Birthdays come but once a year, as they say, and all the memories that they bring come with them. So notching up more points on the Eurostar and taking advantage of a lift from my brother, I came back home to celebrate. I admit not being good with birthdays, vanity and lost youth, missing loved ones (you know what I mean), so, thinking of something appropriate which could take me back to places and times, something which will bring a smile to my face rather than the usual scowl, I nestled some bottles of Côtes de Bourg, (Monteberiot 2004, www.monteberiot.com) in my bag, and prepared for a trip down memory lane. This wine was recommended to me by a friend who used to live in Paris many years back, who still has an overt interest in wine and hangover cures.
I saved my notes from when I went to Bordeaux with Dominique, my then girlfriend, and decided to see how it had changed: a more gentle effect on the palate [than the 2003], berries and spice, cream and wood, leaf and earth. This is for taking slowly, letting the flavours develop and draw you in. Taste buds were being teased, if not challenged. So, sitting away from the noise of the kitchen (Ben, my brother, has gone into the kitchen to ‘supervise’, poor dad); creaking floorboards and crackling fire, and awaiting my father’s classic roast of local organic Somerset beef that he does so well, I pour the wine and prepare to taste.
Swirling the glass, the colour has tinges of brown in it now, changing from vibrant ruby to a softer garnet. The smell is spicy berry, with leather and liquorice. The merlot has faded since I first tasted this wine, and the cabernet in the blend has come forward with a heady mix of ‘terroir’, musty leaves (strangely Autumnal in the midst of winter and a freezing January), and tannins which hit the nose as soon as I lean into the glass. This is still a good beefy wine with emphasis on the BEEF given the leather smells and what is for supper. There is almost a medicinal element to the leather (a bit like the witch hazel in TCP but don’t let that put you off – it’s healthy after all!) and a pepperiness from the tannins. Leather thanks in part to the clay based soils that the Bourg has as part of its unique micro climate; pepper from the tannins enriched by the barrels made of Limousin and American oak in which blended wines matured.
On the palate, a reflection of the smell, in the first instance, there is liquorice, real stewed fruits, prunes with cream, and a gentle tickle of pepper on the tongue at the finish. Again, good acidity leaves a long pepper and cream taste on the tongue but also an element of flint. Where before, rich cassis and dark berry hit the tongue, there is a big leather and stew of fruit. But then again, as this wine takes on the warmth of the room, its complexity reveals itself further. A gentle essence of powdery Parma violet reveals itself, there, but really a ghost of flavour, breaking through (all I can think of is Miss Haversham’s wedding cake. Oh Lou, you are so literary!) nodding at the fruitier flavours that tone down the earths and leathers. And then further still, the sleepy sweeter fruits wake up and the original cassis that seemed to have faded comes to the fore. Stronger on the nose and stronger on the tongue.
No one likes to be rushed, and this wine is no exception, needing that warmth and gentle teasing over time to bring out the fullness of her flavour. So, the comparison? In a very human way, and appropriately in the spirit of birthdays, this wine has developed, moved forward, but not necessarily changed. Hearty roasts? Wines that transport you to distant places and times? Log fires and lazy evenings? I should have brought along a few more bottles.
Update: I have been trying to download this on the machine but the power cuts here have been phenomenally frustrating.