Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cellar report: '01 Mas des Chimeres Coteaux du Languedoc; '99 Monchiero Barolo "Montanello"

The life I lead is not so bad. A perfect example of how good it can get was last weekend's dinner at my sister's, where not only were the rib-eyes char-grilled beefy perfection, the two bottles of red wine that accompanied said meat did most definitely not suck. How not sucky were they? Read on, oh thirsty peeps, and see what 20 years of combined cellar time has wrought....

2001 MAS DES CHIMERES Coteaux du Languedoc
This was a bottle pulled out my sis and bro-in-law's basement, one they have coddled for the last six years. The Mas des Chimeres has, in the 10+ years I've been hanging out schlepping grape based beverage at the wine shack, annually been one of my favorite bottles. Not just because I adore wines from the south of France for all their earthy, rich, complex garrigue infused aromas and flavors, but because winemaker Guilhem Dardé obviously tends his family's vineyards just outside the village of Octon in France's vast Languedoc region with meticulous care. A blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 5% each Cinsault and Mourvedre, it never seems to disappoint, especially given a few years of loving care in the cellar...or basement...or closet. The 2001 we poured didn't just live up to my hopes and expectations, it blew them away. The aromas had the classic Chimeres blackberry, white pepper, and dirt notes. Then when I took that first sip the word that popped into my head was "thick". Like having a glass of luscious blackberry jam in liquid form, only instead of slathering toast with it you're washing down hunks of meat. 2001 wasn't considered a great vintage in the south, but over the last few years this has put on weight, and is drinking absolutely beautifully with layers and layers of fruit, a tannic structure that has melded perfectly with the fruit, and this freakishly long finish. This is one of those crazy bottles that punched you in the palate when it was first opened, then just kept landing haymakers as it sat in the glass and blossomed. If anyone ever wants top know why the hell you would stick wine away in a dark basement instead of slurping it down on release, all they'd need to do is take one taste of this nectar. The best part- I still have a bottle in my own basement to ensure future happiness!

1999 MONCHIERO Barolo Riserva "Montanello"
This was a bottle I brought with to pop open. I told you we were drinking like kings! Barolo from Piedmont is at the top of Italy's wine heap along with its sister Barbaresco and Tuscany's great Brunello di Montalcino. Both Barolo and Barbaresco are made from 100% nebbiolo, and give you a sensory overload like no other red wine. It may be the only food & beverage related product in the world where if you use the term "barnyard" to describe it, it is a great compliment. In my mind Barolo from good vintages needs at least ten years to really show its stuff. Young, they tend to be tight, wound up, tannic wines. They're like people who take time to get to know. With age they finally relax and show all the goodness that has been hiding underneath that curmudgeonly exterior. 1999 was an excellent Piedmontese vintage. This single-vineyard Monchiero, produced at the family run winery in the village of Castiglione Falleto, showed all that vintages quality, and was still surprisingly youthful. Dark cherries, rose petals cedar, spice, and yes that stinky good barnyard aroma came flowing at you. The flavor echoed those sensations, but I think this beauty is still a good five years away from its peak. It's all there and all good, it only needs time. Since I have a couple more of the '99s left at home and plenty of other bottles to distract me, I think I can wait!

2 comments:

Nico said...

This post reminds me that I need to learn to store wine, not simply drink it. It's just so damn hard to think long-term that way (esp. not being able to imagine where we'll be 8 years from now).

Maybe we the trick is to always buy 2 bottles: one for aging, the other for drinking :)

How do I know / learn which wines are good to age though? Ah, the uncertainty...

bb said...

Nico....that's why if you are going to stash some wine away, you have to also lay in some "buffer wine", less expensive juice you can pop so you don't break into the good stuff.
The trick to knowing what to lay away is to get to know someone in the biz who can advise you about that and who knows what you like, until you have the knowledge to do it yourself.