No good vintages, only good bottles?

22 02 2013

Last night I had the privilege of tasting every bottle of wine for a Vintners’ dinner. How often do you get a chance to try numerous bottles of mature wine, usually it would be just one or two. Well I tasted and spat 53 decanted bottles of 1996 Ch Talbot and very revealing it was too.

Assuming that the wine was all purchased at the same time and stored in the same conditions, the only variable would be the cork. Of the 53 that I tried two were obviously corked, one very noticeably and the other less so. A further two or three may have had traces of TCA but so slight that it was hard to tell if it was just the cedary character of the wine itself. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the number of oxidised bottles. One very bad bottle, two or three distinctly so and another three less noticeably.

Of the remaining bottles there was still variation with half a dozen or so really singingly sweet and the rest showing varying degrees of what I suppose I would have to term ‘freshness’. Of course as the wine stood in the decanters waiting to be served the wines were changing all the time and opening up further.

It just went to prove how variable older bottles can be…

I also tasted 20 or so decanters of 1977 Grahams Port. There was variation there too – some were slightly spicier – but no trace of cork or excess oxidation.

Of the 20 or so bottles of 2006 Chassagne Montrachet Morgeots, Jadot one tasted absolutely fabulous, one was slightly oxidised and the rest were all as they should be. Similarly the 20 or so bottles of 2001 Lafaurie Peyraguey Sauternes were all delicious with the only noticeable variation being in the extra silky texture and richness of three or four.

Finally I tasted around 20 bottles of NV Ruinart purchased in 2009. Every single bottle was identical. My palate may have been a little tired by then but it seemed to me that this was a triumph of consistency.

I believe there were no complaints about the wine last night so I must have done my job well! It certainly is a fantastic opportunity which I thoroughly enjoy.

How does it affect my thinking on closures? I still think cork is the best closure found so far for wines to lay down. It’s not perfect by any means, I do wish there was an alternative that would do the exact same job without introducing any variation. All I would say is that it is certainly worth buying the best quality corks that you can afford.

It also more than proves the adage that there are no good vintages, just good bottles…