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.

Guy modelling Crozes-Hermitage 1983

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 sulphur usage.

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.

Sancerre rouge 'Belle Dame' 2003, Domaine Vacheron

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.

Crozes-Hermitage 1983, Paul Jaboulet-Aine

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.

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

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.


6 Comments

  • ed tully wrote:

    Hello! A pleasingly diverse tasting. You might think of old Louis and his point “The drunkeness of things being various…”. Back to the point. I have three or so bottles of the Baumard Quarts in 95 and 96. It might not be a consolation to you but the other bottles of the same years I have drunk in the last couple of years have been bang on. Honeyed white truffle.

  • Peter wrote:

    The Fourrier was lovely on the nose from the outset. But the palate was initially very mean and severe, astringent and tannic. But yes, it did soften, and by the end was a nice drink. But as you say, David, not exactly what one expects of Chambolle. But in the end, I liked it.
    The Vacheron was most impressive. Real structure and depth. But it was not I who guessed at Pommard. I was uncertain. I thought it might be Pinot, or possibly Italian – it had a pleasing bitterness to it. But Pinot it was, and very nice.

  • Leon Stolarski wrote:

    I get to drink quite a lot of Baumard wines (including some older ones) and must admit I’ve yet to experience an oxidised one. There’s always a first time, of course! That said, from the 2004(?) vintage, virtually everything is bottled under fancy screwcaps………

    I see that Jaboulet is a “basic” cuvée, so yet another example of how good the wines from that period (in fact most wines, pre-1995) are. I have a few bottles of 1983 and 1988 Thalabert and they are both lovely, with the 1983 providing the most pleasure.

  • David Strange wrote:

    1983 Thalabert is a total joy to drink, it does that whole ‘sophistication’ thing impressively well but more importantly it charms your pants off. I hope I encounter it again on at least several occasions in the future. It really makes the current owner’s efforts look distinctly piss poor.

  • ed tully wrote:

    I don’t usually comment with the same pungency as Capt Strange, but I am afraid I absolutely detest the new Jaboulets. In fact I am not afraid. They are utterly loathsome and vile. Wine made by people who want to please accountants. Which is ironic as the accountants I know also hate them. Boring does not even begin to cover their pointless efforts. And they have had the crust to triple their prices! Anybody who pays for the recent releases when older (and far better, even in their “fallow” period) wines are available at a fraction of the cost is seriously intellectually impaired. Or is a twat. In which case, carry on. I can not remember a wine where I forgot what I was tasting whilst the stuff was still in my mouth. And that’s trus of the entire line up. The evil bastards should be made to go and live in Milton Keynes for all eternity. Or Penge. Even Petersborough. That’s how bad they are.

  • David Strange wrote:

    You are totally correct and quite convincingly rude about the loathsome detritus of the wine-making world who have defiled the great name of Jaboulet by producing staggeringly appalling wines of such disgustfulness that they are positively sordid slurs shaming the great vineyards they come from. I have no plans to buy any Lash in the foreseeable future.



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