i’ve been married (to the same woman) for 35 years, so I wasn’t expecting any fireworks yesterday. But, the [realistic] ones I hoped for happened, and big time.
I decided to open a 1990 Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet, which we bought at the estate in 1992. Due to conditioning in the premox era and the wine’s being 28 years old, my expectations were subdued. (A possible positive component of a meal I made of Zabar’s chopped liver; pan fried buttermilk-brined wild rabbit (thanks to a friend in Maine anhis hunting success last fall); chinese-eggplant oven parmesan; salad; Soumaintrain and Comte (also from a visit to Zabar’s last weekend). [Soumaintrain is, in my strong opinion, the best tasting, and best value, of the Epoisses family of cheeses available in the US} So, the wine wasn’t the main focus.
The wine was almost pristine. No oxidative notes to speak of. And, was subdued on opening, opened a little during the meal and superb this morning for a taste. I am often agnostic on the relative value of the Montrachets vs. good 1er crus from Puligny and Chassagne. This one set me straight-- for now. The aromatics were clean, subtle and subdued, with none of the oak treatment showing and nothing really effusive on the nose. On the palate, it was a wine that seemed to fill every available tastebud with regal fruit that was harmonious. The finish was , I think, as a result, other worldly…it lasted and lasted and lasted until I finally stopped paying attention. Not sure I’ve ever quite experienced something quite like that…so long and so complete.
I post this for several reasons, as I don’t really ever post tasting notes, per se. First, to confirm to those of you who have grown up in the premox era that WB is capable of real greatness; is ageable; and usually consistently hearty enough to be fine with long aging. (And, I think to mourn the pre-premox era…and what it offered on many levels, including value.
My personal opinion is that the corks are the variable that is most likely the culprit…or, rather, the seals they form are. Corks too rigid don’t make a good seal and something happens (I can’t argue that it is truly premature “oxidation”, but whatever it is …is what we’re talking about and is a plague.) Because most of my wines are “older” at this point (I stopped buying more than a decade ago.) I use the “ah-so”, pronged opener. It works particularly well on bottles that are “premoxed” and almost always pulls the cork out. On the good bottles, I often push the cork in with the ah-so (and that happened last night.) I think the reason is that with the bad bottles the corks are more rigid and , therefore, the seal poorer and the prongs much easier to insert between the cork and the bottle neck. With the good bottles, the corks are spongier and have created a better seal, making it much harder to get the prongs between the cork and the glass, therefore, pushing the cork into the bottle neck. This is, of course, just my theory…but…I have seen a long pattern of this, and stopped using the other corkscrews on older wines because they almost always either made the cork spin or pushed them into the bottle.
FWIW…a memorable Valentine’s Day dinner…though my criteria have been compromised , as they have evolved.