Wine From Yesteryear
“Have you ever tasted anything like this?” said Kermit to the 23-year-old at our staff tasting the other night. She laughed while simultaneously saying “No, never.”
I laughed along with her, having been asked the same question during my first years here, meanwhile relishing no longer being the youngest at these tastings. The wine in question was a 1994 Savennières “Cuvée Spéciale” from Château d’Epiré.
Kermit’s inquiry, though honest, was also rhetorical, and would have elicited the same response from most of us present. I’ve had older Savennières a hand-full of times and each bottle seems to have little to do with the previous. What resonated with me about the wine wasn’t my experience with it, but Kermit’s, and I chatted with him about this the next day. He said the wine took him back in time, when he encountered wines like this older Savennières more regularly in the cellars of many vignerons:
Aromatically it’s nearly impossible to find aromas that we found in that wine these days. It’s not berries and cherries. It’s very hard to describe what you’re smelling with an analogy as you’re in a world that is complete within itself and you can’t encounter anything like it outside of it. The age is what allows the wines to develop like this and it is becoming harder and harder to find white wines that can do that.
Actually, the analogy is the smell of an old, moist, underground cellar. Cellars are sterilized now, so cleaned up that the smell has no character or substance—other than chlorine, at worst. I’ve learned that wines are like sponges—they soak up what is in their environment. The old cellars seasoned their wine with earth smells, barrels smells, the new wine, the mold on the stone walls—that’s rare now. Tasting wines like this 1994 is like entering the inner-sanctum—a place this is totally private, that few experience.
This ‘94 is a wine of yesteryear. A rare find that still exists in a few cellars in France, and specifically it seems that the vignerons of the Loire have a fastidious ethic for reserving a quantity of each vintage to watch it develop. Château d’Epiré recently released the ’94 to us and our final three cases remain on the retail floor for a lucky few to have their own singular experiences.