Top Three Wines of January: Spain and Bordeaux
Anointing three top January wines cast a cloudy challenge on WineZag’s monthly ritual. The first thirty-one days of this new year provided ample opportunity to taste a surfeit of over-the-top wines that unavoidably skew the aggregate three bottle price skyward, approaching $450.
Plaguing fact of wine enthusiasm: Great wine can be expensive and detours are occasionally ill advised
Soothingly, values can be had at higher price points, and the 2008 Bordeaux vintage tasting I participated in a few weeks ago points to one very large and opportunistic buying event…even if you missed the futures buy in. I struggled selecting Troplong Mondot over Pichon Lalande as most interesting 2008 claret tasted last month, while the other two wines are proudly Spanish from venerable producers, including an alluring second wine.
****1/2 2008 Troplong Mondot, St. Emilion, France $92
I suppose when you walk around a room for a couple of hours tasting wines from some of the best and most notable producers in Bordeaux, if not the world, and one wine stops you in your tracks as more compelling than anything else to hit the glass, then it deserves to make the month’s top list. The Chateau is a bit of a modern day reinvention and earned a bump in classification to Premier Grand Cru Classe sometime post 2000. I remember tasting Troplong Mondot for the first time shortly after its 1990 release and while the fat, big, and rich vintage character (I remember feeling full and unable to eat following 1990 Bordeaux tastings) played to the now established style of the Chateau, I have paid attention to Troplong Mondot in most succeeding vintages. It is apparent that Troplong Mondot is geared towards an extracted, full fruit style, and also not surprisingly, has earned a laundry list of Wine Advocate accolades and quid pro quo price inflation. But if you are looking for a wine that you can drink and enjoy in the next four or five years for all of its in-your-face and pure black cherry fruit, sweet tannins, herbal influence, and black licorice aromatics presented in a lusciously velvety and fat style, and, still want to lay a bunch away for the very, very long term as tannins will surely melt and combine with the already exotic aromatics to create secondary sensual experiences that make Bordeaux worth cellaring, then this is a wine to invest in. While so many wines are not worth their $100 asking prices, this one is.
****1/2 2000 Vega Sicilia Unico, Ribera del Duero, Spain $300+
I do not buy this wine; it is just too expensive for a precious wine budget that I require to satisfy my wide and ranging focus. But every time I have the chance to drink Vega Sicilia Unico from most any vintage, I know there will be a year to break down and stuff a bunch into the cellar. The wines are released when they are ready to drink, and only after extended regimens in wood and bottle. As a matter of course, the 2000 vintage is just getting ready to release now. It is a mystical wine wrapped up in elegance and grace, showing an almost impenetrable black color that has been slightly muted and tamed by its pre-release aging process. A sweet nose featuring tar, asian spice, and tobacco take turns teasing your senses as the wine changes in the glass. If your budget is larger than mine, then this is a wine to buy and drink.
**** 2008 Clos Erasmus “Laurel”, Priorat, Spain $45-50
The second wine at Clos Erasmus is simply a bargain and a world class wine available for less than $50. It offers current day drinking pleasure, and will easily evolve for 15-20 years without trouble. It is a Garnacha/Cabernet blend that manages to carry some young coarse tannins without trouble, providing a rich and full mouthful of wine with enough grace and restraint to never feel overblown. It has a purity of cherry fruit that irresistibly steals your attention. Sharing some of the same juice and winemaking style that goes into the $180 a bottle Clos Erasmus, the drinking experience was so riveting that I bolstered my cellar stock the next week.
These wines are expensive, not for every day drinking (well, maybe the Laurel), but are worth the investment if you can swing it.