A Proper Claret
46% cabernet sauvignon, 17% merlot, 15% tannat
13% petit verdot, 8% syrah, 1% petite sirah
Harumph. Not wishing to whinge, but just what does it take to be served a glass of Proper Claret around here? These were precisely the words I spoke just the other day at my Club1 to the cheeky bloke who presented a "fruit-forward" Blaufränkelgipfler wine for my consideration. Crikey, I was gobsmacked.2 I could have boxed his ears. I told him to bu**er off and bring me some Proper Claret. We did not fight (and win!!) The War only to be served jammy, "fruit-forward" beverages at one's Club, I'll tell you that. This is just another fine example of the utter decline of standards and the moral laxity I observe on a more or less daily basis, especially in these young 'uns. Now, mind you, if you are enjoying a joint 3 and Yorkshire pudding, you will want to be drinking A Proper Claret, somewhat of a rare and endangered species, don't you know. Allow me a moment to edify you as to what constitutes "A Proper Claret," inverted commas. It's Cabernet Sauvignon-based, to be sure, but it's proper, elegant Cabernet, not the semi-ubiquitous confec- ted/treacly stuff one might spread on bickies.4 But along with that, there are other bits–I can't be bothered to remember them all–that fill things in; no gaps to mind, mind you. A Proper Claret brings order and focus to a meal as well as to a world that is in constant danger of, dare I say, changing. In conclusion, it is likely that it is only A Proper Claret that will keep the barbarous hordes at bay, and allow Civilization a modest prospect of some undoubtedly short-term continuity.
Some cautionary words: Bonny Doon Vineyard is, as we all know or should know, a strictly cabernet-free zone, at least it has been for the last twenty-nine years. (This commonsense dictum is as easy as A,B, C.) The last “Claret” nominally produced at Bonny Doon Vineyard was in 1985 from grapes grown at our late Estate in the eponymous hamlet of Bonny Doon. It was a blend of approximately equal parts of cabernet sauvignon, cab. franc, merlot and malbec, and against all expectation, was actually pretty damn good.
Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker, has expressed amused disdain, occasionally bordering on amused disdain, for this popular grape variety. He has been heard to say at least once, “I will not kiss the lips Bordelais cépages will not pass these lips." We are not really at liberty to say how Bonny Doon Vineyard has come to be entrusted with the distribution of a wine made from such improbably alien grape varieties, but suffice to say that the deal was doon grudgingly and harumphingly.
Now, as to the label. What can we say? We are just scandalized, sputteringly unable to countenance the opportunistic wine marketeers who would stoop to using lurid imagery merely to sell a bottle of wine. Has it really come to this? It is only because we enjoyed the wine so much that we are willing to put up with the tasteless monstrosity that is this label. “Proper” (!?!) Claret? Indeed.
It is lean, neither overly alcoholic (weighing in at 13%) nor overly extracted, nor overly oakèd; it is precisely what one would imagine A Proper Claret to be. The wine contains a substantial dollop of petit verdot (13%), adding a silky note of violets and textural elegance, in counterpoint to the lead-in-the-pencil firmness offered by the inclusion of the virile tannat (15%). Tannat, the grape implicated in the French paradox (and the vinifera variety with resveratrol levels that are off the charts), is principally grown in Gascony (land of Les Trois Mousquetaires), though it was historically grown as well in Bordeaux as late as the 19th century.Comparing this wine with the 2012 APC, the inaugural vintage, the ‘13 version is a bit plusher and posher, with softer tannins, not unreminiscent of the overstuffed chair at one’s Club. There is still a lovely minty, cedary aspect to this wine, reflective of its perfect balance, with nary a prunish note to be found.
54% semillon, 43.5% sauvignon blanc, 2.5% orange muscat
Harumph (again). Your loyal correspondent, Reginald ffrench-Postalthwaite here, reporting from the shambolic front lines in the Unremitting War on Civilization, that is to say, on the increasing difficulty of finding proper white wine to consume with comestibles. Blimey! While I remain stoutly devoted to the No-Whinge Policy, I must, however, confess to being slightly cheesed off by the general dearth of New World white wines exhibiting Proper Gravitas. A Wine of Gravitas (inverted commas) is one that is not obviously fruity, nor overly oaky (wood that were not the case), nor as buttery as, say, a pukka Stilton. (Ah, Stilton... That does bring me back...) Bu**er it all. Where was I? Oh, yes. Proper wines. Crikey, what does it take to suss out a proper blanco that is not as bent as a nine bob note? A wine of Gravitas demonstrates its stones, as it were, a pleasant quality of minerality, with a finish as persistent as a British bulldog, a wine of which Winnie himself would most certainly approve.
Many N. Americaners have little acquaintance with the earthy/floral white wines of Bordeaux, which run from the often prosaic Entre-deux-Mers to the sublime vins de terroir of Pessac and Graves; these undersung wines have created the template for our “Gravitas.” Gravitas—a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musqué (the fragrant variant of SB), and a dollop of Orange Muscat—is something else again.
The nose has the haunting perfume of magnolia flowers and scent of white peaches, with suggestions of ripe Bosc Pear, sweet green grass, exotic saffron and a touch of lavender honey. But wait, there’s more: A bit of bergamot orange blossom, jasmine, and key lime custard, quince and Madagascar vanilla. These aromas are echoed on the palate adding a light, deft, fresh acidity; a savory wine, perfect with all manner of seafood and lighter entrées.
A Proper Pink
69% cabernet franc, 31% tannat
Harumph (yet again). Reginald ffrench-Postalthwaite here, reporting on the coloristic culture wars continuing to plague the world of wine, and by extension, Civilization itself. Having had the temerity to set foot outside the confines of my Club and comfy chair, I have duly noted the singular difficulty (especially in the Colonies!) of finding proper wines, be they of the red, white or pink persuasions. Any-hoo, any hue. Crikey Moses, it should not be so bloody difficult (pace vins de saigner) to find a proper roseate-tinged, not-necessarily-utterly-random-assemblage-of-odds- and-sods, non-pudding wine, that is to say, a proper pink. Now, I am told that wines of this hue have lately become fashionable,1 that “real” men, inverted commas, putatively now drink pink. The beastly locution “Brosé” (shudder) has even infiltrated the language of Disraeli, Gladstone and our beloved Winnie! I’ll tell you. Some of us “real” men have been in touch with our, shall we say, more leeward side for some time now. A brief history lesson for young pups: The modern term for a proper red win. derives from the poxy French word, “clairet,” or light, “clear” wine (Vinum clarum, as the Schoolmen would have it), designating a certain style of darkish pink wine much favored in the Middle Ages, not so very dissimilar to the wine you are currently holding in your hands, as you behold the majestic figure of moi- même, taking his ease sur la pique-nique. Any further questions. Class dismissed! God save the Queen!
So, what’s Tannat like (about a flamboyant and slightly (Im)Proper Pink)? It’s a relatively dark brosé, having languidly experienced several hours in contact with its skins before pressing on skins. But it is really the Cabernet franc that carries the aromatic day. The nose shows the sensuality of a fully ripened lychee, pink peppercorn, with a suggestion of the scent of the hard candies one formerly found at at an American General Store. The palate is full-bodied and slightly fleshy. Flavors of cherry, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and black raspberry abound. The finish is savory, mentally taking us back to Asia and the faintest suggestion of crispy pork skin. Serve well chilled to preserve brightness and acidity.