I was at my wine store the other day, putting together some orders, one of which included a couple of bottles of Domaine La Colombette Chardonnay Demi-Muid 2006 Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Libron. There was a box already open, with three of the six bottles left in the bottom of the box. I took a couple out, only to find that one of them had (for want of a better expression) sprung a leak. What you see in the picture on the left is how the bottle looked. You can see from the level that there was a good 2 or 3 centimetres of ullage - not something you expect to see in a 3 year-old screwcapped bottle of wine. More importantly, some of the wine that had leaked out was still trapped inbetween the metal and the plastic "tamper-proof" covering. The dark brown colour, the sticky texture and the burnt toffee smell would suggest that the wine had been seeping out of the bottle for a good while - possibly since bottling, but certainly since it was shipped (around a year ago). Suffice to say that such a bottle was unsaleable, so I had little option but to take it home and drink it myself - or more likely, I thought, use it in cooking or pour it down the sink. Which was more than a little annoying, because this is a situation I have been faced with on several occasions in the past. Not just with this particular wine, but others, too.
The picture on the right was taken after I had removed the plastic covering and removed and cleaned the cap. There were actually three dints on the top of the cap (you can see two on the photo) and these were obviously more than enough enough to break the seal between the glass and the cap. I'm not sure how there came to be three dints, but the bottle had obviously been subjected to a some knocks. The fact that this particular wine is shipped in "laying down" boxes probably doesn't help, since the sides of the boxes are much more prone to knocks than the top. And as screwcapped wines (even those designed for extended ageing) don't actually need to be laid down, then why not just box them in the upright position? Frankly, I'm a bit fed up with having to write-off so many bottles of wine in this way - I'm trying to make money selling the stuff! Suffice to say that I will be having words with the growers when I meet up with them in just over a week's time. Since the alternative closures they offer are those bloody awful, rock-hard plastic "corks", I will be asking them to either consider DIAM closures (see my 29/12/2008 entry below) or to ship their screwcapped wines upright.
Anyway, this particular story had an unusually happy ending. Far form being spoilt (as was my experience on couple of previous occasions) the wine was in remarkably good condition - in fact, it was absolutely delicious, and probably still with a few years of ageworthiness left in it. Mid-gold and very clear and bright, it was full of ripe stone fruit aromas and flavours, with notes of honey, lemon and beautifully-judged oak. And beautifully poised, too, combining a certain richness with fresh mineral flavours, ample acidity and a fair length on the finish. I still haven't changed my opinion that this wine (and not just based on the evidence of this vintage, but earlier ones, too) is the best Chardonnay I have tasted from the Languedoc. I think I shall set a few bottles aside, to enjoy over the next 5 or so years, as it will be interesting to see how it develops. It really is cracking stuff, and I'm actually quite pleased that I was "forced" to drink it!
I have just taken delivery of a top-up order from Domaine Treloar (same wines as before, but new vintages will be arriving in a month or two) and now have Domaine Treloar Motus 2006 Cotes du Roussillon back in stock, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to enjoy a bottle to see how it is developing. And the answer is..... very nicely indeed. Although still quite primary on opening (sweet bramble and blackcurrant fruit, juicy acidity and firm but fine tannins) it is starting to shed some of its puppy fat and is developing some interesting secondary aromas. The notes of volatile acidity have receded and the fruit has started to eat away at the charred oak, with some nice earthy/undergrowth and cedarwood notes developing. It is very concentrated, but balanced and elegant at the same time - in fact, it is becoming more and more like a great Bandol, though somewhat easier to drink at this relatively early stage in its development. If you have some, don't be afraid to crack a bottle or two now - but then again, don't be afraid to tuck some away for another 5 or 10 years. It is a real stunner!