It might come as a shock to you, but I'm not at all concerned with specific types or styles of wine, so it follows that I'm also not region-centric, that I'm not entirely concerned (bearing the state of my wallet and what I can actually spend) with price, have or read the weather/vintage reports, or are fixated on a specific winemaker or lineage of winemakers. The wine world is too vast and offers a plethora of possibilities when it comes to experiencing expressions... and frankly I get bored pretty quickly and this blog is about sensory variety and how these different characteristics interact.
I guess this particularly comes to mind lately because, although I've got a pretty good footing about wine, I realized that -after attending a WSET course on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that centered on Bordeaux- when I shop I tend not to search for wines in well known classic regions like Bordeaux, Chianti or Burgundy. Obviously price plays a part in this, wines from these regions are not always cheap, and I am keen on my Beaujolais, but more than anything I think the aversion is mainly driven by intimidation.
These regions have a veritable ocean of information written about them, their wines, the importance of vintages that influence their prices, famous chateaux and domaines, and are tied deeply in the socio-political and economic fabrics of their respective areas it can be a little overwhelming - that and the labels are usually very serious and austere. Reaching for a Bordeaux in particular always seems like a challenge or test, vintages in France, Bordeaux and Burgundy in particular, are very important so if you don't pick the right vintage or chateau or a combination of both others might look upon you like a imbecile. Following on these points is appreciation, it always feels like when you pick that bottle and take the first sip you're about to become endowed with some kind of enlightenment that you hadn't known before and then are expected to understand why Bordeaux is so important. I mean no one is actually going to call you out on these points and most people are in the same boat as you or I, but it's the mindset many of us (I believe) have grown up in. So drinking new world wines starting in my early twenties, however not to the exclusion of the FIGS nations, felt so much easier to understand and didn't require a lengthy back story, or for me to face off with some haughty invisible aristocrat judging me from afar for not understanding this mystical-like sense of their product.
So after realizing that I had no real grasp of the classic regions, I went out and purchased a few bottles of Bordeaux with my new found knowledge and the explicit purpose of not only learning more but also having a flight of them to find similarities and differences in their visual representations. This sensory study would probably take an entire weekend or week as I leave wine open and spend more time smelling than I do tasting, then report back but I just haven't had the time for that kind of marathon. The Chateaux des Annereaux, Lalande-de-Pomerol 2006 is among four that I squirreled away.
Pomerol usually strikes a note with people because they think of the famous Petrus and the insane prices these wines fetch, but Pomerol AOC is sort of an underdog because it's relatively new, being on the scene only since the mid-late twentieth century and not included in any Bordeaux classifications. If none of this rings a bell, then you're definitely not going to be familiar with Lalande-de-Pomerol, an appellation just to the north and right over the Barbanne River that divides them. Being on the right bank of Bordeaux, the wines here are composed mostly of Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec being the other permitted varietals; there are only two communes, Lalande-de-Pomerol and Neac and the soils of Lalande-de-Pomerol, surprisingly to find out after the fact, are flatter and composed of more sand than clay as you will find in Neac and Pomerol which are also hillier. I don't want to get too drawn into details or history, just know that this area has been producing wine since at least the 1390's where Chateau des Annereaux can trace back its history to a letter written to the Temple by the Annereaux family. Their website includes an interesting timeline of the people and traumas that the estate has dealt with over the years but maintains it's been in the same familial lineage since it's birth.
Being the hoarder that I am when it comes to wine - probably boarding on covetous - when pressed against imbibing water after a days work or wine, I went through my stash and found myself in a quandary: I could open this bottle with the others purchased and embark on my grand project or just open this one and recognize that I'm going to have to stop this obsessing as if they're all some sacred relic - besides I knew I could afford to get another. So I gave in, opened the bottle during a lazy dinner (probably snacking on cheese and crackers) and found it at first to be quite austere but bold and brooding with character and age. Over the course of the first night I took two relatively small pours, allowing it some time to aerate while I sipped, giving it plenty of time to unravel in the glass until it finally pulled me into its dark embrace - I mean, think of being seduced by a captivating witch with potions and charms, worked well in advance of your arrival, filling the air and situated around the room, while her posh cabin is decked out in generous blankets, furs, pillows and fireplace - that's kind of how I recall the night - the scents from the cauldron brooding with sauteed sweet grass, brussel sprouts and asparagus spears sitting in a Worcester, olive oil and thyme sauce, plump slices of portobello caps; a distinct salt-stone quality rising like a pervasive presence yet never taking the whole over; an enchanted sea of darkened berries aside tart raspberry notes that began to indicate an aged taste on the finish...
And that was the first night!
Sadly or not so sadly, the bottle was finished before I got around to sketching it out and really picking it apart but the imprint and the notes required were there, all I needed was another bottle. So I went out the following week and purchased another one as if I had just gone through a training session for the real game. With this second time around I found that the bottle showed fresher notes of darkened berries on the forefront with those savory notes peeking through from underneath, but the heart of the wine spoke consistently: almost a fluffy salinity like ground up dried out sea shells - not salt at all, a more hardened calcium shell tumbled through the sand as it dries in the mid-morning sun; a spot of wetness hiding beneath, absorbed into the sand where the rays couldn't penetrate forming this broad soft base for which the plump portobello, baked slow after sponging up the marinade of Worcester, olive oil and thyme, rose from within this light salinity that, although pervasive, was as equally elusive; the family of berries, darkened raspberries, blackberries, even currant beneath always transitioning between primary and secondary as a whiff of withering, slightly molding orange peel at the edges indicating its age or tiredness, I couldn't decide.
I dare say that this bottle showed better overall. Over the course of the next two days, being able to experience the transition from this upfront freshness to an almost aged austerity that reminded me more of how the first bottle showed from the start, I couldn't shake the impression of the seashell/calcium or this sensation of wetness like the earth was too wet or too soggy or too over-watered and so swelling the base - this strange sense of acid and tannin- of the sketch further and further apart. Perhaps this was masked earlier by all the the other characteristics charismatically showing when coaxed after a few hours, or maybe I couldn't quite pin it down once I worked out all the other parts. It proved an interesting exercise to say the least, one that hearkened back to the Tavel entry a while back.
Over the course of three days the wine shows itself nicely, opening and revealing itself like a well seasoned gymnast through an obstacle course - flexing, bending, pirouetting and swinging with a distinct technique to its maneuvers, however it seems ready to drink now rather than in a few more years. The hint I believe, with this wine at least, is at the edges, past the darkened berries where the acidity sits quietly and seems to slowly combine with those savory characteristics to tell you that it's sat for long enough and could go either way if let to sit for longer.
PoP: Wine Warehouse - $15.99 (usually $29.99)
Importer: Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines