I am celebrating with sugary wine!

Last week I got a call from my doctor with the results of a blood test. She told me I had diabetes and so needed to come in and discuss it. I was more than a little perturbed by this; as an ex-epidemiologist I am well aware how serious diabetes can be. Indeed, even today having it reduces one’s lifespan by 30-50% from the age of diagnosis. So you can imagine my relief, and extreme annoyance with the doctor, when I saw her earlier and she said, “Oh yes, I was meaning to give you a call as I gave you the wrong results for the blood test. You don’t have diabetes and everything is fine.” So as it appears my body has no problems dealing with sugar I am going to drink a lot of it.

Some people have a blind spot when it comes to judging the quality of sweet wine: they seem to think that just because something is really sweet it must be a great wine. This, of course, is manifest bollocks. Sweet wines need complexity and style as well as mere sweetness in order to merit praise – characters a lot of excessively sweet wines lack. This is why I hate and despise the wines, to pick an example from the top of my head, of Alois ‘Smug’ Kracher: they are simply bottles of dissolved sugar with no character beyond that. These two, on the other had, are sweeties with manifest style and I am having a great time drinking them.

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Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives Grand Cru Sommerberg 2006, Domaine Albert Boxler

I really like the peachy fruit on this nose, there is a hint of late-harvest candied character to it but for a late-harvest offering it is impressively fresh. I love its minerality too, clearly not short on sophistication. There is a hint of tiredness, alas. I am firmly of the opinion that Pinot Gris is not a wine for ageing and this was in better condition a few years ago. Still, it is not too far gone and there is pleasure to be had. Lawks, it does taste quite sweet and bursting with extremely ripe fruit. Damned good acidity and it has a rich, creamy minerality to engage the interest of the more demanding consumer. Good persistence of flavour and, despite the slightly dirty hint on the finish derived from being a tad too old, this is a distinctly enjoyable wine. I’m rather taken with it.

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Château Coutet 2005

Hell’s bells, this is an alcohol beast on the nose and its botrytic peaches and cream character is incredibly overt. It also has clearly had a very expensive oak treatment, which seems quite prominent on the nose at this stage of its evolution. I don’t normally drink Sauternes when they are this young and as such the incredible intensity of it leaves me rather stunned. I like the nose, but it is a burning fireball of explosive power. It is very sweet, with impressive acidity and rich fruitiness. A biggie, that is for sure. Clearly has what it needs where it needs it in order to age for a serious amount of time. Only pop yours now if you want to be dumbstruck by, its manifest complexity aside, a wine of distinct heroism.

  • Richard Brooks

    Yep, I had a half of that 05 Coutet recently and, to borrow your idiom for a moment, it flattened me with its enormous bouncers.

  • Ian Black

    It’s always a relief to learn of a miraculous remission from something you were not suffering from in the first place. Well worth the celebration I imagine.

    David, I see you are drinking another Boxler. I wonder if I might be so bold as to enquire if you know his ex-cellar prices for the riesling cuvées? It’s just that I was contemplating a trip in the near future…

    Ah yes – wasn’t his last 2006 you had a bit knackered too? Difficult year, 2006.

  • Hi Richard and Ian,

    I am distinctly pleased to have avoided diabetes, it is a nasty thing to be afflicted with. My lovely sister Aimee has it and so I am well aware of what a bummer it is. I feel for the poor chap whose results I was given by mistake by the clodpole GP, suddenly he is going to get a call saying he is not fine after all and has diabetes.

    Yes, the Coutet was tits out for the boys, I bleeding well loved it. I have another half which I think merits at least another decade. My experience with Coutet has always been when it is quite mature and I have associated the word ‘elegant’ with those encounters, so a bit of a surprise to find this such a heroic face-full

    Ian, Boxler’s ‘Oooooooh fancy!’ Riesling cuvees are about €18-20 a bottle ex-cellars – a veritable bargain. I would suggest going for the ‘E’ and ‘D’ Riesling Sommerberg Grand Crus; they may have scale but are ultimately beautiful. I love all his wines but it is the Rieslings which are the safest candidates for the cellar. His Pinot Gris wines are brilliant when young, but don’t keep them. I’d say that about any Pinot Gris wine, though.

    Thanks for dropping by, chaps.

  • Ian Black

    Many thanks – much appreciated! Yes, those would be the ones of most interest I think.

  • ed tully

    I think “smug” is a little harsh when it comes to the dear departed “the crack” Kracher. His endless stream of innuendo was quite amusing really. Anyway, it was jolly good to see you on the island of love. If you come again I can promise less claret. Or even more clare, if that’s what you want.

  • lance foyster

    Boxler’s Riesling Sommerberg 2008 (dry, obviously) came up at a recent tasting of Alsace i did with Freddy Price here in Ealing. It was the best of the tasting for me in some smart company. (Freddy is writing it up for Decanter) Magnificent length and complexity. I’m embarrassed that it was a new domaine name to me, but i’ll look out for it in future.

  • Hi Lance,

    Boxler’s Sommerberg Rieslings are pretty much as good as Alsace Riesling gets, Daniel owns a truly stupendous amount. Should you find yourself anywhere even remotely close to Niedermorschwhir (one of the most difficult words I know how to spell) it is well worth dropping by as his entire range is quite delightful.

    Thanks for dropping by.