Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tasting Notes: Chinon from Olek-Mery

Chinon Blanc “Les Tireaux” 2005: This wine should have special operating notes attached — one can never fully appreciate or understand certain wines by doing a rapid “drive-by” tasting. Upon opening, there is a smoky, funky bouquet and a hint of sulfur. The fruit components are quite restrained on the nose and the palate. Underneath all that, however, is a wine of considerable weight and power, showing minerals and hints of tropicality and honey. The finish was somewhat disconcerting at first with a distinct bitterness. Later on that evening the sulfur had pretty much blown off and the bitterness had opened up to reveal a tight core of intense minerality… like lemons and stones. The last glass from the bottle was quite hazy, indicating that the wine is probably not filtered. This is a wine of great substance with a meaty earthiness to it that quite differentiates it from its Vouvray relatives to the east.

Chinon “Les Tireaux” 2005: Immediately upon opening, you get an explosive whiff of black cherry and hints of a dark forest. In spite of its ripeness you get a sense of coolness with notes of eucalyptus and mint. The wine is soft and rich at first, but you quickly see serious gritty tannins and a solid core of fruit to back up one’s initial impression. This wine can definitely stand some additional aging. Later on the tannins and fruit resolved and pulled into focus with a bell pepper brightness that lifted the dark fruit and hints of graphite that began to emerge. This is a great wine that can stand up easily to a Bordeaux costing 50% more.

Chinon “Les Tireaux” 2004: This was certainly the most classically proportioned wine of the day. 2004 was clearly cooler and it shows in the wine’s balance and elegance. Cool violet and black cherry fruit is seamlessly married to minerals and those dark forest notes. As this wine did not reach the levels of ripeness found in the 2005 you are able to see more of that green (this is not to say unpleasant or unripe) pepper, chlorophyll note that marks Cabernet Franc in this region. While some tannins are noticeable, the overarching sense was that of seamlessness and symmetry…. perhaps the best wine to drink right now.

Chinon “Les Tireaux-Vieilles Vignes” 2001: My first notes say “woodsy, dusty and elegant”. This old vines bottling is not as thickly textured, on the nose as well as palate, as the 2005. Once again there is a coolness and hint of menthol that shows as the fruit ceases to be the primary note, and one is left with those drier dusty-but-elegant tannins. Initially the wine seemed to be getting short on fruit but after several hours a deep violet bouquet emerged. A core of dark, dried essence of cassis married with that fascinating graphite nose — reminiscent of an older St. Estephe. This is an endlessly elegant and refined wine that brought to mind a vision of a well turned out elderly gentleman with a cane. For those of you in the New York City environs, go to the Irving Penn show at the Morgan Library and look at the portrait of Jean Cocteau. Then go home and open a bottle of this 2001. With or without the cane, you’ll see what I mean.