During our last visit to Burgundy France, we were extremely fortunate to be reunited with all the members of my family on my mother’s side. Since we don’t see each other very often, it’s always such a treat to get together, and be able to gather around four generations of healthy people.
Having lived there for a short period of time, my brother and I always feel a little nostalgic of Beaune, a beautiful town in the heart of Burgundy. Beaune is considered to be the wine center of France, due in part to the largest wine auction held once a year at the “Hospices de Beaune”. My brother and I spent countless hours in my grandfather’s wine cellar. We entered this room with the utmost respect, as if we had gone into a sanctuary. The feeling we would get when we were in this room is beyond compare. Hundreds of wine bottles, and rare are the ones that do not show a thin layer of dust. That day, we both looked towards the very back of the room and saw what looked more like a storage area containing very few scattered bottles . One of them, lying there all by itself on the wine rack caught our attention. Old and covered with dust, the bottle was surrounded by cobwebs. I knew I was in trouble when I realized I did not carry my leather whip, because this felt like Indiana Jones and the temple of wine! My brother and I both ran upstairs and asked our grandfather about this bottle. All he remembered was it was a vintage from 1947, and then decided we should have it for dinner… just like that! Well, that’s wonderful… no really, just the idea of enjoying a wine from 1947 was making me all tingly, but we wanted to know more about the wine! Every bottle has a story and we were determined to find out what this bottle had to share, other than the wine itself.
After bringing the bottle upstairs, we noticed the label was practically missing. Years of moisture diffused through the air of a wine cellar can have detrimental effects on older labels. The paper simply (sadly) decayed and left behind small and brittle pieces of a puzzle that would take days to reconstruct. Nonetheless, we were able to find out that the wine was a Côtes-du-Rhône that was purchased wholesale by a wine merchant from Burgundy. The wine travelled from the Rhône to the Burgundy region, where it was bottled by a small wine merchant. This whole complicated deal made it harder to understand the story behind the wine, but at least we knew we were about to drink a VERY OLD Syrah.
Sometimes a task can turn into an art. Uncorking older wines could be perceived as such, and the best man for the job was my brother. He carefully opened the precious bottle, only to find out that the wine had seaped through most of the cork. The bottle had another year at the most before air would get in contact with the wine and ruin it almost instantly. We removed the remains of the cork from inside the bottleneck, and only then we were ready. We poured the wine like a sacred elixir. The aroma was earthy like a forest floor, with a mix of dark berries and a hint of chocolate. Everyone’s first sip was like an explosion of senses, a magical time that made us reflect on the many years that it took for this wine to be as good as it gets. The wine was full-bodied with lingering spice, dried herb flavor, and a loamy earth character, ending with a tight mix of savory flavors. This was definitely an old wine. We waited for the optimum age before drinking this wonderful wine. I would never recommend keeping a Syrah this long but you can always try – “Que Syrah Syrah” … Sorry! It was way too tempting ;)
Photo courtesy of Migrate Design.