November 12, 2009
As regular readers know, we recently dug three wines out of their variegated resting places. One from the Lab's cellar. One from my closet. And one that ended up wedged behind a stack of Cup-O-Noodles in the Lab breakroom.
The wine we're testing is a Cabernet Franc from Philippe Delesvaux. As we've written previously, Delesvaux started out as a kind of Loire Valley garagiste producing his first vintage (1983) in a shed. He now has 35 hectares of biodynamically managed vineyards and makes his wines in a natural, non-interventionist mode. He is most famous for his usually overpriced Sélection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon, a botrytised Chenin Blanc. He should be famous (but isn't) for his lavishly underpriced 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Anjou La Montee de L’Epine.
We tasted the three bottles blind. The results were surprising indeed.
Bottles #1 and #2 were nearly identical. The nose was harsh, almost astringent, with a noxious perfumy mix of dark fruit and menthol. Bottle #3, however, smelled of smoky blueberries and espresso with hints of white pepper. The first two tasted like they smelled, sharp and bitter. The alcohol imbalance dried the tongue. Bottle #3 was less sharp, less bitter. The minerality was more pronounced and their was a distinctive mocha flavor (barrel effect) on the finish.
In truth, the results verged on irrelevant. Because I didn't like any of these. Even the "better" bottle was too bitter and too austere to drink, even with food. And if this 3rd bottle was, in fact, the carefully cellared bottle, the improvement wouldn't justify the refrigeration expense.
Before we revealed the three bottles my hypothesis was that bottle #3 was either the cellared bottle or the bottle from the kitchen. My thinking was that either the whole cult of 57 degrees (roughly the average temperature of a basement in France) was actually beneficial. Or that the warm, but relatively constant, temperature of the kitchen might have accelerated aging and improved the wine.
Wrong on both counts. The winner was bottle #2, the one that spent the past 15 months with my shoes.
Sometimes science is mystifying.