Description. Always one of the biggest challenges when it comes to wine. Do you do cassis notes interspersed with cedar box and pencil lead? Or do you say regal, majestic, focussed, linear. Or do you just say: “that does the trick.”? Thinking back to Jilly Goolden talking about “luscious watermelon notes” (or similar) has me thinking of Nigella Lawson’s porno-cooking. I’m much more of a “balance, focus, edge” kind of guy. And Nigella’s dripping just doesn’t float my boat.
I have a number of customers with whom I have developed a friendship and with whom I can speak my mind. One of them – “Big D.” – went to the Institute of Masters of Wine tasting of 2006s a few days back. I was interested to hear his opinions of the wines as (a) I reckon I know his palate and (b) I haven’t tasted this vintage much since I tasted the wines from barrel in the Spring of 2007. I reckon that this might be a ringer of a vintage in that of all the cheap (and this is increasingly a relative description) young vintages – 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 – this one is the finest. Some of these wines just might blossom into something rather special.
Big D. and I frequently disagree on wines, though this is often for the sake of argument, of discussion. He has a very good point when he says that there is far more pleasure in a bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs than there is in a bottle of Lynch-Bages. His point is that one doesn’t have to concentrate on the Ridge to enjoy it. It’s a bit like literature: Umberto Eco or Salman Rushdie are invariably harder to read than Dan Brown (and they’ve both got better names) though both are ultimately more rewarding. But sometimes you do want to just drink a bottle of fruit juice in front of Strictly rather than, well, doing anything difficult.
So I spoke to Big D. after the tasting, and he came up with a couple of descriptions that were so good I wished that they were mine. His wine of the tasting was 2006 Ch. Margaux.
My note from 2007 reads: “Rather closed though what is here is classic. Richer and bigger than Lafite, still soft, perfectly balanced. Very, very, very long. Not the God-meeting experience of last year but not far off. Complete and more-ish as Moulin (Big Phil) says. This is pure. Yes. Excellent.”
Big D. comments: “ Like Kylie Minogue sidling up next to me in her hotpants and touching me inappropriately.”
And I can see his point. This is a seductive wine, and relatively simple in its method of seduction if not simple in itself. And seduction is what Margaux is supposed to do – the Medoc’s most feminine appellation.
But I’m a snob, and I’ve outgrown Kylie. I want something cerebral. One wine that I dearly want to taste again to see where Mister Parker finds his 97 points is 2006 Ch. Lafite-Rothschild (not that it matters what any vintage of this wine tastes like anymore; the Chinese are so in love with its label).
My note from April 2007 reads: “Not giving much on the nose, and Chevalier (the boss) doesn’t have the smile on his face that he did last year. Not sure about this. Hugely impressive length and the fruit is persistent but this is very, very subtle. He compares it to 04, maybe 86. A difficult vintage. I’m not sure where this will go. Elegant, and incredible length.”
Big D. comments: “Like Kylie Minogue sticking her head around the door and looking me up and down with the disdain that I deserve.”
His point is, I think, that it’s still Kylie. Just not so forward. And certainly not trying to seduce.
As an aside, a case of 2006 Lafite will give you little change from nine grand – and this expense has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of what is in the bottle – it’s more to do with the apparent seduction of the Chinese by its label, its brand. A case of 2006 Margaux sells for less than half this, which seems like a much better deal if you’re actually going to drink it…
The real irony here is that most owners of these wines would probably agree with Big D., and would rather have a bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs (if not necessarily watching Strictly on the telly).