A RUN DRC shirt with a photo of Aubert de Villaine – I think that’s how you know you’re a total wine nerd… but I still.. kinda… want one. Available here.
A friend recently relayed stories from his Las Vegas-based brother-in-law sommelier who sold two bottles of 1982 Petrus last week to the same guy for around $14,000 a pop. My first thought was Jesus, what a colossal waste of money. At that level, it’s hard not to see it as a status purchase versus a wine lover really having a hankering for a good bottle of Petrus. Then again, if the guy had the cash to burn, then hopefully all parties walked away with a smile on their face.
I’ve been thinking about wine lovers and that insatiable chase for the next big-ticket wine to add to their ‘drank-it’ repertoire checklist. The excitement for new trophy wine experiences dulls a little each time an item is scratched off and it’s easy to lose sight of the basics. I have vivid memories of $40 bottles of wine that I’ve enjoyed in the right place at the right time with the right person that blow away experiences with $500 bottles, for instance. If you haven’t figured it out yet, wine enjoyment is a very subjective and relative thing and knowing that can save you a fortune (maybe even $13,960).
All that being said, I had one of those epic wine days last week where unconscious hypothetical boxes were getting checked. It started with a class with the Sommelier Immersion Program through Wine Australia that had us all tasting nearly 30 bottles of Aussie Chard, Grenache, and Fortified before lunch. Good Aussie Chardonnay is one category that I don’t mind getting up a little earlier and sitting slightly straighter in my chair for. Besides tasting through a lot of great value wine (Heggies ’08 Chard at $28 for instance), the main event featured Penfold’s ’07 Yattarna Chard side-by-side with the Leeuwin Estate ’07 Art Series Chard. Both are among the heavy weights of the Aussie Chard scale and both hover around the $110 mark – the Yattarna I’ve had a few times and the Leeuwin Art Series is one I’ve always hoped to (it doesn’t look to be available in our market these days). While it’s hard to argue with the deliciousness and elegance of the Yattarna, the Leeuwin Art Series cried out with a little more personality – very perfumed and expressive and continually evolving in new layers of complexity – it is now among my favourite varietal labeled Chardonnays from anywhere. Leaving both wines in my glass and checking in on how their aromas had evolved was a fun and enlightening experiment.
That night I was part of a small dinner with friends and the focus was on Burgundy and its Côte d’Or wines. I brought a 2002 Clos des Mouches from Drouhin and couldn’t help but feel a little like I had brought a knife to a gun fight (albeit, a pretty shiny and dangerous knife). We kicked off with a bottle of ’95 Salon and from there it was a grand cru studded flight including an ’86 Corton-Charlemagne from Chanson, two vintages of Marquis D’Angerville’s Volnay Clos des Ducs (’01 and ’02), a ’90 Charmes-Chambertin from Drouhin, an ’02 Clos de Vougeot from Drouhin-Laroze, and as if that wasn’t good enough, ended with an ’01 Échézeaux from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. This grand cru-only producer makes some of the most sought after and expensive wine on the planet and it’s no surprise their wines are very popular with collectors. Oddly enough, this week I received an email from the Hart Davis Hart auction site with information on over 30 lots of DRC La Tâche – lot 184 looks especially appealing… a case of 1990 La Tâche estimated to sell for between $45K and $65K.
I usually know I’ve enjoyed the wines with dinner when looking back at my notes the next day, there are maybe two or three words scrawled out, almost incomprehensible – not nearly doing the wines justice (or maybe I actually was doing the wines justice by putting my pen down). DRC describes their Échézeaux as the most forward and the least complex from their arsenal, yet as far as I’m concerned, DRC is DRC and I’m still checking it off (I was thinking about using the ‘bad pizza is still pizza’ analogy, but it would likely be more suitable with something a touch more elitist like ‘the least expensive Ferrari is still a Ferrari’). The wine was much more muscular and laced with intensity than I expected – still a baby, showing dark fruit and a very obvious 5-spice note. Assertive and delicious and maybe just a little addictive (I hope the chance to try another will arise again). Drouhin’s Charmes-Chambertin was showing it’s age perfectly – intriguing and obvious savoury characters: meat, sanguine, bouillon. All the added complexities you hope for when you cellar a bottle. The Drouhin-Laroze was my second great experience in a row from the one grand cru that many will tell you to save your money and stay away from due to its large and inconsistent patchwork of vineyards: Clos de Vougeot. Its lifted spiciness was captivating, it had a punchy intensity and was a little bruting with some obvious tannin. We were fortunate that night and there were no duds in the lineup.
Check back soon for my new blog called The One-Percenters’ Wine Journal. How popular it will be…
Photos with various Instagram effects below: