tasting note 6
Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
becoming increasingly disenchanted with tasting notes that serve
merely to list descriptors of a particular wine. Yes, we are trying to
tell people what a wine tastes like (by Ďtasteí, we mean both
taste and smell, and their combination with other sensory inputs, of
course). But beyond this, we are sharing a perceptual experience.
Donít let the word Ďperceptualí put you off, though Ė Iím
not about to launch into a tirade of half-baked amateur philosophy (I
save this for other places on this site). What I mean is we are trying
to share what is inside our heads when we taste wine. Itís a
seamless experience that canít easily be reduced to words.
Iím drinking a Wynns 1998 Coonawarra Cabernet
Sauvignon as I write. I have a ready for drinking rack, and this Wynns
is one I put there a few weeks ago, not expecting much from it,
although I have had good experiences with the 1991 and 1993 cellared
for a decade each. But with wine, mood guides me a great deal, and I
guess Iíd lost enthusiasm for this particular bottle. This comes
back to the rather vexed issue of choosing the right bottle to open on
any particular night. Iím mood driven in my drinking, and despite
having a reasonably large selection of wines stored at home I often
find it really difficult to decide what to open, and when.
Itís Monday night, and Iím working writing assorted
bits and pieces up. Itís part work, part fun: I enjoy what I do
quite a bit, and anticipating an evening with the laptop and some
notes is quite a comforting thought. Normally, Iíll not open
anything too special to accompany my work, especially on a Monday, but
the Wynns is proving a very respectable drink indeed.
Earlier on, putting one of my sons to bed I read him
Goldilock and the Three Bears Ė his choice Ė and was struck by the
comparative porridge tasting undertaken by Goldilock. Father Bearís
porridge was too salty, while Mother Bearís was too sweet; it was
only Baby Bearís palate that matched Goldilockís. Itís
interesting that different taste preferences are such a common
occurrence that they even make it into childrenís fairy tales. The
nature of individual differences in taste is one that fascinates me;
Iíve just written an overlong piece on this for Harpers.
I feel the wine trade has been slow to recognize this phenomenon, and
a lot of confusion has resulted from the assumption that we are all
sharing the same experience when we taste a bottle of wine.
Back to the Wynns. The reason Iím enjoying this wine
so much tonight is threefold. First, it out-performs my expectations.
Each of us brings expectations to our wine drinking experience, and if
these arenít met because they are too high the wine can disappoint
irrespective of its merits. Second, it shows typicity Ė or terroir,
if you like. I can recognize it as a Coonawarra Cabernet, which brings
me immense satisfaction. Iím getting blackcurrant fruit with a
minerally, slightly chalky core. Itís savoury and quite well
defined, with sweetness of fruit at one end of the flavour spectrum
and slightly tarry, spicy, gravelly bite at the other. Thereís quite
a bit of mouth drying tannin, too. Iíd spot this as Australian when
tasted blind, but I hope that its restraint and minerality would put
it firmly in Coonawarra for me. Third, itís a wine thatís in
balance. There isnít too much of any one component, and specifically
oak and alcohol which I find problematic in some new world reds.
This isnít a great wine, but itís a pretty good
one, and considering that it cost around £7 when I bought it, itís
a fine value. If you have some stashed away, then Iíd recommend
drinking it over the next decade: thereís no hurry to drink this up,
and itís just started drinking well. A score? A solid 90, if you ask
Roc des Anges; Gaillard;
Foundry and Columella; Meruge;
Foillard Morgon; Clonakilla
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