Wines that prompt me to respond on a level other than the blandly objective are what I hope for each time I open a bottle. This anticipation is always heightened when I taste an older wine. After all, we cellar wines in the hope they will improve and reach the point of maximum pleasure. When writing about such wines, and to paraphrase (or perhaps misuse) Edward Said, I think it’s appropriate to communicate a “sense of the pleasure taken in having tried at least to meet the [wine] on some other level than the ruthlessly evaluative or the flatteringly appreciative.”
What of this bottle, then? It’s an old wine in all the best ways, though it does remind me of why they are such an acquired taste. There are very few hooks here, nothing obvious on which to hang one’s discernment. Indeed, the nose is delicate and hushed, lightweight really, smelling as much like an abandoned hope chest as a Cabernet. Everything is hinted at; old cedar wood, a wisp of vanilla, watercolour red fruit and light spice. It’s an aroma that only makes sense when you step back and understand its subtle flirtatiousness. Incredibly elegant, if not massively complex.
The palate does not speak in quite such muted tones. At first, an impression of some youth, mostly due to drying tannins that fade a little as the wine gets some air. What they leave behind is a rather beguiling flavour profile whose delicacy reminds me of a good Pinot Noir. It’s quite seamless: red fruits and vanilla ice cream at first, turning slowly to a more savoury expression reminiscent of orange peel as much as berries, moving then to a cedar-centred finish with just a twinge of “old wine” sweetness right at the back of the mouth. A strange set of descriptors perhaps, but totally convincing to me. There’s still a bit of velvet texture on the after palate, so it’s not yet at the stage where it flows in the crystalline manner of fresh water, but it’s not far off.
There’s nothing outstanding about this wine in conventional terms. It’s not ultra intense, nor dense, nor complex. But it’s absolutely worthwhile as a balanced expression of aged Great Western Cabernet Sauvignon, no more nor less. I’m enjoying it a great deal.