January 26, 2009

A Decade 'Tween

A "ten-split" vertical tasting of Domaine aux Moines Savennières Roches-aux-Moines. One from the 1994 vintage; one from 2004.

As I mentioned before, my prior experience with this wine left me a little skeptical.

I'm happy to now report that the previous, "warm quartz" bottle was flawed, probably cooked. These wines do tend toward mineral-laden austerity, but tasting them both made clear that my prior tasting was a damaged wine.

I poured these blind to several from the Lab staff. None were able to identify the older wine. I would have failed the test as well as the 1994 is lean and energetic, with racy acid (lime) dominating the finish. The 2004, meanwhile, is rich with mature pear fruit and quince, with some oxidized notes and a waxy, structured mouthfeel. It was easy to mistake youth for age, and vice-versa.

The aromas of the two wines were practically identical. A muted nose of pear with beeswax and clover. This last, grassy element was slightly more pronounced in the older wine. And both need a full hour in the glass to reveal much of anything at all. The two wines shared a nearly overwhelming minerality. If you could bake away the fruit, you would, I think, be left with the warm quartz taste of the Domaine aux Moines terroir.

Drinking these two wines, side by side, was a much more interesting introduction than a single bottle -- even one without flaws -- could have provided. Each offered a context for the other. And the two together yielded a few clues about the vineyard where they both originated.

We originally conceived of these vertical tastings as a reward for our hard-working staff, or at least as something to do for those scientists with no social lives who are hanging around at the Lab on Friday nights. But our inaugural tasting suggests there is real experimental value in doing this. This is another approach to dirt searching, and certainly an interesting way to investigate the effects of time.

2 comments:

Glen said...

I'm a little curious because quartz flavor sounds really interesting. I don't have any warm quartz laying around, can I use warm glass instead? Is there just something about quartz?

Head of Lab said...

Glass won't work. the low-grade quality rose quartz that we used to find (and sometimes lick) at the the school bus stop was really sedimentary limestone that the quartz had deposited itself at some point in the recent (geologically speaking) past, probably during periods of volcanic activity. Dusted with coliche and arroyo sand, the effect was more like a salt-lick.

And there's something about these intensely mineral chenins that evoke those warm desert mornings.

They also don't show particularly well until they get pretty close to room temperature, which is, I think, another contributing factor in the evocation of these particular moments from my childhood.