Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Turning spare change into a fifty year old bottle of wine...

Like a lot of people, I'm sure, when I come home from a day at work or an evening out I empty all the spare coins that are languishing around in my pockets into a glass. The particular glass that I use is a rather impressive 1L Stein that I picked up from the Hofbräuhaus in Munich from when I was interrailing as a young lad up to no good... thems were the days.

I love turning these into wine...
I get a rather perverse pleasure every so often in sitting down and counting out these coins, piling them up and sorting them into those little plastic bags. Perhaps I would have been destined for a career in banking were it not for that fact that I am not a morally-deficient sociopath*. Once the pile of bags reaches a certain level I take them off to the bank to cash them in (I refuse to use those coin collectors in supermarkets that take an extortionate 7% off you!). I view this little windfall as  bit of a bonus, something that you don't rely on, something that when it comes along you treat yourself to something nice. In this particular case I'd built up a nice amount and was looking to splash out. My brother was coming to town and I had had my eye on a certain bottle of wine that I just couldn't quite justify buying before; the bottle in questions was a 1964 Le Haut-Lieu Sec from Domaine Huet (Loire, France) available from The Wine Society

Domaine Huet

The vineyards of Domaine Huet, photo: Flikr users Ken and Nyetta (CCL)
This wine is from a Domaine in the Loire that is steeped in legend. Its wines are famed for their ability to age for an incredible amount of time. The Domaine has three estates; Le Haut-Lieu (where mine was from), Le Mont and Le Clos du Bourg. Le Clos du Bourg is the most famous of these estates, which in years of excellent conditions makes their iconic Moelleux (sweet) wines. The Domains makes wines across the whole spectrum from bone-dry (sec), off-dry (demi-sec), through to sweet and even sparkling (cremant). Furthermore, all of the wines are made from 100% Chenin Blanc are produced in line with bio-dynamic practices. The extraordinary thing about the wines from Huet is that they can age phenomenally, in fact it would be fair to say that about fifty years old is the earliest that you should really approach one of their wines! I was incredibly excited about trying this bottle of wine...

The wine

So what was the wine like then? The cork was remarkably intact for a 50 year old bottle and came out rather nicely. I had debated whether I should decant it for a bit before serving, but I had already got a bottle of claret in the decanter opening up to accompany the main course so I didn't really have an option as I only have one decanter! I did, however, open it up about ten minutes before I was going to serve our starters (cheese soufflés, no less) just to get a little bit of air in. I poured it into the glass and was first taken aback by the colour of the wine, it possessed a surprisingly bright orange tinge to it. Those of you have done wine courses will know that white wine tends to gain colour as it ages, whereas red wine tends to lose its colour - however, I was nonetheless surprised at the vivacity of the colour of this wine.

I couldn't wait much longer and gave the wine an overly dramatic swirl (I have a penchant for exuberance) in my glass. The aroma, I'll admit, was more curious then revelatory; there was a real range of flavours - some citrus notes akin to Seville oranges and lemons, accompanied by deeper notes, almost salty, that reminded me of a sherry. Given this, I took a rather tentative sip of the wine and gave it a rather long and considered swish around my mouth to get the wine mixed with some air. The first thing that I noticed was the remarkable acidity. It is the acidity of the Chenin Blanc grapes that gives them their extraordinary longevity, but it really did blow my mind to think that this was a 50 year old bottle of wine. This acidity gave rise to primary taste profile of bright and fresh citrus notes, lemon in this case. However, as you would hope these primary flavours dissipated and were replaced with some secondary flavour characteristics; namely a kernel like taste that I likened to walnut, which was accompanied by that saline profile once again. This well rounded flavour profile evolved for about a minute and a half or so in my mouth and once satisfied left somewhat quietly and without undue flourish, much like the conclusion of a Sibelius symphony (I've wanted to use that analogy for so long!).

So, what were my conclusions about this wine? I suppose I was a little disappointed with it in terms of quality, I was hoping for a more transcendental experience that was going to render me speechless; what I got instead was a thought-provoking, complex wine that I was pleased was a fantastic match for my cheese soufflés. There is no doubt that this is an exceptional wine, perhaps I had just built it up too much to the point that it couldn't hope to meet my lofty expectations.  Quality: 8.0; Value: 4.0.

I am still curious about their sweet wines, I'm going to have to save quite a few more pennies to splash out for that one...   

* DISCLAIMER: Clearly not all bankers are sociopaths. Just the ones that brought the country to its knees whilst continuing to take extortionate bonuses... I should point out that these are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of Vinspire.

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