|Foudres. Courtesy Tablas Creek
Last week, we ordered some barbecue and, looking for something to drink with it, my eye fell on these wines. They seemed perfect for barbecue, but then I'd have to do the geek experiment I had been putting off. Then I realized, I've been sitting on these for 2 1/2 years waiting for a feeling that's never going to come. Let's open these tonight, taste them side by side and then do the non-geek-experiment thing and drink them with some dry-rub brisket and pork ribs.
The results made me sad, not because I didn't like the wines or the pairing, but because the experiment was successful. And now I have another thing to worry about when ordering wine. Fuck!
The wines were both 2008 Le Cigare Volant red, Bonny Doon's Rhone blend. The only difference between them is that one was cellared in a demi-muid, a 600-liter oak tank about twice the size of an ordinary barrel, and the other in a foudre, a larger oak tank that doesn't have a specified size.
|Demi-muid. Courtesy Desfrieches
But they were. Dammit.
The wine from the larger vessel, the foudre, was much brighter and fresher. It had lively red fruit and was a great dinner wine with barbecued meat. Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm called it "funkier and more soulful" on a 2 1/2 year-old-email I dug out after tasting them (sorry Randall), but "funky" is not how I would describe it: friendly, perhaps, with the warm spirit of Grenache.
This doesn't make me happy. These wines shouldn't be that different. Plus, I expected their differences to decline over time.
In fact, that happened, just not quite as I expected. We drank the wines again the next day with pepperoni and onion pizza (Le Cigare Volant is a very friendly wine to takeout food; most good Rhone blends are. I wish this one didn't cost $45 now.) The differences between the wines had diminished to the point that they now tasted like slight bottle variations of the same wine. Mainly, this happened because the wine from the demi-muid was much better, fresher and with more red-fruit character. It was almost as good as the wine from the foudre, but it took 24 hours open for that to happen.
But who plans on opening a wine 24 hours before they drink it? Now, I've got to look at a wine list and ask the sommelier, "Was this cellared in a demi-muid or a foudre?"
Thanks a lot, Randall.
Amazingly, these wines are still for sale at Bonny Doon's website for $54 each. You can find a lot of older vintages of Le Cigare Volant for surprisingly good prices -- i.e., less than the $45 current release price -- at Wine-Searcher.