There are many ways one might frame a definition of “good friends.” For now, though, my working formula is:
People who save an evening from your bottles of disappointing white Burgundy and corked biodynamic Pinot Noir with a superb aged Vouvray and a few luscious, late-night glasses of Penfolds Grandfather Port.
Indeed, dinner yesterday was bookended by beautiful wines offered by my companions, the first of which I shall discuss in a moment.
To digress briefly, wine can be the most frustrating of things, and it sometimes feels as though those frustrations come in multiples. I rocked up to dinner with a couple of bottles that promised much pleasure: a 2010 Alain Chavy Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles — not previously tasted, but for which I had high hopes considering Chavy’s powerful ’10 Puligny-Montrachet Folatières and St Aubin En Remilly bottlings — and the ’09 Hochkirch Maximus, enjoyed several times previously.
The Chavy was only okay; surprisingly for a 2010 Burgundy, it’s quite blowsy through the mid-palate, its evident complexity of flavour undermined by indistinct articulation and a general sense of blurriness. The Hochkirch would have been delicious, I’m sure, were it not for a massive dose of 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (thanks, cork). And that was pretty much that.
Perhaps the disappointment wouldn’t have been so great had the first wine, this old Brédif, been less enjoyable. There’s something about old white wines in particular that I find fascinating and, in a way, more remarkable than old reds, because they are so unlikely. Chenin Blanc gives great acid, sure, but there’s an obviousness to many red wines, structurally, that makes ageability a foregone conclusion. By contrast, when a white wine grows old with grace, I can’t help but marvel a little at how it’s happened.
This is, surely, at its peak. There are subtle signs of oxidation now — a hint of flor sherry, some aldehydic nuttiness — that overlay core notes of baked apple pie and spice, creating a wonderfully complex flavour profile that moves between these primary and tertiary notes without skipping a beat. Indeed, this kept changing over the hour or so we tasted, with some luscious dried fruit notes creeping in towards the end. It’s in the mouth, though, where this truly comes alive. An off-dry style, this still has the acid structure to create brisk movement down the line and counterbalance a lovely swell of residual sugar through the after palate. Flavours range from savoury to sweet, giving some angularity to the wine but never robbing it of its comfort. Texturally, there are several dimensions, a slippery, waxy mouthfeel giving way to raspier textures through the finish. And what a finish; exceptionally long by any measure.
A truly delicious wine.