Why I like the wines I like

Why I like the wines I like
The first impression takes precedence above all else - a refreshed palate, still savouring the wine just swallowed, the flavours still lingering on the palate and in the mind, which is trying to memorise and analyse the taste.

I read an article with this title sometime ago and the title caught my attention. A simple statement, intriguing, challenging. Makes you pause. And think.

Why do we like things, people, food, drink? Confining ourselves to food and drink, things we consume, clearly the simple answer to the question, Why I like the wines I like, can be answered thus: Because I enjoy drinking them! That would be my answer.

There are other possible answers, of course, depending on the criteria used. My key criterion is "enjoyment". But that raises the question: Why do you enjoy them? Very intriguing. It is obvious that different people will have different answers. What do you look for when you drink wine?

Translate that into: What do you (personally) actually, consciously and/or subconsciously look for when you drink a wine?

Last night, I had dinner in a Japanese Yakuniku restaurant. The menu centres on beef. Different sources, different cuts, with different degrees of fat. A very good restaurant incidentally, not exactly cheap but then Japanese beef is not cheap. I chose a La Fleur de Gay 1990 to drink with the meal. A rarely seen Pomerol, relatively unknown, but from a great year.

Chateau La Fleur de Gay 1990

Bought en primeur 1992. Sadly last bottle! Deep very dark red with brownish notes. Lovely fresh and strong aroma of very ripe matured fruit, lots of black truffles against the orangey base.

On the palate, silky, rich mouthful of very ripe berry fruit; dense, very firm body, flavours of black coffee, mixed with very ripe orange flavour and shades of black truffles; finishing very complex, and very long. At peak, will hold easily for another six to eight years. Lovely wine.

La Fleur de Gay did not exist before 1982. In that year, the owners of Chateau La Croix de Gay, Alan Raynaud and Oliver Lebreton, separated the harvest from the three best parcels of Chateau La Croix de Gay and vinified them separately from the rest of the harvest. The resulting wine was bottled under the name of Chateau La Fleur de Gay, cepage 100 per cent Merlot.

La Fleur de Gay 1990 was very pleasing, very enjoyable. I kept on reaching for my glass after each swallow. Why? This wine exhibits some of the criteria.

The first impression I look for after the initial visible (sight) and aroma (smell) is the "mouth-feel". This is the total sensory impressions received when the wine is held in the mouth before swallowing. The taste, the weight, the density, and above all, the degree of freshness or otherwise. My mind registers their messages.

"Fresh" is, for me, the first attribute I look for, and if it is present, the others take their place in the pecking order. Size, weight, sweetness, ripeness, acidity, tannin, complexity, elegance, balance.

If the immediate impression is "not fresh", this is sad. Something has gone wrong with this wine. And then I look for the rest - such as sweetness and ripeness. Even if they register well, the "not fresh" is like a sentence of "guilty"! Thereafter, I lose interest and decide the wine is not drinkable.

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