Why I Stay Home On Weekend Nights
Over the weekend I read a column by Matt Kramer in the Wine Spectator whereby he insists one should purchase at least four bottles of a good wine and open them over time, if one wants to experience what he calls the Four Stages of Wine Life: Embrace, Doubt, Appreciation and Understanding.
And over the weekend I opened another bottle of wine from the Southern Rhône’s 2000 vintage, that which I wrote last week “seems to be of great power (but) has yet to give up its secrets.” This latest bottle, a Côtes du Rhône Villages Rasteau from Domaine Bressy-Masson, proved Kramer’s point immediately. While the last bottle of 2000 Rasteau I tasted (from Domaine des Côteaux des Travers, reviewed here) was frustratingly muted, this Bressy-Masson was as full of life – and just as loud – as my ten-year old son. Fact, it was so lively that for once I did not make notes, but just sat back and appreciated, over the course of two evenings, its wonderful juxtaposition of dark fruit and earthy flavor, of soft tannins and tangy acidity, of Provencal herbs and peppery spices, all the while relishing a long finish that was firm, full, and both wild and beautiful as an untamed horse.
What rendered the Côteaux des Travers and the Bressy-Masson so dissimilar in taste? Not vintage or village, we know that. Not the blend: though southern Rhône wines can vary enormously in grape content, from what I understand both these wines are a classic Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre mix from old vines. Nor was price a factor – both wines were bought around the $15 mark when they hit the shelves some three-four years ago. And provenance did not come into it: both were in storage for three years and in a bedroom closet the last six months. The two bottles were opened within a few weeks of each other. And each producer has an equal reputation for solid credibility.
Clearly then, the only answer is that the bottles vary as the expression of different vintners and vineyards and that they are traveling on different arcs: the Côteaux des Travers, which had lost its initial fruit but had not yet taken on secondary flavors, appeared to be ageing faster than the Bressy-Masson, which remained lively and youthful and appeared to have many years left of wonderful drinking; I just wish I had another bottle left to arrive at what Kramer calls full ‘Understanding’. I do have a Bressy-Masson Rasteau from the even hotter 1998 vintage, and I now feel fully comfortable letting it age further. And I do have other wines from the Southern Rhône’s 2000 vintage, especially my small annual allotment of Châteauneuf du Pape; those too will surely benefit from further cellaring. My suspicions about the 2000s, based only on near-term drinking, now stand fully corrected. And Kramer’s overall point, not that I ever doubted it, bears repeating. One can only arrive at an assessment of a certain region, in a particular vintage, following a wide range – and ongoing period – of tasting. What could be more fun?