It’s all about how it ends. A film, a book, a meal, sex, everything. The same with a bottle, a glass, a sip of wine. The finish is what sums it up. There’s a way that a wine finishes, or sometimes never ends, that can be breath-taking in the most literal way.
Your first bit of pleasure is on the nose. The very best are like perfume; like a woman you pass in the street and want to follow. They entice. And sometimes offer more: you know that following the woman is going to, if not pay dividends, is going to bring you more. Your life is going to be more interesting. There is going to be a story. You’re joining a road.
The business part of this is what happens in the mouth. What it tastes like. It’s the meat of the plot. The main course, the hotel room, the action. The execution of the plan. It’s where you get the depth and concentration of flavour inherent to a great wine. If you’re doing points, about eighty of them are probably in the mouth. It’s where you get the minerality of Caillerets or the Bond Street cashmere juice of Cheval Blanc.
And somewhere it has to end. No matter what you’re doing. It’s not always the best bit, but a good ending is what makes the best best. It’s sometimes about how long it lasts: 2005 Lafite, 2001 Yquem: a good ten minutes. 2005 Margaux, 2009 Latour, 2005 Musigny Mugnier – they’re still going on. But more often it’s about how it’s all sewn up. About how, like one of the very best stories, multiple threads are woven together into something that, in the cases of the very best, is so sharp it passes, laser-like, through the eye of a needle.
A couple of nights ago I opened a magnum of 2008 Viré-Clessé, Domaine de la Bongran. This is one of my favourite wines in any vintage. Tasted a couple of years ago I placed it just under the 2005, 2007 and 2009 of the same wine but I think I may have had that wrong. This is seriously good wine. And what had me writing a tasting note on the back of my Barclaycard bill on a Friday night before dinner was the finish. The way it flirted, seduced and ravished me, then left me speechless (for a minute, then actually the opposite) with its exit. Like a sailboat disappearing from a sunset horizon. Perfect.
“Honey. A touch of steel. Cool spring honey on cold butter on the finest fresh bread. A touch of apricot and even some brioche. In the mouth the honey follows with an oleaginous consistency. Fat and weighty. Then it all comes together like an arrow. Pin-sharp. Everything is right with this. Not just the food in the resto: the service too. Blind, you’d pick this as Montrachet on account of the sheer depth and concentration. And the precision is something else. Stunning.”
Un voilier passe..
And like that, he’s gone..