Sunday, June 21, 2009

Alain Voge Cornas, 1983

My first choice for Father's Day was a 1983 Auguste Clape Cornas, honoring the birth year of my youngest son, Ted. That bottle was, alas, corked so I turned to this 1983 from Alain Voge, another top Cornas producer. Ted and I were not disappointed.

At 26 years of age, the wine is a medium light color. As with the Clape, a thick crust of sediment lines one side of the bottle, a testament to its long, undisturbed stay in the cellar. But the wine is thankfully not corked. A bit reticent on the nose and a bit fungal but unlike the damp cardboard smell of the Clape, this blows away with a little air. Gains depth in the glass with some dried flowers and berry fruit. Savory mature Syrah flavors. Warm on the palate and mature with no hard edges. Old style Northern Rhone--old barrels and no de-stemming. Would not win an Australian show prize but all the better for that. A real wine, and a very good one; wish I had more.


  1. Does the sediment ever jar loose when you pour from these old bottles, Fred? And if so, would it affect the wines flavor and aroma on exposure to air?


  2. Sediment can be stinky. And if it's floating freely, it can give the wine a sting on the tongue. That's why you have to be very careful about storing and handling old wines. If they're constantly being moved, the sediment won't form at all, and the development will be impeded. You lose a lot of whatever was gained from aging. If you move too much later in the wine's life, you can disturb the sediment and it floats in the bottle, making it hard to decant. I should have a filter, but I don't and it's kind of a hassle to find the cheese cloth and cut it to the right size.

    Yesterday, I checked each bottle in the cellar carefully and chose the one with the most intact (and least floating) sediment, then carried the bottles very carefully, moving them gradually to the less cool parts of the basement and then to room temperature, letting them sit upright and settle for several hours after each move.

    The Clape had a crumbly cork so I poured it carefully into a decanter. It didn't smell right from the beginning but I didn't declare it corked until I had sampled it a few times after it was in the decanter for half an hour or so. Old style Northern Rhones can have a funky fungal smell anyway. The Voge had this as well, but it faded away after half an hour or so; the Clape got worse.

    There are many hazards with old wine but when they're very good (as the 1974 Gattinara was), it's all worth it. The Voge was good, not great. I've now had two disappointing bottles of the Clape, but John Livingston-Learmonth (Wines of the Northern Rhone) ranks this as probably the most ageworthy of Cornas, for drinking between 2007 and 2001.

  3. Uh,'s 2009. I realize you want to age the Cornas, but you're living in the past!

    It sounds like quite a engineering feat to open a bottle of aged wine!
    What is the temperature difference between the cool and less cool parts of your cellar?


  4. Actually, Eric, I haven't had any problems with Bordeaux or Piedmont wines--with corks or with successful aging. Even lesser Bordeaux from 1982 are showing beautifully right now...and even some from the 1970s. Most 1986 and 1990 Bordeaux are still too young to drink, and I quit buying Bordeaux in the early 1990s.

    Northern Rhones theoretically should age that well too, but I think some of the more traditional estates skimped on corks in the early 1980s. And some did not have equipment to manage fermentation when outside temperatures got too high (as they rarely do in the Northern Rhone). Still, there are some very good Northern Rhones from the early 1980s. As for Chateauneuf, I've been disappointed by the older wines, even from Beaucastel and Vieux Telegraphe (I did have one very good 1983 Clos des Papes).

    I know I get carried away, but you never know how long a wine will age unless you push it to its limits. I know now I drank most of my Barolos and Gattinaras waaay too young.

    My wine cellar was originally a fruit cellar in a house built in 1903. It stays very cool and changes temperature very gradually. It's separated by two doors from my office, which is in a finished part of the basement. That stays cool as well, but liveably cool.

    Did you happen to check the sale at Binny's, Eric? 2005 Beauchene or Mas Boislauzon CdP for $15.99.

  5. I'd never checked out Binny's before, Fred. Looks like I missed the Beauchene, but here were some interesting deals nonetheless. I'll have to check on shipping.

    I think I have one case of 2000 Bordeaux Grand Cru in my "celler". I've forgotten the vineyard, haven't even thought about drinking it yet. I rent cellar space in a building that's on bedrock, 56 degrees day in day out. They have a nice lounge you can hang out in, and watch TV. I can't get internet access there or I'd probably move into the lounge!
    Anyway, having the cellar someplace else keeps me from drinking the good stuff too fast.

    I plan to look for some Barolo later this year.

  6. Drat...found the Beauchene, called, and Binny's said I have to actually go into the store for a membership, and also that they cannot ship to WA.

    Well, it probably means I will pay rent on time. ;>

    Wish I knew someone in Chicago!


  7. I have a Binny's card, Eric, and I go into Chicago a few times a year. But I'm not so sure I can ship to Washington either.

    When I first got into wine, I had a hard time resisting the urge to dip into the stash of long-term agers. Now, I simply have more wines than I can drink. And while the cellar treasures are nice for special occasions, most of my family and friends prefer younger, inexpensive wines most of the time--like the ones I report on here.

  8. Whoa...I might have to cut a deal with you, Fred. The Beauchene looks good, the Alary looks good, the Morderee Lirac...half-off?!?!

    I'm thinking, I'm thinking....

    I tend to like younger wines for just a glass with dinner, and I try a lot of CdRs this way. But I set aside some Villages and Burgundies to drink with friends, sometimes on special occasions. Many people are very surprised at how a good wine tastes. They get used to the cough syrup and everclear "specials" at different restaurants and stores.

    The stuff for long term aging is a different category entirely, of course. That's my backup plan, in case I can't afford the 32 room Chateau on an island in the middle of the Rhone.