Friday, April 23, 2004

2 Cahors and Some Sweet Stuff

I’ve never really understood the wines of Cahors, Madiran and other tannin beasts of their ilk. Everytime I try to drink one, it reminds of a tasting of France’s south west where I guess I got my prejudice. I left with my teeth aching and purple, my mouth dry as Gobi. ‘They mellow with age,’ the vignerons assured me. Well, as we are in spring cleaning mode, and with some quality sausages on the grill, I decided to see how tame were the beasts, how they would deal with some spicey fair, and can you really drink this stuff when it’s hot outside?

Vin Rouge

Cahors 1997, Chateau Les Bouysses ($22)
7 years old, is this long enough? It has been 3 years since I had last tasted this bottle and from what I remember the tannins have certainly mellowed, to the point where it no longer feels like sandpaper in your mouth. Hints of black licorice, earthy and slightly iodine, and a most incredible shade of purple, it was less heavy than expected and while it had a certain length, it lacked depth. Karl and I both agreed that it tasted a bit watery. It did ok with the sausage, perhaps just a little too somber… I would rather have drunk a spicey wine from the Roussillon, or even better, an nice, old Duoro.

Cahors 2000, Clos la Coutale ($16)
A little bit younger, a little more tannic, but with similar gustative traits. Again, alright but lacking anything even remotely resembling ‘fruitiness.’ I think I preferred it to the Bouysses as it didn’t have that diluted feel. In fact, after around an hour in carafe it drank quite reasonably. Not spectacular, but maybe in the winter with deer or some other gamey beast in a stew, after a day of lumberjacking, when you have that aaargh! feeling.

The Sweeties

Domaine du Tariquet 2002, Les Premières Grives, Vin de Pays de Cotes de Gascogne ($20)
Our balcony wine during dinner prep, the Premières Grives once again proved it's consistent excellence. Made entirely with Gros Manseng and harvested as the first Thrushes arrive, this sort of sweet, sort of late harvest has been a staple at our house for years. The sugar is a perfect foil for the raging acidity, keeping it fresh and youthful, a power pack of fruit in every glass.

Brigantino 2003, Casorzo D.o.c., Accornero ($23)
The surprise from last years Italian tasting, my 4 cases finally arrived. Hailing from Piedmont, the Casorzo is made almost entirely from Malvasia Nero. Slightly fizzy, 5% alchohol, an abundance of sugar, strawberries, cassis, roses, you name it, this could be my rosé of choice for the summer (even though it is not technically a rosé). I cracked a bottle for Robert Monday at lunch, and by the time I left that evening, 2 more bottles were empty. Enough said.

Spirale 1999, Vin de Paille, Stephane Tissot ($57…375ml)
Very serious stuff. And while I believe the 98 had a touch more complexity, this is one of the greatest deals in the world of sweet wines. 300 g of residual sugar, 8% alcohol, I would put this up against many of the best sweeties that Sauterne has to offer. The best bunches are harvested when perfectly ripe (not late harvested) and then dried on straw mats. What little juice left ferments for up to a year and then is aged in small barrels for a couple of years. The result is a tropical fruit cocktail combined with over the top richness that is kept in line with a certain mineral, oxidative freshness. Stéphane was nice enough to pour me a glass of his PMG (pour ma gueulle), a kind of super spirale. Here we are talking about 450 g of residual sugar… 1 ounce is enough, 2 makes you think too much.

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