Friday, July 25, 2008

Chablis Premier Cru Vosgros Gilbert Picq et ses Fils, 1996

This is, according to wine geek terminology, a "premox" wine. It has been prematurely oxidized. It was with a bit of agony that I brought it up from the cellar to use for cooking lamb stew. Agony because it was a special wine I had purchased to enjoy with a decade or more of aging (not at all unreasonable for Premier Cru Chablis). But a few years ago, I discovered that it belonged with a large group of white Burgundy wines from 1995 to 2000 that, for some unknown reason, lapsed into "premox" state. This was not a wine I intended for lamb stew, and I took a few sips after first opening the bottle...just to be sure. Yes, it was "premox," confirmed by the deep gold color and the stale, oxidized odors. But I continued to sip even after I poured a cup or more into the stew. And later, after enjoying the stew with a red wine, I came back to the Vosgros as an after dinner treat.

Even in "premox" state, this wine is lovely. The deep mineral-laden, flinty qualities are there, not at all showy or pretty but impressive in their power. It's a wine to sip and savor rather than gulp. It's very concentrated, clinging to the tongue and leaving an after taste that goes halfway down the esophagus. The grapes come from old vines well situated in a high vineyard. Stainless steel aging to preserve the character of the fruit. There are some qualities that are hard to destroy, even by premature oxidation.

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