It has been a good long while since I had a healthy rant, so I figured with a week to go before Armageddon, I would get at least one more rant in (yes, that was a political allusion, if you do not share my views on the soon to be leader of the free world, that is certainly your choice and we should talk about it maturely over a glass of wine!).
This rant is a tough one since there are many facets, and it is not entirely clear where I should focus my wrath, which is why I have you, my trusted reader, to set me straight. As I believe this is essentially an oenological “whodunnit.”
Here are the facts:
- I bought a case of 2010 Couly-Dutheil Chinon Les Chanteaux (Chenin Blanc) in the Spring of 2012 from the importer, Cynthia Hurley Wines.
- The wine stayed in the original shipping case in my cellar in Philly until I moved to Houston this past summer.
- I shipped all my wine by refrigerated carrier to a wine storage facility here in Houston, where it remained until I retrieved it just over a month ago once I had finished my wine cellar.
- These bottles I actually placed in a commercial wine refrigerator located on the third floor of my house, where they remained until New Year’s Eve.
- On New Year’s Eve, I opened a bottle and it was dark yellow and clearly badly oxidized. As I was watching my football team get pummeled that night, I figured I would open another bottle. Same result.
- Depressed by both the wine and the game, I proceeded to open every bottle of the wine and all were as badly oxidized as the previous.
- All of the bottles were closed with a synthetic stopper made by Nomacorc.
After that fateful night, I waited a few days before sending a note to the importer, expressing my displeasure, and I received no response. After another week, I resent the email to another in the company. Again, absolutely no response.
As I mentioned in my email, I realized that the wines were “older” but since Chenin Blanc is a variety with the capability to age very well (I opened a 2001 the same week and it was delightful), I would expect that while the wines might not be as “fresh” as they would have been a few years ago, they should not have been virtually undrinkable. I also acknowledge that there are a few Loire Valley Chenins that are produced in an oxidative style (Nicolas Joly’s Clos de la Coulée de Serrant comes to mind), but that is not the case with Couly-Dutheil’s Les Chanteaux. In fact, I tasted the wine at the winery in 2014 and it was wonderful.
I would like to be clear; I was not looking for any recompense, but rather acknowledgement that something was amiss with the wines. Had they simply replied: “Wow, sorry about that, but we always suggest that you consume wines you purchase from us in the first three hours of receiving them. Sorry bub!” I would still have been more than perturbed, but I would also not be writing this now.
But they didn’t.
In fact, they have not replied in any way whatsoever.
So, who is to blame?
Here are the prime suspects.
- The Vintage: by all accounts, 2010 was a good to stellar year in the Loire.
- The Producer, Couly-Dutheil: Until this event, I considered C-D among my favorite producers in Chinon and perhaps all of the Loire. If nothing else, they potentially showed poor judgment in the wine making process, particularly in using the next suspect….
- The Stopper made by Nomacorc: I have bashed the use of synthetic “corks” before, and this only reinforced my disdain. While some might see synthetics as an economical alternative for short-term storage, I know of no one (other than the manufacturer, possibly) that would claim it is good for keeping a wine any more than a year or two (at most). There was, however, absolutely no way for me to know that the bottle was closed with such a device. I assumed, since I paid about $25/bottle, that this was a quality wine, ergo could be held for more than a couple of years. I have long felt that since producers continue to use the obsolete foil on top of the bottle (it is pretty much useless), they should have to disclose what type of closure is underneath. Had I known these wines were stopped with a synthetic, I doubt I would have purchased the wine, let alone hold on to them for a few years.
- The Importer, Cynthia Hurley: I have purchased wines from this importer before, and I have always been pleased. I hesitate to assign any culpability here, but their collective silence is “deafening.”
- The Moving Company/Storage Facility: While certainly possible that something occurred during transit, it is highly unlikely as the other wines I have tried have been fine and the storage facility is one of the most respected in Houston.
- Me: I am fully willing to admit that it is possible that I simply waited too long to pop these wines, but given my previous assertions, it is hard for me to fathom that every single wine was equally bad. One? Certainly. A couple. OK. But every single one?
So what do you think? Is there a culprit to be found? Or am I just screaming “sour grapes” (pun intended)?