When is the right time for a wine?

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

28 January 2018

I suppose the short answer is “anytime” but that would be too facile.

January has been always a great month for me to hook up with wine loving friends, old and new, in Washington D.C. during the holiday season, when I take an extended holiday break from my work in France.

In this case we celebrated the birthday of friend Amy Ray, as well as the New Year 2018.

We enjoyed many Burgundies. I was very much looking forward to trying the Georges Roumier Bonnes Mares, but being a 2009, it proved indeed too young to properly enjoy. Another 2009, a Vosne Romanée, however (see tasting notes below) proved downright delicious and ready for wine drinking business.

As for a 1988 grand cru white from Burgundy, one may think that we were risking the timing, given evidence of too many prematurely oxidized whites from Burgundy. And yet, as it can be with wine drinking, you need some luck with the timing, as the 1988 proved to be one of the very best wines from this evening!

It was interesting to note how two Pommards of high reputation were comparatively rustic. We ended things with a most marvelous Alsatian Vendanges Tardives from the 2001 vintage. Everyone thinks of Sauternes for late harvest wines from France, but Alsace also excelled in that vintage for these types of “sweet” wines.

As for the two starting Champagnes, the answer is that it is always time to drink Champagne! Although we did not have any Bollinger, it is so true what Lilly Bollinger once said about the famous bubbly:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. 
When I have company I consider it obligatory. 
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. 
Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”

As usual, wines in bold, I liked in particular. When red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.

Color coordinated, and so was the flavor!

Champagnes open the way to joy
Two different styles, two great experiences: 

  • 2004 Dom Perignon Champagne Rosé – France, Champagne
    Rich and creamy, Loads of energy, too as it sits in glass. Yeasty, wet stone, lemon. The 2003 rosé is perhaps deeper, but I like the balance here more, or at least it strikes a different balance. Long finish and lovely stuff. Certainly matched well the seared tuna, avocado, king crab, and radish :-) (94 pts.)

Wine of the evening candidate?

  • 2002 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne – France, Champagne
    Gorgeous and elegant. Served with Prince Edward Island oyster and caviar, the density and precision of this wine never fails to impress. Over time, it develops beguiling orange rind and lemon aspects and turns more vinous and less (deceptively) light. I have one more bottle left. Sad. (96 pts.)

Wonderful white Burgundy: not premoxed! 
This wine just got better over time. I saved some for the very end of the dinner (at least before drinking the Vendanges Tardives) and one participant appropriately said “an irresistible force of nature”.

Just delicious.

  • 1988 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
    Fantastic, too, following a pair of excellent Champagnes. No premox here. At first, it seems just a tad lean perhaps, but a light butterscotch nose aspect builds over time yielding a rich yet vibrant wine. Very pretty, too, beckoning drinking. As it sits in glass, a very subtle note herbal aspect, touches of cooked pear with light spice, all rather subtle and appealing. And then there is a nougat like finish. Bravo! (95 pts.)

For current drinking, this was singing.

The two best reds of the evening …
The Bonnes Mares should outpace the Vosne-Romanée, over time, the latter was drinking better in January 2018.

  • 2009 Domaine de Montille Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts Christiane – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Elegant and stem-driven, but in a very good way. Lovely ripeness, not over ripeness. Sap driven too: juicy. Ripe and nuanced. This is quite enjoyable with King Salmon, pan roasted, with duck confît, potato hash and mushrooms moistened with Madeira duck jus. (95 pts.)
  • 2009 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Bonnes Mares – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Bonnes Mares Grand Cru
    Infanticide anyone? Yes. Far too young to drink now, but it did get better over … a couple of hours in glass. Contained opulence, density to be sure, licorice, fine licorice. Over time a deep cherry aspect, ripe and vinous, with subtle persistence and density, weight on the palate. Gets more suave and smooth as it sits in glass and even gives out some subtle tobacco notes. 13.5% alcohol. Obvious potential for a higher score, but it is too early to truly enjoy this wine in January 2018. (94+ pts.)

Decent match for the short rib.

Somewhat disappointing Pommards
While I enjoyed the Domaine de Montille, the Comte Armand was not singing.

  • 1999 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
    Brighter, more focused, more precise, and blows the Pommard Clos des Epeneaux Comte Armand 1996 out of the water. But even this has a rawness that made the two preceding wines (far) more interesting. (91 pts.)
  • 1996 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
    There is some brett that I could not shake, and the finish seemed pinched. Rustic.

A fine ending!

The odyssey ends in Alsace.

  • 2001 Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Furstentum Vendanges Tardives – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
    A lovely wine of depth and sweet opulence, with plenty of aromatics to please any discerning palate: White pepper, juicy pear, white apricot, cinnamon. Many varied flavors conveyed in a rich yet balanced palate. Sure, the residual sugar provided needed sweetness to match blue cheese in the cheese plate, that went very well with it, but the acidity of the vintage reminded me that 2001 was not just a great year in Sauternes. (94 pts.)

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