March 17, 2012

Midnight in Paris

So I finally saw Midnight in Paris, after far too much delay. I have a special fondness for Woody Allen movies, as I suppose many people do. My fondness feels different though, special to me anyway.

However, you must know this. If you go to the movies with me, you'll find me momentarily distracted by anything wine-related. So please excuse me if the scene where Owen Wilson and company taste wines overlooking beautiful Paris caught my eye. I believe they were allegedly tasting old things like Haut Brion, obvious for its distinctive bottle shape and iconic label.

But what was this? Rausan-Segla, a second growth from Margaux, on the table with several old legends? Sure, it's an historic property and would fit in the line up, but the label was all wrong. The bottle pictured - assuming I'm correct and I've tried without success to find a photo on the interwebs - showed a contemporary Rausan-Segla label, the exact same as a bottle I have in the cellar, one that already happened to be on the same shelf as many others waiting to be opened. One I've meant to get to for a while.

This bottle is different from the many strays I've collected. I suppose it shows my patience. I bought a pair of the 1994 Rausan-Segla Margaux in the late '90s at the Ashbury Market, the lovely little market across the street from my San Francisco apartment of many years, long known for its excellent wine shop. Last summer on a visit to the old neighborhood, I sadly found the market shuttered. Yet I clearly remember picking out this wine, the Wong family cashier remarking on my bold purchase of two not inexpensive bottles. My rationale at the time? Bordeaux prices were skyrocketing, I'd spent a good deal of time in France in 1994 and had an irrational fondness for the vintage there, and I wanted some wine that I could and should age, patiently, with the hope that some day I'd open them and be rewarded.

I never opened either bottle. They sat for a year or two in the interior closet of the apartment, honeycomb stacked with several other bottles. I packed them up in boxes and moved to Portland in 2000, where they rested for a year in the basement of a rental house, then for more than a decade in the basement of our bungalow in NE. Untouched, or at least unopened.

I thought many times about what would be inside. 1994 is a sentimental vintage for me, but not necessarily a great year anywhere in France. It was a warm year overall, but rains in many areas, including Bordeaux, cause the year to be overlooked by more obvious vintages. Overall, there's a hardness, a lean quality to the wines of this year, something I enjoy for the lack of plump, even fat ripe flavors that increasingly afflict even the classics of old France.

Seeing Midnight in Paris and being momentarily distracted by the apparently off-period label told me something - it's time to open this wine. So tonight was the night, for the first bottle at least. Again, you can see the dark, youthful color of a wine that smells no more than seven or eight years old. It's amazing how wines can persevere. The aromas are classic old school Bordeaux. Lean but rich at once, currants, gravel, toast and slight bell pepper notes that scream left bank cabernet sauvignon. The flavors are medium bodied, delicate if you're a fan of lightness, dilute if you're looking for power and richness. This is elegant Bordeaux, piquant but not lacking flavor and length. Young, but the tannin I've read about in early tasting notes of this wine seem resolved, or resolving. It was delicious with grilled flat iron steak, fresh asparagus and rice. And afterwards, as I lingered over a glass to sniff and taste, thinking of Paris, of Fitzgerald and Cole Porter, dreaming for a moment of a late night wander through Parisian streets, searching.

I should remain patient. I have one more of these, and while it's not the world's greatest wine, it's more special to me still. And given what I tasted, I'm sure this wine will last and perhaps improve over another decade. I'll wait and see.


D J R-S said... own Rausan-Ségla moment is a bit fraught...thought I'd share.

Jeff said...

Beautifully written, very nice.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks for the kind words Jeff. Welcome.

And David, nice post. I have an '81 Rausan-Segla in the queue. We'll see if it surprises as well.