Domaine de Baruel 1996
This week's wine is not 1998 Pin, from La Spinetta.
That may seem a rather strange way to introduce this week's actual wine, which is the 1996 vintage from Domaine de Baruel, but please let me explain. La Spinetta's Pin was going to be my featured wine, but when I opened and decanted it last night, an hour or so before dinner was due, it was not long before I realised it was corked. And it was the last of my small handful of bottles, too, all of which I picked up in a January sale for a song, four or five years ago. This was a shame, as I had hoped to bring forth a little anecdote about the wine. In fact I am so disappointed that I will recount my silly tale anyway, which is a case of vinous mistaken identity. I am happy to say it does not directly involve me, but rather a wine merchant I know.
The merchant in question told me, on one of my regular visits to his store, that he once welcomed into his store a customer who had quite a feverish air. He had come to collect a special bottle that his brother, who worked in a foreign country, had ordered for him, as a birthday treat, by telephone. His tremulous state was, unfortunately, the result of some confusion. His wide-eyed anticipation reflected his belief that he was about to collect a bottle of the ultra-pricy and, based on my tastings of recent vintages, ultra-delicious Le Pin. But his brother had stopped somewhat short of that; he had chosen a bottle of Pin, from La Spinetta in Piedmont, Italy. Not, in my opinion, a gift to be sneezed at, even if it isn't a bottle of Bordeaux's most expensive wine.
Those who know my love for the Loire will probably scratch their heads when they realise my interest in wines such as Pin. La Spinetta's Pin has the sort of style that comes in for criticism from those who despise 'spoofulated' wines; after all, it ticks many of the boxes. Ripe fruit, plenty of extraction, fancy handling in the cellar and toasty new oak. But I have nothing against ripe fruit; I don't favour the Loire because the fruit fails to ripen, I adore the wines because of the unique, mineral character and freshness they possess. Look beyond the herbaceous wines of the region that some seem to actually favour and you will find these wines. In Pin we also have freshness, because there has always been - on previous tastings at least - lovely acidity behind the rich, heady fruit. And the oak has always been well integrated into the wine. I admit it is a different style of wine to that which I normally drink, and it is perhaps not something I would like to drink every day, but the occasional bottle of wines like this certainly have a place in my cellar, amongst all the Chinon, Savennières and Cheverny.
And not forgetting the odd bottle from the Languedoc, of course, which of course brings us to this week's Replacement Weekend Wine (hopefully not a regular new feature). This turned out to be the 1996 from Domaine de Baruel, an estate not entirely new to these pages; as well as my profile I have also previously featured the 1991. This bottle was plucked from the back of my wine fridge, a convenient replacement in the situation, and one of a number of bottles I have cellared. It didn't have long in the decanter before tasting, but with a little time it soon showed some appealing iron and blood notes on the nose, which really remained rather withdrawn throughout the evening. Later there came a note of perfume, of violets, but it never really revealed its softer side on the nose or indeed on the palate, where it has a dry, rather savoury character with a firm, slightly peppery core of tannins, beneath a rather stretched out texture and an adequate but not plush veneer of fruit. It has a slightly loose-knit feel to it at present, moderately full and flavoursome, but without the direction or vigour that would really take it to another level. Based on this tasting I would think this is acting a little sullen at present, and although pleasurable now I suspect given three or four years it will be something very different. Nevertheless, it was great with a hearty roast, and perfect for Bordeaux classicists who wish to avoid the plump fruit of modern Bordeaux. 16.5+/20 (24/11/08)