Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Historical XIX Century Wine (at XXI Century Prices)

LA-based wine collector and Parker Board legend Jeff Leve has posted a scoop on a fascinating new project from Chateau Palmer: a blended wine consisting of 85% Bordeaux from Palmer's estate in Margaux and 15% Syrah. Called "Historical XIX Century Wine," this new offering is an homage to the bad old days when Bordeaux proprietors would routinely blend the traditional Bordeaux grape varietals with Syrah for added ripeness and heft. While this practice of adulteration has gone the way of adding ice to the vats to cool fermentation, Chateau Palmer apparently believes that collectors will chase this new offering for a chance to taste history.

As Leve notes, the French AOC laws create an interesting situation for this wine, as it must be labelled a vin de table, rather than Bordeaux, because the grapes come from two different regions. Also, as a vin de table, it cannot be labelled with a vintage year (this offering is from vintage 2004). The Bordeaux varietals are 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, but the Chateau is refusing to publicize the source of the Syrah (presumably from somewhere in the Rhone), so as not to adulterate the Bordeaux branding of the bottling and the estate.

Leve, who is famously close with Chateau owners and routinely hosts Bordeaux winemakers at his home, gives this 19th century throwback a favorable tasting note, calling it a fascinating blend of Hermitage and Bordeaux characteristics ("96 Pts"). But with only 100 cases made in 2004 -- and none in the 2005 and 2006 vintages -- few wine collectors will be able to decide for themselves whether this is a worthwhile endeavor or merely a clever marketing gimmick.

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