You only need to look at notes for the 2004’s tasted here in the last 2-3 months to see that something is going-on in those bottles – and it’s not entirely pleasant – so I had to write something about it.
Initially I felt compelled to say something, simply because I felt that others were (I felt) misrepresenting the wines (in general); by describing them as ‘green’ many were also taking the a logical assumption that the wines were unripe – many without even tasting them – and this was becoming accepted as fact by many others who also had not tasted nor would they based on this ‘fact’. I had my say, and it seems that we agree that there is something about these wines – let my try and explain.
This ‘vintage artifact’ is quite specific, and in quite a large percentage of wines it is also quite pronounced, let me try to define it:
Some people say green, some people say herbal, but I will define it as a type of cedar smell. At low levels it gives a pleasant cedar, or almost menthol edge; as it becomes more pronounced, it is more resinous, eventually resembling the well-known (in the UK) ‘coal-tar’ soap. What is really surprising, is that it is often quite pronounced on the palate too – though perhaps this is what burghound would better describe as ‘inner mouth perfume’.
So what isn’t it;
- I would say it is not the smell of rot – though lots had to be triaged at harvest.
- It is not the smell of stems – as many wines that were fully destemmed show the trait.
- It is not (in general) anything to do with unripe fruit – Claude Kolm makes the telling remark (in the discussion linked above) that few people added sugar in this vintage – because the sugars were high enough without. It is a rare wine the truly unripe 2004!
It is a conundrum for two reasons:
- Wines tasted from barrel showed this only to a minor, let us say ‘normal’ extent, yet it has developed/amplified since bottling
- Different wines from the same cellar – so same viticulture, ripeness and vinification – are not the same, some show it and others don’t.
So that’s not really great news; it came almost out of nowhere, and is now undermining/dominating the personality of many, otherwise vivacious, flavourful wines. At a lower level this aroma may have been present in a number of vintages, though was quickly subsumed into a mix of secondary aromas.
Hopefully this will be no more than an interesting and transient interlude in the evolution of these wines, but having spoken to several trustworthy sources, no-one is totally sure.
I will keep testing the bottles of-course 😉