WBW 63: Finding my muse in a bottle of 1990 Mas La Plana

It seemed like an easy theme, what Rob Bralow proposed for Wine Blogging Wednesday. Find your Muse. That’s easy, here it is:

There, done. And there’s plenty of other songs from that band available on the Internet.

Oh, wait. That’s not what he meant?

All right. Enough with the silly musical asides. But it is a wicked, inspiring song, isn’t it?

But then again, I’m not sure I’m going to rush to listen to that song again in 15, 20 years.

Whereas I can easily see myself inspired, 15 years from now, to go down to the cellar and grab a bottle of Mas La Plana, the 100% cabernet sauvignon, single vineyard cuvée from an old Torres family vineyard in Penedes. Because every time I’ve had that wine, I’ve found something bright, expressive, significant about it, whether I was tasting it young or old.

Last year, I posted about tasting a 1988 I’d pulled out of the cellar for my father’s birthday (and reminisced about the 1981 I’d had a few years before, a wine that was still remarkably fresh at 20 years of age).

A couple of weeks ago, I tasted a 1999 Mas La Plana with a tasting group, in a horizontal tasting of the 99 vintage. It was one of the stars of the evening, with its intense, focused, open aromas and flavors: cherry danish, spice, a touch of coffee and a beautiful finish that went on and on and on. It fared a lot better than the 1999 Le Pigeonnier, a “super” Cahors designed by Michel Rolland for Domaine Lagrézette’s Alain-Dominique Perrin, a superlative cuvée that was actually a very stupid wine: all wood, rough tannins sticking to your teeth, barely any fruit, overextracted, overdone in every way. No muse came over that wine, no divine inspiration, for sure.

But that didn’t stop Robert Parker from being suckered into calling this overblown thing ” the finest wine I have tasted from Cahors. (…) Made from extraordinarily small yields of 18-20 hectoliters per hectare, it is aged for 24-30 months in 100% new French oak, and bottled without filtration. The wine is produced under the guidance of famed oenologist Michel Rolland. A fine wine, an inky/purple-colored offering with tremendous intensity as well as an extraordinary nose of blackberries, cassis, licorice, and smoke. Extremely full-bodied, with low acidity and sweet tannin…” The type of wine that looks good early on, but is all steroid, looking worse and worse as it deflates over time.

No such problem with the more restrained, but always elegant Mas La Plana. The 1990 we opened today didn’t quite have the intensity of the 1999, but it had enough stuffing left to make a good pairing with skirt steak and caramelized onions deglazed with Pedro Ximenez sherry – a tasty, intense dish, to say the least. After showing mostly cedar, right after opening, the nose opened up to freshly cooked jam (not unlike the cherry danish of the 1999, come to think of it), with a bit of spice and a fair bit of mushroom, forest floor character. Not very big on the mouthfeel, but still long and, again, solid enough to be a great match with steak. A firm hand in a silk glove.

Beyond these prosaic tasting notes, is there some poetry to be waxed out of this wine I particularly love? Well, let’s see…

Mas La Plana, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Gave thee drinkability,

that serves meals so pleasantly;

Gave thee layers of delight;

Softest cherry, flavors bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making the tastebuds rejoice?

Mas La Plana, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Mas La Plana, I’ll tell thee,

Mas La Plana, I’ll tell thee:

He is called Miguel Torres,

And he can make a mean wine

That is intense,  and also mild;

He became a rich man.

In la tierra catalan,

And the world knows his name.

Mas La Plana, I’ll drink thee!

Miguel Torres, I thank thee!

(With a toast to William Blake, and a nod to Randall Grahm, master of the wine-poetic parody)


Tasting Note: 2005 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon, Bodega Catena Zapata

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Wine Blogging Wednesday #52: an inexpensive organic red from Chile

When I heard about the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday number 52, Value Reds From Chile, proposed by Tim of the Cheap Wine Ratings blog, I knew that it was right up my alley. After all, for Wine Blogging Wednesday #48, when Lenn Thompson asked us to go back to our roots, to the first wines we liked to drink, I went straight back to Chilean cabernets.

