Eric Asimov, the wine critic for the New York Times, recently started a monthly wine school where he picks the bottles, the “students” buy and taste them, then discuss them online. The results are reported in the paper with the next month’s potable assignment.
The “cork fragment in the glass” is that a wine on the shelves in Manhattan may not be available elsewhere. For the first tasting, Eric had recommended a 2009 Bordeaux from the Haut-Médoc region: Château Cantemerle, Château Sociando-Mallet or Château Bernadotte. We weren’t able to find any of these, or even a 2009 Haut-Médoc! But, said Eric, the point was to try a classic red Bordeaux. He recommended the 2009 because, as those in the know have concluded, It Was A Very Good Year.
We ended up with a 2009 Médoc from Château Greysac, which sells for around $20– a very affordable price for a Bordeaux. This estate is considered cru bourgeois— a property known for good quality and value. Last year it was purchased by Jean Guyon, a former interior designer who now owns 234 acres of Bordeaux vines.
He now supplies wine to the great Joël Robuchon, chef and proprietor of (among many others) L’Atelier in London. That’s good enough for me. I am so in love with L’Atelier that I memorialized it in my book New York Groove as “Établi,” a Manhattan offshoot that serves signature dishes like the Egg Cocotte and Le Sucre, a globe of hardened sugar syrup filled with coffee cream.
But back to the wine. If you follow my wine posts, you know that I seldom drink reds. I find them heavy, sometimes hard on the tummy, and less complementary to the vegetarian food we eat. They also make my face flush, and I need no help with that!
On the other hand, it is salutary to enjoy a red now and then. I had almost forgotten how amazingly good they can be, and this Médoc was a thorough reminder. The color was extremely dark and inky; the feeble early spring light in our kitchen could not penetrate it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a deep, dark-colored wine. The aroma was pleasing from the start, with berries and forest leaf humus. I was also reminded of the sweet savor that some cigars have before they are smoked. On the tongue, the wine became more complex with alternating intimations of fruit, leather and spice. It struck me as a very masculine beverage!
Eric says that what he likes best about Bordeaux is the way it pairs with food, and how the flavors can change with different foods. Typically Bordeaux is paired with meat, so I served it with a dish of rapini, cannellini beans and spicy veggie sausage, topped with seasoned panko bread crumbs. Not a match made in heaven, but complementary. I’m thinking that the wine might be even better with one of my tempeh reuben casseroles (lots of deep, rich flavors including dark rye bread).
Not everyone who tasted it liked the wine. One of the wine school students commented that his bottle started out tasting like aspirin, and, when added to food, was redolent of turpentine! Maybe he had a bad bottle, or maybe he just needed to decant it. We didn’t bother to decant ours, but when we got to the dregs, I tasted a few of the crystals and noticed that they are very similar to aspirin!
We have another bottle to try, but it’s a 2007. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the Very Good Year. Next up at Eric’s school: Beaujolais!