Thursday 30 August 2012

Some wines don't improve with age – Chateau Liversan 2008

This is awkward. The kind of awkwardness which is the other side of wine’s social nature. For just as wine can delight, and lubricate one’s social life, so it can also disappoint, and make my life into a series of uncomfortable options akin to the Yalta conference.

Mrs K has been away. Working, I hasten to add to that ambiguous term. (When a workman told us he’d been ‘away’, my wife assumed it meant Majorca but I assumed Wormwood Scrubs.) Mrs K has been away working, and from the many possibilities of consolation during her absence, I decided on the one accompanied by the least physical, financial and marital risk; a bottle of 
claret from The Cellar – Liversan 2008, an Haut-Medoc of which I bought a case 
a year ago.

And…it’s had it. Past it. Gone. I thought its tannins were going to support it for a year or two yet; instead, it’s suddenly collapsed. Like the Greek economy.

As you may have seen last week,  I took a second bottle round to CJ’s for discussion. There we agreed – well, he agreed with me – that it had run out of steam. It lacked heft

I have to say here and now that we are not talking gag-reflex bad. To quote my esteemed fellow author, ‘the stuff [PK] has reservations about is between ten and fifteen times nicer than the stuff I have reservations about’. And we did polish off the bottle. (Although CJ’s drinking often combines the words ‘bottle’ and ‘polish’; sometimes, I fear, with an ‘of’ inbetween…)

But this claret is not what it should be. It is not what I anticipated, when I bought an entire case and put it away for the future.  It is not what I expected, after I had 
twice gone down to the sacred cellar to retrieve a bottle, risking life, limb and 
laundry basket.

It was, I hope, an understandable error. When I wrote about this wine a year ago, I said it was ‘initially a little stern, but it softened in the decanter into a blackberry fruity, rich and earthy claret.’ On offer at a cracking price, I bought a case, assuming that that sternness was going to support the wine for a few years yet.

But it has not. I feel the taste of disappointment, like those of us who came back home with one of David Bowie’s late albums.

If I were a rich man, and all day long I bidi-bidi-bummed, then I suppose I would just chuck the lot out, or cook with it, or leave it for offspring to take to parties. But I am not, and I don’t, so I won’t. Instead, I begrudge the money I have spent on what is clearly now a deteriorating investment.

And it seems to me that I can take three possible courses of action with the rest of this wine – none of which is particularly appealing.

I can tell people. Whether I take it to their houses, or open it at mine, I can explain the situation. This clearly places me in the role of something of an idiot; but one man in his time plays many parts, and this is one in which I am not unrehearsed. 

But if I tell people, a chunk of an evening may be spent in apologies, in discussing why the wine is not as good as one had hoped. To put this into perspective; surely one would never expect the host to serve up food, and begin by saying ‘Now, this beef doesn’t taste quite right…’

Alternatively, I can not tell people. They will come to my house, expecting my usual high standards of wine – and their faces will fall like a child given handkerchiefs for Christmas. They will stifle their disappointment but mutter in the taxi home, “That wine was a bit shabby…food as good as ever, full marks to Mrs K, but that wine…”

Or I will take it to theirs, still not revealing the truth about the wine. I will gamble on the fact that, as a single unmatched bottle, it may well disappear into their kitchen, and not be opened that evening. They will look at it when the guests have gone, with a nod of acknowledgment, and tuck it away for another occasion, thinking “Generous chap, that PK…guzzled our food, downed our grog and argued like Oliver Reed – but generous…”

But then, one day, they will drink it. They might even open it with their own friends. “Oooh, we’ve got this bottle which PK brought round, he knows his wine.” And they will think, what a sod, he must have known, he’s offloaded some of his rubbish onto us. Alternatively (and which is worse?), they will think, he clearly doesn’t know his wine after all, he’s as ignorant about wine as he clearly was about quantitative easing. 

Finally, I could drink it all myself, not so much drowning my sorrow as refreshing it time after time. Uncorking my disappointment over and over, made more bitter still with the taste of misplaced anticipation, and the idea of what I thought it would become. Oooh, Mr Smartarse, thinks he knows how things improve with age…. I could make an evening of it; pour myself a glass, put on my late Oasis, and open the last novel by Martin Amis.

There is a phrase, ‘the lesser of two evils’. It strikes me I have three, none of which seems any lesser than the other two. Suggestions welcome.



  1. Wait a couple of months and make some luxury mulled wine with it. Two options here: try and turn it into a social asset - leave the empty bottles lying casually around, and wait for your stunned guests to ask, in disbelief, "you used THIS?!", and then coolly reply, "Yes, I think it gives it that little extra something, don't you?"; or just keep quiet about it and suffer your shame in silence. Either way, it may well be the best mulled wine you've ever tasted.

    1. I like this idea A LOT. I have to wait until Christmas, or at least until the weather gets a bit colder, but I could go for this one. Thank you, sir.

  2. Very funny post. I do feel for you, but surely not every friend you have is as au fait with the nuances of fine wine as you are. Surely there is a couple or a gathering who will find it perfectly acceptable and, blessed with no prior experience of its unrealized potential, will simply be quite happy with it?

    1. Once, possibly.

      But after writing this?

  3. I did a bit of research and it seems that Liversan is horribly disappointing for a Bordeaux, even the '05s are seen to be crap by just about everybody. A shame as Cru Bourgeois are usually pretty reliable and are good value for money, and should last a bit more than four years! If I were you I'd return what's left of the case and swap the bottles for a better wine like Caronne Ste Gemme or Potensac - you'll get fewer bottles but at least they're better wines! Failing that the mulled wine option is inspired or just stick it in a casserole and try not to wince too much...

  4. Your research is obviously better than mine was! At least I can confirm the bit about 'horrible disappointment'. And sadly after a year I dont think anyone will offer a refund...

  5. A gift to your fellow author seems to be called for as an act of kindness. It must still be better than a £4.29 glugger from Lidl.

    1. If only. We have to wait until Christmas before PK loosens his iron grip on the cellar keys and gives us something drinkable. I can't hang on that long.

  6. How disappointing; you could just class it as a cooking wine...

    1. Yes, although I always drink some of a wine before I cook with it.

      (Nothing to do with taste - it just numbs the fear of cooking...)

  7. Give it to Nicholas Lezard and let him write another column about it.

  8. '09 seems nice, dad bought a bottle a couple of weeks ago. It wouldn't have been my choice (too young), but good all the same. We do drink wine way too young the UK. A Cru Borgeois shouldn't be touched for at least 10 years in a good vintage! So the Author shouldn't. Expect too much after 12 months storage in a house environment.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.