And since, as far as I’m concerned, the most interesting ones are generally under 20$ (or only a little above that), it wasn’t too difficult to follow Tim’s lead and stay under the 20$ line.

But beyond the price, I thought I’d try (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 48: Catching Up with Chilean Cab

I had a moment of hesitation, when I read Lenn Thompson’s announcement for the 4-year anniversary edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. As he called upon us to go back to our roots, to taste back wines we particularly favored early in our wine guzzling tasting days, I immediately thought of Robert Mondavi’s 1987 Napa Valley Reserve Pinot Noir, which had been my first revelation of the potential of wine to enlighten life. But with the man himself gone and his own brand name disposessed from him and his family, it just didn’t seem right. Sometimes, you just can’t go back.

So instead, I turned my eyes south. Way south.

Back when I started to be truly interested in wine (more…)

Tasting Note: Gran Coronas Mas La Plana 1988, Penedès, Miguel Torres

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Tasting note: 1997 California Cabernet Sauvignon

On the evening following the death of Napa Valley legend Robert Mondavi, I headed with a higher than usual level of anticipation to my main wine tasting group’s tasting on 1997 California Cabernet Sauvignon. The events of the day put the tasting under a special light, with everyone wondering, on arrival, whether or not a Mondavi cabernet would be part of this enticing line-up.

The first sip of the evening, after touring the aromatic landscapes of the nine wines decanted for the occasion, was accompanied with a toast to Robert Mondavi, with everyone saluting the spirit of the man. Doing it with the best vintage in recent memory seemed quite fitting.

We were tasting blind, which I always prefer, but when the bottles were pulled out at the end of the tasting (more…)

This wine tastes like a million bucks

If you have any doubts that blind tasting is essential to formulating a relatively objective judgment about a wine, you just have to read this article sent out on the wires by Agence France-Presse. It summarizes a study conducted at the California Institute of Technology, which demonstrates quite clearly that our knowledge about the (supposed) price of a wine influences the pleasure we take drinking it.

Researchers scanned the brains of subjects who were drinking (more…)

Tasting Note: Mas de Daumas Gassac 1997

Those of you who saw Mondovino, the militant artisan-wine documentary by Jonathan Nossiter, will remember Aimé Guibert as the stern looking man who declares that “le vin est mort” (wine is dead). More importantly, you should know him as a remarkable winemaker and vigneron whose Mas de Daumas Gassac is a truly remarkable domaine.

Yesterday, I opened a red Mas de Daumas Gassac 1997 for a dinner with my parents, my sister and her family (and my family, of course). From the minute I started pouring it in the decanter, wonderful aromas of well-evolved cabernet sauvignon (80% of the blend, with 20% coming from eight (!) other varietals) floated up to my nose. It certainly seemed to have evolved quite nicely.

I poured some in a glass, to get a first impression, and started smiling instantly. Handed the glass over to my mother, who tasted it, smiled too, and said “le vin n’est pas mort” – (this) wine is not dead.  Indeed it wasn’t.

After a couple of hours in the decanter, it showed beautiful aromas of tobacco and leather, with a certain amount of fruit (blackberry, plum, I believe). The color, a bright garnet, was just beautiful to  look at. It showed on the palate with corresponding flavors, medium-bodied, with considerable elegance and good length.  I kept getting the impression that the 20% of other varietals played a very interesting role in the wine, adding complexity and a sort of vibrant character to the very typical cabernet aromas. Lots of drinkability, and a lot of pleasure shared around the table – which is the point of cellaring and opening up bottles like that, isn’t it?

Now, 1997 (the 20th harvest at the Mas) was a complicated vintage, as Guibert’s technical sheet points out (you can find it here – in French only). Early flowering, lots of rain and lots of heat, so much so that ripening stalled in late August. Not taking any chances, Guibert picked the wine then and saved himself from a risky autumn season. So you don’t get the power of, say, the 1995, but you get a very approachable wine that is now mature and complex and highly pleasurable, yet very precise and well-defined. I’ve loved the wine every time I’ve tasted it, and yesterday was no exception.

Published in: on August 24, 2007 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment