Aging wine is a matter of trust. You take good wine and put it away in the belief that it will get better. You have to trust that your patience and the storage conditions and the wine itself will take something good and change it in a way that justifies the deference of pleasure.
I’ve got a half-dozen bottles of Chateau Lascombes 2004 downstairs, and every now and then I’m tempted to crack one open just for the hell of it. And then I tell myself: not yet. It’s only getting better. Wait. Have faith.
Yeah, well, I’m teaching a little wine class and last night, to illustrate the principle that better, more interesting wine is designated from smaller plots of land, I lined up a few Bordeaux — generic AC Bordeaux, AC Medoc, and — because I like this particular class, I tossed in a precious bottle of Lascombes as a treat.
I bought it a couple of years ago for $60 a bottle, and at the time it was big, fruit-forward, almost New World in the impression it left. The bottle I opened last night was considerably weakened, flawed in ways that makes me hope it was a bad bottle rather than a bad trend. Medium acidity. Softening tannins that felt, somehow, broad in the mouth. And then a big, hollow midpalate with a kind of chemical finish that made me wish for a swig of mouthwash.
We tasted the Lascombes right after Chateau Hauterive 2005, an AC Medoc I picked up yesterday afternoon for $15. It quite simply kicked the Lascombes’ ass. I know: 2005 was a great vintage and 2004 a problematic one, but this wasn’t even close. The Hautrive’s tannins were sharper, which was off-putting to some of the people in the class, but the fruit was robust and the finish long and pleasant, leading logically to the next sip and the next.
I’m going back to buy a few more bottles of the Hautrive ($15) for day-to-day drinking, and will spend the next several years looking askance at the corner of my basement where the Lascombes lies. I don’t trust it anymore. The next bottle that comes out is going to come out grudgingly, to be served to wise and understanding friends with appropriate caveats and a no-doubt back-up.