From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wonder Wines—Putting Haut Médoc to Bed

Click here for the "Wonder Wines" Resource Center—(all posts available)
Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Wonder Wines"
One year ago on Round and Square (1 April 2013)—China's Lunar Calendar 2013 04-01
One year ago on Round and Square (1 April 2013)—Calendars and Almanacs (h)
Two years ago on Round and Square (1 April 2012)—Hurtin' Country: Good Ole Boys
Three years ago on Round and Square (1 April 2011)—Theory Corner (1a): Bricolage
[a] Lush RF
Well, it has been a truly luscious week. 

Pat and I sampled wonderful, dry, tongue-puckeringly tannic little 750ml vessels of Haut-Médoc on five of the last seven days. A little over the top? Yup...but we are studying, after all. If you recall last week's post, we are learning about wine and the territory of Bordeaux known as Haut-Médoc. This is where Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for the New York Times, decided to begin his New York Times "Wine School." 

Why he chose Haut Médoc is just slightly more puzzling. Is it meant to be "representative" of Bordeaux, which Asimov rightly argues has to be confronted if we are ever to understand how people talk about wines in this world? Bordeaux has such a towering reputation in the world of wine that its influence has grown even as its wines—at least its mid-range to upper-range ones—have been priced out of the dining rooms of most wine lovers in the world. 
[b] Bordeaux Barrel RF

Asimov is right, I think. We need to understand something about Bordeaux if we are to get a toe-hold into the world of wine.

But why Haut-Médoc? Why not St. Émilion or Pomerol (the home of Château Lafleur, not to mention the iconic Château Chéval Blanc)? Why not "just" Médoc? That little "just" encompasses four of the original five premier growths in the classic 1855 classification (a sixth, Château Mouton-Rothschild, was added in 1973). But watery little inlet-land Haut-Médoc was a late-starter in the great Bordeaux competitions. 

And yet Asimov has asked us to study the taste and "character" of Haut-Médoc wines.

Again, I think he is right. 

Anyone with several hundred dollars for a bottle of Bordeaux can sample the truly terroir-shaking wines of Bordeaux. Haut-Médoc is really a picture of newness and growth (I use the word in several senses). And fascinating they are. Let's take a quick look at both the comments at the New York Times "Wine School" site and "our" own reactions.

***  ***
[c] Chateaux RF
Pat and I sampled a range of 2008-2011 Haut-Médoc wines that were nowhere near "top notch." They were very good, though—exceptionally so, in many cases. If I could say one thing about Haut-Médoc wines in the 10€-15€ range, it would be solid. They are well-crafted, tannic (without the crazy 1970s Napa version of it...which, in the interests of full-disclosure, I will admit that I love), oaky (without the same excesses), and balanced, with mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and beautiful smatterings of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

It's (they're) a beautiful thing.

And then we had the 2000. 

We found it in a little chocolate shop on Hauptmannstraße in Erlangen (91052). It was just as well-crafted as all of the others, but it had aged in the bottle...and it was a 2000. If you don't know what that "means," you need to realize that (with massive individual disparities) 2000 was one of those years like 1945, 1959, 1961, 1982, 1989, and 2000 in Bordeaux.
[d] Haut-Médoc RF

I have had a fairly wide array of 2000s over the years, and I don't know if it is suggestion or pure wonder-taste, but there is something, a certain je ne sais quoi at work here.

Dry. Tannic. "Smoky" (Asimov's word). Well-constructed. And what does that mean?...that will be perhaps the most important thing we undertake over the coming years on Wonder Wines). 

I hesitate to add this, since Asimov (again, rightly, I think) criticizes our use of parallels, metaphors, metonyms, synecdoche, and, well, figurative language generally as we sip wine. Still, here is what I smelled and tasted with my 2000 Chateau Peyrabon (by no means a major player even in the world of Haut-Médoc). 

In other words, we sampled a fairly wide range of "cheaper" players in this sub-region. We learned a great deal about wine that, in Asimov's memorable phrasings, are "smoky" and not particularly "fruity."

Dark. Tannic. Dry. (Oaky). Puckering...slightly. Tobacco notes. Hints of chocolate. Earthy (with the vague taste of "dirt" that I love in the wines of St. Emilion...I am not kidding). Currant. 

Oh, and dirt (in it's very best and highly refined sort of way). 

I love dirt.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014
The Greatest Wine...Ever
Nope. I won't be tasting it. But I'll tell you about it (and why about thirty wines challenge for the position. 
[e] Bordeaux Bedtime RF

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