Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bordeaux, at Last

I don't know why I've dragged my ass so in reporting on the big January Bordeaux tasting in New York. I guess it's because there were so many wines and I knew blogging them all would be a chore. Plus, I get so bored, sometimes, with the accepted grandeur of the whole Bordeaux world, that sometimes I'd rather talk about any other kind of wine. But I guess I better do it before my thoughts on the tasting leave my brain forever.

The event was packed, because the 2005 vintage has sparked such interest; invitees were assigned to attend either from 2 to 4 PM or 4 to 6 PM. I didn't realize I was slated to come at 4 PM, and arrived at 2. But nobody hassled me and I glided right in. (Don't worry sticklers: I left around 4 anyway.) I began by tasting my way through a pretty unimpressive aisle of Margaux and started to despair. Was it all going to be like this?

I escaped to Saint-Emilion territory and was revived. Though I agree with a friend at the event, who said he thought the St.-Emilions tends to veer toward a juicier, International style, the bottles sure were an improvement on the watery and bitter Margaux, so I wasn't complaining. Chateau Angelus, Chateau Figeac and a few others pleased plenty. What's fascinating about the area is how the blends vary. Sometimes Merlot is up there at 90 percent, sometimes at 30. Cab Sauv is sometimes knocked out of the mix altogether. I liked Figeac's reasoned approach: one third each of Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Cab Franc, giving the wine a more mature, balanced profile than its brothers.

From there a couple of enthusiastic imbibers directed me to the Pomerols. "You gotta taste the Pomerols!" I was a bit suspicious—everyone likes Pomerols these days—but I went. Merlot, my friends, Merlot. Lots of green notes. Big and full. A creamy Chateau Beauregard, a more austere Chateau Clinet, a one-dimensional Chateau Gazin, but mainly I wasn't really feeling it.

Always open to suggestions, I was then directed to the Saint-Juliens. Now things started to pick up. Chateau Lagrange was rich and silky, Leoville Poyferre has great balance and structure, and Talbot kind of knocked me out. It hit my nose with force. The tannins were intense as were the flavors of dark cherry. A bit much, perhaps, but such much!

Maybe I had drunk my share at this point, but Pauillac tasted even better than Saint-Juliens. Chateau Clerc Milon was very nice, with good balance and good fruit. Very deep. Pichon-Longueville was rough and full and extracted, and Pontet-Canet was fuller still, but more smooth and ripe fruit and green notes.

The most stellar white Bordeaux I tasted was Chateaus De Fieuzal, the deep complexity of which cannot be understated.

Like everyone else, I save the Sauternes for last. And, like everyone else, I didn't leave enough time for them and kinda rushed through. They were all pretty friggin' good. It's hard to lose with this stuff. One that stood out was a Barsac, Chateau Climens, which had a extra spiciness and less honeyed tone that set it a bit apart.

A couple other things. I must compliment the organizers of the event for their scheme of setting up many small round tables in the aisles. This made tasting so much easier. One got one's sample and then, rather than stay rooted to the crowded serving table, retreated to the round neutral stations to sip in peace and think and make one's notes. Bravo! This should be the way at every tasting!

And finally, why must buffoons argue with the pourers about Robert Parker, and his supposed influence over their wines? What do they think they're going change, except the pourer opinion of them? People have got to stop harping about this guy. It's old. It comes off like cranky old Grandpa carping about those damn horseless carriages.

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