Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sulfur Says What?

We'd opened a bottle earlier in the day, after some customers had apparently complained of the wine "getting weird." Sure enough, it had gone into a reductive state, even after well over a year under pseudo-cork, and showing just fine through most of that time. Now the fruit and pepperiness was still there, but masked by a top layer of smoked rubber. I tried an old test, dropping an old penny -- one that actually had some copper in it -- into the glass. Sure enough, the fruit came more to the fore, the smoky funk receded. The pseudo-scientist in me (with all due respect to JDH at Rational Denial, HK) just had to open another bottle, one that had been hangin' in my cellar for a little while, at home that night....

Côtes du Rhône "Bout d'Zan," Mas de Libian 2008
$15. 14.5% alcohol. Nomacorc. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
This bottle was reductive, too; less so, but still reductive. I found it pleasant enough on night one; slightly peppery, as suggested above, and firm in its brambly, berry fruit. Over the course of a glass, it opened and continued to show better. It was a light night, so I jammed the stopper back in the bottle with plenty left to go. Left it on the kitchen counter, ambient room temperature. Nothing more.

It was a rather hectic week, so I didn't get back to it until three days later. No more signs of reducto-funk, just bright red fruit. Snappy, spicy and juicy. Another long day had led to another short pour of a night, so back went the foamy plug and back went the wine to its same place on the counter top. The week continued in course. Last minute, spur of the moment trips; double-shift tasting events....

Three days later, I pulled that stopper again. My hopes weren't high. Few wines will stand up to a near week's worth of air in a decreasingly full bottle. I pulled the plug and sniffed the aperture. The more than half expected whiff of salad dressing met my nose. I poured anyway, knowing that -- in that pseudo-scientific way -- the more volatile nature of airspace aromas can sometimes belie what lurks beneath. Lo and behold, the wine was still bordering on delicious, certainly far more than drinkable, by any standard.

Who cares, you say? What's the point? Well, Hélène Thibon, along with the rest of her family at the Mas de Libian, produced "Bout d'Zan," a co-fermented Grenache/Syrah blend from the Ardèche, using no sulfur, neither in the vineyard nor during vinification. If you want more tech notes than that, you'll find them at Mas de Libian's website. Conventional wisdom would have it that this wine should have stood little chance of showing as it did, even three days after being opened, much less after a week.

The reduction? That's another issue, and I can't help but wonder if the closure choice (Nomacorc) might have something to do with it. As it emerged only after a fairly significant amount of time in the bottle, I'll be curious to see if it doesn't also recede given a little more time. Problem is, though, I'm not sure I have another bottle....

5 comments:

TWG said...

Interesting

David McDuff said...

Have you had a bottle recently, Tom?

TWG said...

No, I've never held any for more than a few months.

cat said...

So glad to see someone else leaves some of the wine and feels it improves, even days later. As careful as I am to cork and store it, I always felt a little guilty when I liked the wine better the second day.

David McDuff said...

Nothing to feel guilty about, cat. Many a wine holds its own into a second or even third day with little change, some are already falling apart on day two, some as you suggest improve on day two, while yet others (like this) can morph yet stay "good" over the course of an entire week.

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