Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Great Decanting Experiment – Wine #6

Lets try another 2003 Chardonnay, but this tine we’ll head off to Burgundy to the village of Chassagne-Montrachet, in the south of the Côte de Beaune. Flanked on either side by the appellations of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, the vineyards that go to make up the Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc produce wines that are fat and opulent with tropical fruit aromas. The 2003 has now spent some 3 years in bottle, still a little young but it should be revealing some of its character by now.

Should you decant such wines? Well over on they suggest that a “big, barrel-fermented chardonnay can benefit from some air”. The reason? To get rid of overtly oaky flavours. A problem here is that wines that have undergone malolactic fermentation, apart from having less crisp acidity and greater palate weight, have better integration of fruit and oak character. Aeration by decanting didn’t really work at all for the Talbott, did it? The Louis Latour has had “100% malolactic fermentation followed by 8 to 10 months ageing in oak casks” so there is a question as to whether it will benefit from aeration. But also has this quote - "I often ask our customers whether they would like a white burgundy decanted because oxygenation improves its aromas," says Claude Douard, sommelier at London restaurant Mirabelle. So this time I’ll leave the wines at cellar temperature during the decanting period and we’ll see if differences in smell and taste are more evident as the wines warm during the tasting comparison.

Wine #6 2003 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc, Burgundy, France ($14.97USD, 375ml), 13.5% alcohol.
One bottle was splash decanted and the other left unopen; both in the cellar at 56 degree F. After 2 hours the second bottle was opened and the two wines poured randomly into three marked opaque glasses while I was out of the room.

Glass A: Quite delicately flavored with nice citrus, melon, peach and anise aromas. Fat and full with an excellent softness across the palate finishing with nice acidity but not very impressive flavor carry or length.

Glass B: As for A. An oak note comes up with warming. Palate as for A.

Glass C: As for A and B. An oak note comes up with warming. A little softer and more supple than A and B.

My opinion: A is decanted wine and B and C are from the freshly opened bottle.
Reality: C is decanted, A and B from the bottle.

Conclusion: There was little to distinguish between the different glasses. No surprise there. These wines don’t do much with air over a few hours. In fact the wine was essentially the same 24 hours later after all the remaining wine was put into one of the bottles, and left in the fridge.

Score: Wines tested 6, Decanters 0, Non-decanters 1.

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