Wines 101 is the title of my bucket list of wines to taste inspired by the book of the same name by Margaret Rand. Margaret has selected 101 wines from around the world that she believes demonstrate certain qualities making them highly desirable. So, having bought the book I just HAD to create my own bucket list which has so far included some of the wines in the book plus some of my own based on other reading and experience. Since that beginning I have now bought and tasted a total of 33 bucket-list wines with a breakdown as follows:
- Italy 9
- France 6
- Australia 5
- New Zealand 4
- England 2
- Romania 2
- Bulgaria 1
- Greece 1
- Moldova 1
- Turkey 1
- USA 1
Quite separately waiting in the wings of my cellar are:
- Lebanon 2
- USA 2
- England 2
- Greece 1
- Austria 1
- Germany 1
The original plan once I had created the first few on my list was to actually visit the vineyards concerned for the tasting because, as the title of my new book suggests, quite often It’s Not About The Wine and is as much concerned with associated history, culture and the people making the wine. However this wasn’t so practical and fell apart because of a few health issues severely curtailing our travel. So, from that list of 33 only 6 have been tasted with the winemaker, the rest have been bought from The Wine Society or specialist online shops.
The first on the list was a Chablis, Grand Cru Les Clos, 2014, from Vincent Dauvissat a rock star of winemakers …… but a bit of a recluse! How we eventually got to taste this stunning wine in the village of Chablis itself is quite a tale …… and not just about the wine!
The anticipation of tonight’s dinner and drinking one particular bottle of wine had become almost suffocating! This was our second day in Chablis and the evening was to be the culmination of much research, planning, communication and organisation ….. crazy …… all for ONE bottle of wine. But not just “any old bottle of wine”!
Domaine Dauvissat and their Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos are world famous, usually competing with Domaine Raveneau in the minds of professional wine writers as to which one is really the best Chablis on the planet. Margaret Rand in her book “101 Wines to try before you die” had to toss a coin, and it came down Dauvissat. So here we are now in Chablis, walking into Bistro des Grand Crus with a bottle of Dauvissat waiting for us after several rounds of communication with Christian, the restaurant owner, to obtain and reserve a bottle of the 2014 for us. This is Wine #1 on my Wines 101 Bucket List.
Once seated, the bottle makes an entrance, carefully tended by Vincent!
The previous day we had tasted 27 different wines as part of our “shopping” so we were finely tuned to the four grades of Chablis, particularly the Premier Cru wines and the Grand Cru Les Clos we had tasted with other producers. As Vincent poured us the first few precious drops the owner came over to “discuss” our initial thoughts …. “hold those thoughts” he said, “they will change within an hour”.
My dinner comprised three courses, Escargots for starter, Veal kidneys in a wine jus on a bed of noodles for main, and Creme Brûlée for dessert. Not a single photo of my food because we concentrated so much on the star of the evening show! Except for this shot of my daughter’s soufflé when we realised our omission!
Christian was right, our view of the wine changed across the evening, not in terms of enjoyment, but in terms of the sensations of aroma and taste. The wine softened, complexity increased and finish lengthened. Acidity and minerality seemed to decrease too, but this is only our perception of them because the actual “content” of either cannot change. There are two factors at work here, the exposure of the wine to air, and the combination of sensory inputs from the food with those from the wine, both having a positive effect. I have been reading a lot about this recently, especially regarding the neuroscience of taste and the perception of taste from a philosophical viewpoint. Science plus mind …. as well as cognitive versus sensory inputs, all adding to my understanding and enjoyment of this wonderful hobby. For any of you whose eyes haven’t glazed over at this point here are three references:
- The Neuroscience of Wine Tasting
- I Drink Therefore I Am; A Philosopher’s Guide To Wine
- Questions of Taste; Philosophy of Wine
And so the evening came to a close, #1 now tasted, a brilliant wine, but not the end of Wines 101. It’s now across to Alsace for #2, and we left the restaurant well satisfied with our hard work! The Dauvissat had definitely met all of our expectations, thanks to a great recommendation from the Wines 101 book and gets our official stamp of approval.
The bottle, the glass and the book!
So, in summary, this was an incredible experience ranging from our family being together, a struggle to locate the wine, the pleasure of tasting it, the environment of the restaurant. Although it was two years ago this is STILL the best Chablis I have ever tasted. How about you, what has been the best Chablis or …. the best wine you have ever tasted?