Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vintage hysteria, high expectations and 2008 “L’Apôtre”

(David Léclapart)

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”Alexander Pope

I think we have all been there, right? Expecting too much and ending up disappointed. With a colleague, your company, your best friend, your spouse or maybe even a bottle of wine. Expectations are the result of looking ahead, thinking solution orientated and imagine (maybe even dreaming) of a happy end. When failure arrives at our doorstep, we obviously ask ourselves why? Did we overlook something? Or were unexpected variables responsible for the negative outcome and can we actually blame someone other than ourselves?

Wine is indeed exposed to high expectations and holds a complex field of variables, which sets complex scenarios.

One of the most expectation adding variables is vintage hyping. The declaring of a great vintage will obviously raise the bar and expectations.

Vintage has always been a key driver for wine lovers. If you get caught inside the wine universe, you have also learned to pay attention to details. We constantly search for wines, which can enlighten our sense hungry minds a little more than our last experience and provide us with those unforgettable moments.

So we plan well ahead to be in our comfort zone. We look for a bulletproof plan, by cherry picking the best vintages and carefully (unless your are a billionaire) plan our future wine purchases. Why shouldn’t we? Wine education tells you to be selective; otherwise your finances will run dry

Paying attention to vintage is logical – but also a blind alley and not a guarantee.  Especially because wine journalists often compose the declaration of a vintage, which tends to follow a framework, which might not take into account how you drink wine. I mean, how many speak about the simple drinking pleasure and how food diverse the wine or vintage may be? I couldn’t care less about +60 second finishes and only hearing praise for vintages with the highest testosterone.

I find myself split on vintage and high expectations. It really depends, how much I pay attention to vintage. When I get my yearly allocation on producers like Ganevat, Cossard or Cédric Bouchard, I don’t really care about the vintage. I just buy them (if I can afford them), because I know they will have something to offer. And what if it’s on paper not a great vintage? Maybe it will just taste better young? Cellar the big vintage and drink the smaller vintages. Great plan as I see it. I think there is almost nothing worse than seeing tasters obviously disappointed with a wine in a “great vintage”, trying to prove for themselves that the wine was still fantastic.

So even if I find the whole vintage thing one big mass psychoses I would be lying to you if I said that vintage didn’t matter to me and I never tried to find an alibi for a wine, which didn’t live up to my expectations.

It actually happened a couple of days ago.   

2008 David Léclapart “L’Apôtre”

Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Dosage: 0 g/l
Vines: Planted in 1946 
Vineyard:0,31ha Lieu-dit “La Pierre St-Martin”
Fermentation: Oak-barrels. 
Other: Biodynamic stuff
Glass: Zalto White wine

Oh yes I had high expectations. Why not? I have a thing with David and his wines and there is always something in the air, when I taste his Champagnes. 

I even tasted the 2008 “in the “L’Apôtre” Vertical 1999 >>> 2009” back in Nov-2013 with David and was blown away by its intensity. It certainly lived up to the hype about the 2008 vintage in Champagne. Vertical tasting are really educational, as you can almost outline the younger wines path and imaging their potential Sure, having tasted almost all releases of L’Apôtre from youth, I knew there was a risk of it being simple too young. I even knew that L’Apôtre would be slow starter.

Day one – Friday. A leaf day btw - So not a good day to drink wine, according to the biodynamic lunar calendar. I think I have never tasted a Champagne this shy and 110% completely closed. There was simply nothing to gain from the nose other than the sense of something very clean. The taste had an insane acidity, which felt like a thousand citrus fruits being crushed on your tongue. I would be lying, if I said it was good. More a study than actually pleasure. If I had to conclude something from this day I would have no idea what to write other than I had too high expectations. Did I hype it too much or what had happened since Nov-2013. I found myself making the same excuses that I somehow find rather pathetic; when a taster just can’t get himself to say it’s not a good wine, but feverishly try to argue their way out of the problem. My wife and I drank half of the bottle and I decided to leave the other half for the next day, where I had the entire half for myself.

Day two – Saturday. A fruit day and even if I don’t have that great success with the bio-calendar, I still found myself in this search for meaning (and still hoping) over my Friday disappointment. Mama-Mia – WOW!!! I wouldn’t say that the wine was actually open now and a flowering fruit bomb. But what revealed itself was one hell of an insane electric Champagne, setting the bar for energy higher than I have ever seen before. The aromatic notes are still very primary with tons of ripe citrus tonality, soil intensity and this nerve wrecking acidity still cuts all the way through the wine. With vintages like 2002 and 2004 “L’Apôtre”, which has occasionally also shut down, especially shortly after release I would obviously recommend seriously cellaring here. However “L’Apôtre” is known to open up again before heading for a more mature window. When that is – I have no clue. But damn – what a Champagne it will be, when it unfolds.

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