A recent column featured a delicious, uncomplicated modern Bordeaux red, ChÃ¢teau Cantemerle 2006.
I refer to it as modern not because it is hip, or politically correct, or features Carla Bruni on its label, but because it's made in the modern style, meaning it's made to be drunk young. This is in contrast to the traditional Bordeaux practice of producing wines that are harsh, tannic, and inaccessible in their youth but which, in good vintages and with a lot of time, sometimes decades, can evolve into astoundingly complex miracles of winemaking.
The Demise of Long-Aging Clarets?
The trouble is that with the popularity of New World wines from the U.S., Australia, and elsewhere, the market for fine wine has changed over the last few decades. There aren't that many people around who have either the patience or the cellars to age wines the way they did in the past. When you combine this with improvements in technology that make it easier for winemakers to produce more accessible wine, the temptation becomes irresistible for many properties.
This irks the traditionalists who fear that with more and more wine being produced for early drinking, they are seeing the demise of classic, long-aging clarets.
Well, they needn't worry. While no one is making wines like the magnums of 1870 Lafite, which took one hundred years to come around, there are people still making traditional or semi-traditional Bordeaux for long-maturing. A fine example is the Château PrieurÉ-Lichine 2006 ($50).
Traditional Bordeaux Techniques
PrieurÉ-Lichine is in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux and is one of 10 Quatrièmes Crus (Fourth Growths). Although originally a Benedictine priory—hence the first part of its name—the vineyard was acquired by famed wine writer and connoisseur Alexis Lichine in 1951, who ran it until his death in 1989. Today it is owned by the Ballande family, who also own Château Baret in Graves.
Lise Latrille, a spokeswoman for the château, explained to me that they employ "traditional Bordeaux winemaking techniques in order to achieve the real identity of a Grand Cru ClassÉ Margaux."
This means a wine that's difficult and unapproachable at the moment but will, in all probability (nothing is certain in the world of wine) evolve into a classic silky, earthy, complex, and elegant masterpiece—everything that a fine claret should be.
When to Drink: 8-12 years
Breathing/Decanting: Remains to be determined
Food Pairing: The best roast meats or game.
Grapes: 60% cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 3% petit verdot
Web Site: None
See more wines at www.nickonwine.com.
Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to Forbes.com, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes the Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week column to BusinessWeek.com. He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.