Thursday 26 September 2013

I Am Not Worthy: 2007 Chorey-les-Beaune

So after a succession of small accidents, I end up in full legal possession of six bottles of 2007 Chorey-les-Beaune from the house of Joseph Drouhin, without paying for any of them. 'This is a good day,' I tell myself. 'Half a case of flash-looking Burgundy!' Then I add, 'But unexpected riches brings with them responsibility. This Chorey-les-Beaune is in the nature of a sacred trust, especially with it being posh and free and everything.' In other words, I must find out something about it, show due diligence, understand what it is I'm drinking, before knocking it off in front of a Mad Men re-run.

First stop is PK, who gets agitated enough to announce that it 'Could be bloody good', which is all the encouragement I need. After that, it's off to Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine: this, alarmingly, makes no mention of Chorey-les-Beaune, so I turn to the Internet, which, even more alarmingly, tends to mark it down as one of the smaller, thinner, less interesting, interpretations of a C├┤te de Beaune, also noting that the (small) commune is devoid of any Premiers or Grands Crus.

I am now starting to look a gift horse in the mouth and wonder if the cork, the vintage, the swank label, the reputable wine-maker's name, are not guarantors of quality after all, but false friends, in which case I am the proud possessor of nothing more than half a case of showy dreck.

On the other hand: the actual 2007 Chorey-les-Beaune does pick up a few online reviews, and these are more hopeful. Jancis Robinson gives it 16 out of 20, which apparently makes it 'distinguished', while other critics discourse (mutedly enough) about its 'nicely weighted fruit', how it 'hits the Burgundy spot', how it possesses 'light redolent soft red fruits', and so on. What most are agreed on, is that it is a Pinot Noir and that it needs to be open for at least half an hour, better yet an hour, before consumption.

I now experience a tremendous girding of loins and raising of expectations as I leave my comfort zone (I had a couple of bottles of Tesco's Vega Roja, £4.49 a bottle, the other day, and it was a hoot from start to finish) and tackle this proper wine with all due piety. Turns out the cork has been spot-welded to the bottle, so there are some anxious moments as I fight with it, but it emerges at last, and in my triumph at getting the thing out, I pour out a glass of the intriguingly pale cherry liquid and immediately start drinking.

And yes, straight from the bottle, I'm getting some oil refinery, some nail salon, and it's so scary I put the glass down with an audible cry and turn my back on it for a good forty-five minutes. But after that: a nice bit of interplay between tannins and acidity, curious suggestion of cloves, a bit of turmeric, hints of antiquarian bookshop, ending with a lingering finish in which some kind of berry makes a showing. Not bad - but also, I announce to no-one, in a lordly fashion, a bit wan? As if it spends its days seated on a low divan, saying, Just a cup a tea, please, and a slice of dry toast, nothing more. This too chimes with what the Internet has been saying, about thinness and lack of grunt, but there it is. Too late, now.

Underwhelmed, I eventually get to the end of the bottle and a couple of days later tuck into a Triade red which I've had good times with before: perceiving it to be a nice, in-the-moment kind of grog, and quite sophisticated by my standards. Only now, subsequent to the donnish Chorey-les-Beaune, it comes over as much more violently uncouth, a wine that you might try and avoid making eye contact with on the last train home - and this is a problem, not least because it suggests that a single bottle of red Burgundy has somehow transfigured my palate, rebuilt it in such a way that an old favourite has suddenly become insufferable. 'What the hell?' I demand of the Triade, now like a comedian who's not funny any more.

And sure enough, I lurch through the Triade, and a couple of days later return to the Chorey-les-Beaune with a sigh of exasperated relief. A bit thin, but also a bit grown-up.

Well, isn't that meant to be a good thing? A sign that even at this late stage, it's possible to respond to new subtleties and bring on new tastes? No: I can get a Triade for a under £6 a bottle on offer, if I keep my head. Chorey-les-Beaune, whatever the vintage, is £15 and rising. I still possess four and a half bottles of the stuff. After that, it's back to the bottom shelf. Tricky. If I am to be true to the sacred trust I have burdened myself with, then self-denial must be my watchword. Which would be a first.


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