Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Much too much, too much too young

Bear with me while I think about Hollywood starlets.... I'll get to wine a little later.

Lindsey Lohans youth shone incandescently, showered with plaudits, feted for her precocious charm and ability.  It seemed the world was going to be her oyster. Now it’s all expensive meltdowns, insurers refusing to cover her and convictions for driving under the influence. Of course it’s hard to know whether she’d have still had her breakdown if she hadn’t been so successful early, but it’s likely that the pressures of fame at such a young age didn’t help.
Chateau Tahbilk make two Marsannes, their everyday new release Marsanne, made with modern vinification, steel tanks, cool temperatures and protection from the deleterious effects of oxygen. Then there’s their 1927 Vines Marsanne, made in the traditional style, open top fermenters, no temperature control.

In their youth they could hardly be more different, the Marsanne is fresh, clean bursting with lime tinged tropical fruit notes, a beautifully modern wine. The 1927 vines is mute, there is next to no fruit, it seems to stare sullenly at you out of the glass, the effects of the oxygen during vinification showing like dirty smudges on a scrawny kids face. But like the children that get left to their own devices, the dirt and introspection only serve to hide a burgeoning character.

Fast forward five years, the Tahbilk Marsanne is reaching its prime, the lime like fruit turning waxy, salt like secondary charcters ring minerally tones, there is a richness and elegance that is very appealing. The 1927 Vines on the other hand has only just started to wake. Stripped of its overtly fruity phenolics when young, there is much less to oxidise and brown when older. As such the ravages of time that nag at the heart of fresher and fruitier styles leave it comparatively unharmed. Instead, good oxidation, the wonderfully subtle passing of youth works its magic, salt caramel, hazelnuts, glimpses of white flowers and the  moreishness of madeira all start to appear. Its lithe marathon runner physique hits its stride, it’s a wine with easily another 20 years of bottle ageing ahead of it.

The contrast in ageability and styles of the two Tahbilk Marsannes is more than of just passing interest. Instead I believe it casts a very interesting light on the issue of Premox in Burgundy, premature oxidation of the finer white wines from the Cote de Beaune has been one of the regions bugbears for the last decade. Undermining the confidence that consumers once had in these princes of the white wine firmament. But looking at tasting notes of recent bottlings and younger vintages I’m struck by just how drinkable they often are, of course I never tasted the twenty year old bottles that I’ve had in their youth, but I can look back at others tasting notes. They regularly allude to the wines being difficult, tight, of the need for bottle age. Notice the word I use is need, not benefit. Time for that good oxidation to fill the gaps, only now those gaps aren’t there, instead we have soft appealing fruitiness, all ready to bruise and brown at the first sign of age.

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