Actually, I know exactly what it is: it’s a left bank cru bourgeois claret, from a good year. It’s what used to be called an English luncheon claret: low alcohol, linear tannins, a hint of pencil sharpenings, black – slightly sour – fruit. In other words, exactly the kind of red I have loved since I started drinking wine seriously forty or more years ago.
But it doesn’t taste right. And it’s my fault.
I’ve been in the south of France for too long, and the French do not drink outside their region. So my palate has adjusted to the higher alcohol, bigger fruit and broader tannins of the Rhône and the Languedoc.
It matters because Tim Hollis-Carroll from Enotria is presenting Christophe and I with a selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy reds for the new Wilde’s wine list, and I’m finding all these clarets thin and unappealing. I’m concerned that, to compensate for my new tastes, I will go for a bigger, Parker-ized claret rather than the traditional style which is required to fill this particular gap in our current list. I let Tim and Christophe make the decision.
The Pinot Noir tasting is less of an issue; not least because in a strong field there is one wine which really stands out. It’s a Bourgogne Haut Cotes de Nuits, grown in the hills above Chambolle Musigny and made by the small domaine of Laurent Roumier. Despite an excellent Beaune 1ère Cru and a surprisingly good wild card Californian (Avant Garde from the Taittinger-owned Domaine Carneros), the Roumier is ripe and elegant, with an extraordinarily long finish. It’s clearly the right choice for Wilde’s patrons. I can't wait to linger over a bottle when I have re-educated my palate.
That process, of course, has already started. Later, with venison, we drink Prélude à Grand Puy Ducasse 2003, the chateau’s second wine. It’s an affordable and typical Pauillac which opens up beautifully in the glass and reminds me of what I have been missing.
You see, it’s not easy compiling a wine list. It’s not enough to choose your favourite wines and then sit back enjoying the fruits (and tannins) of your labours. Different tastes, different varieties, different countries, different vintages, different price points must be accommodated; a palate which is exclusively focused on a single style cannot get the balance right.
I’m looking forward to restoring my taste buds to their previous, eclectic, state.
Today’s listening: Grateful Dead. The re-mastered 1972 European tour. Was it really this good?