the current owners. Time to drink, I feel.

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Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 1995, Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana

There is something disquietingly wrong with how this smells: it is nice. Really rather nice, if I am honest. Given the phenomenal degree to which I despise the vast majority of Rioja it is more than a little incongruous to find an attractive example. There is only the slightest suggestion of sickly American oak on the nose, but this is deftly pushed into the background by winsome fruit that is changed with sweet ripeness. Hell’s bells there is decent complexity on the nose, who’d have thought it? The palate is a winningly svelte collection of polished fruit flavours and a soft but seductive structure. There is nothing lacking here in terms of attractiveness or style. This is improbably good for a Rioja. Can nothing in the world be relied upon? I shudder to think what implausible experiences await me in the future.