Although it is, for me, a part of everyday life, wine is also a celebratory drink. A well-chosen bottle can be a great part of special occasions.
For instance, asked dhonig, the soul behind the 2 Days per Bottle wine blog, as the theme for the 49th Wine Blogging Wednesday: what wine would best to toast the end of the George W. Bush era in American (and heck, world) politics?
Facetiously, I immediately thought of Shiraz, since, as wine encyclopedias tell us, that grape name may well come from an ancient Persian city of the same name. Yes, a city on the Iraq-Pakistan border, as John McCain calls it – or more specifically, in Iran, as the less geographically-challenged call that part of the world. But then again, like other things heard during the Bush era, that Shiraz story may be just a myth.
Looking for a more focused relation between the theme and the wine, I left the shiraz aside and went towards something more symbolic. And first thought about something more facetious: Yalumba’s Bush Vine Grenache 2006, a rather hefty red. It’s from Australia, which was, before a recent turn of political events, a staunch supporter of Bush’s Iraq policy and of his greenhouse-gas-denying environmental world-view. A big, brash wine, a little over the top, seductive at a very basic level. And not exactly subtle, let’s put it that way.
But naah. Too obvious. And limiting. And, though pleasant enough, not something I would really want to celebrate with. So I decided to look elsewhere, at something that goes beyond the Bush era. Something that would speak of the rest of the world, that vast expanse that Dubya had so proudly NOT visited before becoming president of the world’s greatest power – oh but wait, that’s a myth too.
Anyway. I wound up finding myself a very “Old Europe” kind of wine. A Montagne Saint-Émilion called Château Maison Blanche. Maison Blanche as in White House, literally, the building and institution that, thankfully, symbolizes so much more than just the current president. Thinking long-term seemed like a proper perspective, as a toast to the end of the Bush era.
Maison Blanche traces its beginnings to the early 19th Century, when the white manor that graces the property was built, just a few years after the current White House was built in Washington. It now belongs to the Despagne-Rapin family, who moved to organic certification in 2006, after ten years of gradually turning to a more natural approach. Expressing terroir, giving a sense of place and authenticity, and making the wine without any added yeasts, tartric acid, filtration or fining, and even avoiding thermoregulation, oxygenation or any other modern “tricks”. A respectful wine that puts nature above the will of the winemaker. No superiority complex here.
The 2005 Maison Blanche, very reasonably priced, made from a majority of merlot (the rest, 10 to 40%, depending on the vintage, is cabernet franc) shows a lot of substance, with beautiful spicy notes, blackcurrant, a little tobacco, all tightly packed into a youthful compact character. The tannins are ripe but young and firm, coming in after a round and supple start, and then yielding to more herbal and roasted flavors in the end. Complex, counting on good acidity and substance to counteract a 14% alcohol level, this is not a wine that reveals itself in one-liners and thirty-second clips.
In fact, the wine was even better on the second day – giving more credence to Dhonig’s two-day tasting approach. It was expressing more fruit flavors and aromas over the same structure and elegance. In other words, it will open up with time. The 2005 Maison Blanche has a lot of years in front of it. It will still be drinking well when the Bush administration will have become a distant memory.
So I could well use it to toast the end of the Bush era. But there’s really no hurry. Good things come to those who wait.