Well, it’s been a while since I blogged about wine. I do have excuses but the real [embarassing] truth is that I simply WENT OFF WINE for a while. I know; I hardly believe it myself, but for some reason, my palate beat my brain to my middle-age crisis, and slipped back into 18yo status. I wanted Lambrusco, and sparkling Moscato! I craved sweet bubbles! I drank sweet ciders, craft beers and … forgive me … RTD’s!
However, last night, while my ever-indulging-other-half fried up a juicy steak, I was suddenly inspired. I went to the wine rack, and scanned over the remains of my wine collection from over a decade ago. Unbelievably, there are still a few gems there: wines that I accumulated during my years with the Fosters Group, some oddities acquired when I was with Vintage Cellars and we took over an independent boutique wine shop in Yarraville [Read: Unload anything that is not mass-produced to the level required by Coles], and a couple of pressies that friends had bought over the years.
There, covered in a layer of dust on the bottom row, were a few of my remaining bottles of 1998 Wolf Blass Grey Label.
I have a special place in my heart for this wine. When I worked with the wine division of Fosters, as part of our salary package, we were allocated a monthly case of our choice from the portfolio. I quickly developed a taste for Wolf Blass Grey Label. Being new to Melbourne and living alone, there wasn’t always someone to share a bottle with, so quite often it was used for cooking as well as drinking – but a year or two later I was dating a Swiss boy, and distinctly recall bottles frequently spilled into the spa. Sacrilege. I bet Wolf’s bow-tie would spin if he were to read this …
So you understand my surprise that, after 5 further house moves, and an 8 year relationship with a Czech [they can DRINK!], some of the bottles actually survived the debauchery, abuse and callous disregard without so much as a scratch on the label.
I dusted off a bottle and precariously worked on what I expected to be a crumbly cork. To my surprise, when I peeled back the aluminium foil, the cork looked moist. There were condensed particles from the wine around the rim of the bottle.
I was relieved, but noticed the crack in the cork. There was a good chance that it was going to break up when I pulled it – but I was still confident, given the moistness surrounding it, that the cork could still slide out without too much damage.
Well, it did come out quite easily, and almost in one piece. A small part of the bottom of the cork broke off, but didn’t fall into the wine. I managed to slide out the remaining section in a few small pieces.
The aromas were so pungent that my chef, dishing up the steak dinner six feet away, commented on them. He could distinctly smell the fruitiness and jamminess.
Still, the bottle was now 17 years old, and I’ve been caught out before by promising aromas that didn’t follow through on the palate! I poured a little into a glass, and decided I would wallow in the aromas as much as I could before the taste disappointed me.
The colour was amazingly bright for such an old wine. The rim was just as vibrant, with only the slightest hint of age-telling brick. I tried to get a photo, but there wasn’t a white piece of paper around, and I’m just using my phone’s camera.
You might get the idea from my picture – using the white dinner plate as a backdrop. [Yeah, that steak WAS as good as it looks!!]
The aromas that came out of this wine were dazzling: intense jammy blackcurrant, black cherries, licorice and sweet blood plums connected by the smoothing influence of vanillan oak. I swear I heard a choir of angels as these aromas permeated my sleeping olfactory system. There was not a whiff of oxidation. This wine had been perfectly sealed. [ALL HAIL CORK!!]
So, with a quick “Dobrou chuť!” I took my first sip. The intensity of the blackcurrant, plums and a touch of green capsicum continued on the palate, with cedar box and Darrell-Lea-licorice spiciness. All sign of aggressive, preserving tannin had gone – in fact, there was only the slightest amount of sediment around the punt. There was a small stump of heat from the alcohol (14%) momentarily, but it gave way to a long, long Christmas cake finish. The finish didn’t diminish either. There was no fade to “old wine” taste.
It was so delicious that I wanted to savour it again. So I vacuumed out the oxygen with my wine-saver plugs and put the bottle in the fridge for the next day (today). It was a success – the aromas and flavours were just as dominant when I swigged out of the bottle a few minutes ago.
It’s often hard to judge when a Cabernet Sauvignon has reached its peak. Even the back label advises maturation at 5-8 years. Going on that, I should have drunk this bottle around 2005 – 10 years ago! If you ask me, this amazing pedigreed wine is just at its peak now!