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    Wine Drinking Dates

A variety of Huguenot wines.                                                 Click to enlarge. Experts may advise us that a wine should be held for a decade or drunk while still young, but very often each of us will hold differing views on when a wine is ready to drink and each of us is correct, in that it reflects our own taste. 

There is the basic divide between those who enjoy both their reds and whites in the full frontal fruitiness of youth (and I am one of these) and those who prefer to allow their wines to develop a certain maturity. In our many conversations with the growers they are often making observations about how their wines develop and how they should be enjoyed. Some of these comments simply go to show that there are no hard and fast rules, just views and opinions and of course, regular tastings. For example:

Philippe Senard noted “If you open a bottle today and enjoy it, then why not drink other bottles? That is what they were made for and next year the wine may have changed and not be so much to your taste” 

Jean de Surrel of Domaine Henri Rebourseau told us “Every bottle matures at a slightly different pace. How much it has travelled and where it is kept will influence how one bottle of a given vintage will differ from another. Deciding on a great vintage is like recognising a great human being, very difficult at birth and much easier in old age. It is only then that one has the advantage of looking back and saying “Yes indeed, THAT was a great vintage””

Michel Ampeau told us visitors often ask him which is his best wine. His answer? “I cannot answer that question. It depends on your preferences and what you are eating. For me, all my wines are excellent”

So a cupboard in a warm house will bring a wine to its maturity at a different time to one being stored in a cool underground cellar. Add to this the individual taste of the consumer and it means that the real solution is to keep regularly sampling your stock until that Eureka moment arrives and when it does, take Philippe Senard’s advice, but not over a single week-end!

My Guide to Recent Vintages runs as follows:

Pre 1999? If you are fortunate enough to have goods stocks of good vintages, then I am mildly jealous and you should enjoy them.

1999 is now hitting its stride and is becoming lovely, yet still with ample punch to last for years.

2000 is pleasing in a relatively light way (this was the vintage) and fully ready to drink.

2001 is a good vintage for current drinking,

2002 Another year for current drinking and not bad at all

2003 was and remains an odd-ball blockbuster. This was a year that defied comment, critics and gravity. These wines are rich beyond anything Burgundy normally experiences and are usually described as being atypical. I have seen recent comment that they are delicious drinking now. I would disagree. They have been superb drinking, both the reds and the whites, but I believe they started to close up last Autumn and would now repay being left for a while.

2004 Burgundy returned to normal and this is a good year with wines now ready to drink. The reds are still robust and young, but highly enjoyable. The whites are ready.

2005 and 2006 make a rare duet of quite stunning vintages. The general view is that the earlier vintage gave rich, superb reds and high quality whites, while 2006 was the reverse. For me both vintages are head and shoulders above other recent vintages, so arguing the toss, while interesting and worthwhile, should not deflect one from enjoying them both. Both are drinking beautifully now, with the exception of the more robust Appellations that are still quite chewy. I would expect that in a year or so they will close up to emerge, in all probability, as some of the most exotic butterflies the wine world has produced in years.

Barrels of wine in Huguenot's cellar.                                 Click to enlarge. Years like the early 2000’s and 2004 serve the invaluable role of giving us good drinking while helping us to protect those stocks of the top years from being run down prematurely. It makes dipping in to a 2003 or 2005 “to see how they are getting on” a fun comparison. There is however a problem. These top recent vintages have been so heavily hyped that stock has been flowing out of the vignerons’ cellars so, if you have not stocked up already, do not wait much longer or you will be confined to reading tasting notes and never actually be able to taste them yourself. That would be a serious pity!


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