October 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Corks

A Postscript to the last Report.

We were impressed by Tarlant's ungrafted Vigne d'Antan we opened the other day, so much so that we decided to open another one last night at the Lab.

Sure, this is a wine to get involved with. It's complex. It's big. More like White Burgundy from Puligny-Montrachet. It has that ungrafted hallmark of pitch-perfect integration, intense core and site-specific precision. There are many reasons to open another bottle.

But we opened this one mostly because we thought there would be opportunity for some cool, time-lapse photography. The bottle we opened previously was disgorged in December, 2004. The second bottle was disgorged a year ago tomorrow.

At the Lab, we often source Champagne at auction. With non-vintage champagnes, it's often difficult, if not impossible, to know their age. One of the few clues is "cork behavior". Older corks do not expand. Young corks expand quickly. And wines that are in between young and old (disgorged more than a year ago, but less than say... three, four years ago) sometimes expand, but slowly.

We noticed the cork from the older bottle never expanded, retaining it's compressed mushroom shape. We thought the younger bottle might expand over 10-15 minutes and give us an opportunity to chronicle the transformation.

No such luck. The cork screamed out of the bottle as soon as the cage was removed, expanding to its current fatness (that is the technical term, by the way) almost immediately. We missed our photo-journalistic opportunity. But we drank the Champagne anyway.

The younger cousin is delicious, though far less mineral in character than the prior bottle. It has a lees-y nose with faint pear fruit, biscuit and some notes of oak. The attack is citric acid that emerges as distinctly lemon as the golden apple flavor evolves mid-palate. There's an almost tannic bite before a long, lingering chalky finish.

It has an adolescent, nervy energy that would likely benefit from some cellar maturity. Maybe in a year or so we can capture the cork swell on camera...

Ironically, we opened a bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvee last night as well. That cork did expand slowly over a 10 to 15 minutes period, but at that point we were half in the bag from other experiments and no one remembered to take the pictures.

1 comment:

TWG said...

This is quite interesting. I often wonderewd about why some Champagne corks flare and others don't