For my third and final day at Montreal's Salon des Vins I once again went with the intention to focus on a specific region (Loire), but ended up distracted (those who know me well will not be surprised) by some Italian imports and a Rioja vertical. Another 16 wines, these were the highlights:
- the Rioja house Marques de Caceres was pouring Grand Reservas from 1981, 1985 and 1986. I was all over this - I rarely taste older wines and I cannot recall an aged Rioja. The '81 was drinking very well, with earthy, nutty and cooked fruit notes, very smooth on the palate, but clearly not getting any better. The '85 had a similar nose, perhaps a touch more complex, but thin and simple on the palate, and simply less vibrant. The '86 was probably drinking the best, adding some truffle, tobacco and rose petals on the nose, velvety with more fruit on the palate and less 'tired' than the other two...delicious. They also had a 2000 Gran Reserva on offer - do I detect a change in the house style? More alcohol and jammier fruit on the nose, mild tannins and modest acid - will this age like its elders? Hmmm
- I didn't miss the Loire completely, tasting a sparkler from the Touraine, a moelleux from Savennieres and two inexpensive whites from Samur. With Brooklynguy exploring sparklers from "elsewhere in France" I had to try that Touraine - the 2003 Monmousseau Brut Cuvée J.M. had very fine bubbles, a modest mouse, and a very nice yeasty/apple-y nose with some hints of spring flowers. Gripping and quite minerally on the palate with a nice lemon peel finish, this would pair very nicely with food. (much better than the Cremant d'Alsace I tasted...)
- I had some very nice Italian pours as well, finding a distributor with a bevy of obscure "special import" Italian wines. The highlight was the 2001 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Reserva - made from 100% aglianico it was very aromatic, velvety smooth, and extremely poised, with acid fruit and tannin in perfect harmony.
- The weirdest pour was a 1986 Chateau Chalon Vin Jaune from Jura. Green with nice secondary aromas - a touch caramelized on the nose, it was surprisingly fresh and alive for a 20+ year old white wine that is not sweet or fortified. Made from the rare Savagnin grape, it would work nicely with cheese.
I truly enjoyed this opportunity to taste broadly in a large setting - I tasted a number of new appellations and grapes, some aged wines and found some wines otherwise unavailable - success! And while this conference was helpful in resolving Edward's Wine Drinkers Dilemma for me, it also highlighted for me just how small that "drop" really is.
Criticisms? It was big, crowded and full of perfume/cologne wearing individuals. Some pours were expensive, but 'half-pours' were always available and many of the servers made up for that by being 'generous', pouring some of the other wines on offer 'gratis'.
I look forward to attending more tastings like these in 2008.