I remember, for instance, a group of us, back in the 1970’s tasting lots of German wines–Rauenthaler Baiken; Rauenthaler Gehren, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Steinberger & Bernkastler Doktor, just to name a few. Yes, these were some of the standout German vineyards of the time & tasting the 1971, 1975 & 1976 was truly awe inspiring. & me being the youngster I had to write down the names phonetically, so I could try to remember each & its pronounciation. Today, I wonder how many here in the Islands know what each of these names represent? It has, in fact, been a while since I have even seen a bottle of any of these locally.
Back then, I think many insiders would say each of the above sites could be considered Grand Cru, if there ever was such a thing in Germany.
I was also reminded how much the climate has changed since then. At least on the top echelon of producers, a Kabinett back then was VERY different from a Kabinett today in terms of weight, extract, physiological ripeness & potential alcohol. Part of this is due to the generous sunshine, but something can also be said about top producers looking to make much more impactful styles of wine. I just tasted, for instance, through a line-up of Kabinett from the 2012 & 2013 vintage. I was astounded to see that most of these were harvested somewhere around 90 to 93 degrees Oechsle, which in the old days would have been labeled as an auslese. For me, then, the window of suitable food pairings changes significantly. Not better or worse…..just different.
And what has happened to the Syrah grape variety? It seems to have fallen off in popularity. What a sad state of decline. Syrah was once at the top of the quality pyramid.
The Chave family, as an example, was & still is, one of the world’s all time iconic wine families, mostly because of their grand Syrah based Hermitage red wine. Yes, the family has been working their magic on this legendary hillside since the late 1400’s. We just tasted a 1987 tonight & it was truly majestic & full of pedigree. 6 nights ago, we tasted another standout Syrah based red wine, the 1996 Noel Verset Cornas, & it too was an unforgettable experience we will treasure forever. So, what’s up? Why aren’t more people getting it?
It probably has, at least partially, something to do with deliciousness. The same can be said about Italian Nebbiolo based red wines–Barolo, Barbaresco & Gattinara. I would have also readily said the same kinds of things for St Emilion red wines several years back, but the garage-ists, Christian Mouiex & Michel Rolland has helped changed all of that, just as Angelo Gaja has done in Piemonte & Guigal has done with Cote Rotie.
Hopefully, Syrah based wines will not become an “endangered species” kind of thing, where wine lovers report rare sightings of the nearly extinct–rustic, typical, authentic wines of the world such as traditional styled Hermitage, Cote Rotie, Cornas, Barolo & Barbaresco, just to name a few. I am hoping we as an industry look to appreciate, celebrate & sell BOTH the traditional & more modern styles of each. In the field of music, after all, isn’t there a niche, appreciation & occasion for Bach, Mozart, Frank Sinatra & the Beatles still, in addition to the new tunes?
Lastly, we have also seen a whole generation of winemakers change……maybe even 2 generations. Who keeps track? Marius Gentaz, Gerard Chave, Wilhelm Haag, Noel Verset, Aldo Conterno, Giovanni Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello…the list goes on & on. The remembrance of a young boy creating a chalk drawing….& many years later…. 3 months before his passing…..scribbled his name below. This picture sits above our hostess stand at Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas & I am reminded daily of those game changers who have brought us here.
Today, who will represent the new generation in the Hall of Fame?