E. Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Cote-Rotie 2000
Time, in liquid form, sealed and secreted away in an unassuming glass container. It is wines like this Cote-Rotie, from the region’s most renowned (and probably best) producer E. Guigal, that remind me of the profoundly important temporal dimension of wine. Consensus on the best moment to unleash the wound up potential of a particular bottle of wine is impossible to come by. One year over another, one month over another and even one day over another can theoretically make a difference. So how do we decide when to open those gems that we tuck away with the hope that time will be kind to us and bring a wine into its fully realized capacity?
I’m not sure that any one answer to that question could be right. For me, a class on Rhone wines many years ago – and, in particular, a glass of Cote-Rotie – was hugely precipitous in leading me down the obsessive wine geek path. Every time I now open a Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, or Cornas I think back to that moment. Somehow these wines extend the duration of that original moment, which becomes part of their story. The occasion this time was the holiday season, and an eager desire to taste an estate wine from one of the greatest producers in the Northern Rhone. I checked three different vintage charts, which all came to the consensus that the 2000 Northern Rhone wines were drinking well. So, out from the cellar came the bottle, and out popped the cork (in perfect condition). But, then what? Disappointment. This was closed, so closed it was remarkably undrinkable in its tannic and acidic presence. Solution? Decanting.
17 hours later I tasted this wine again. It had gone from tannins and acid to violets, meat, licorice and intense pepper. But, there was still something missing for such an expensive wine from a storied producer. I gave up on the wine and put the remainders of the bottle in the fridge. The next day (a good 48 hours after opening), a metamorphosis had taken place. The wine of legend reared its head, showing saline olive beauty, much sweeter blackberry fruit than before, loam, flowers, tar, smoke and bacon, and a Burgundy-like elegance.
Still youthful, and still in want of age, this wine, and my progressive experience with it, reminded me more profoundly than a perfectly aged bottle would have, that any product which tries to capture time in physical form and then use it to its advantage is setting itself up for an epic struggle – an eternal one some might say – between the physical world and the unflinching power of the temporal. This is one of the great metaphors of wine, and perhaps more than debates about terroir and ‘naturalness’, it is the true mystery that we seek to capture with each popped cork and each small sip.
Very Good to Very Good+ to Excellent to who knows what in a few years time?
$180 at BCLDB