Château Barreyres 2003
For the first taste of this week’s wine we must transport ourselves back fifteen years or so to the early 1990s, or thereabouts. A glass was thrust into my hand, containing a purple-black liquid. The aroma was enticing, a combination of blackcurrant fruit with a sweet, overtly minty character. The palate, as I recall, didn’t disappoint, showing the same richness of fruit and flavour, but with a refreshing character that in later years I would learn was related to the acidity and balance of the wine, although at that time those words hadn’t really entered my wine vocabulary. A little investigation revealed the wine to be from Château Barreyres, the vintage long forgotten although, based on my memories of the wine, today I fantasise that it was probably a 1989. It would seem to fit with this vintage, its characteristics not quite right for 1990 or 1986, and certainly not a 1987 or 1991. I suppose 1988 is an outside possibility. Whatever, the vintage doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that having enjoyed this first (that I really recall) taste of Bordeaux, it started me down the road to my current appreciation of the region’s more exalted wines.
The nose of that wine certainly spoke to me very clearly. Interestingly, my host was a teetotaller who chose his wines (for his family and guests) based on aroma alone. A very unusual situation, I’m sure you will agree, but I was clear at the time why this wine had been purchased. I’ve never forgotten Barreyres over the years, the intensity of the aroma and refreshing character of the palate burned on my mind. I still drink it, although I am quite aware of the rose-tinted spectacles through which I now view that first experience, and aware therefore that I will never recapture that moment of magic. Fortunately the wines do still have some intrinsic quality that makes the occasional taste worthwhile, and I always find them to be a good marker for the vintage, displaying its character quite clearly, although I find it more successful in weaker vintages than its ‘lowly’ Cru Bourgeois status might otherwise suggest.
This week’s wine, the Château Barreyres 2003, from a very hot vintage that was subject to just as much hype as 2005 was, if not more. is very true to form. It has a lovely deep colour when decanted, plainly rich but not black or opaque, a welcome sign. The nose kicks off with a blast of super-ripe fruit, firmly in the blueberry-blackcurrant arena. It suddenly whisks me back to the Il Campo in late 2005, where I had my first taste of several 2003 Chianti Classicos; this wine has that same plump, super-ripe fruit character that comes from a very warm vintage, which obviously crosses geographical and varietal boundaries. In the glass it opens up further, tossing up some background buttery oak, roasted coffee and a clear, vibrant, smoky charcoal. It starts off rather spirity and off-putting, but with a little time I really warm to the nose. The palate has a welcoming, plump, rounded entry with a soft, open-knit style, fairly firm although not unobtrusive tannins and low acidity. It maintains a slightly reserved character through the midpalate though, despite the obvious fruit, so it remains identifiably claret. The only twinge of concern is on the finish, where suddenly it all looks a little attenuated and stretched, as the fruit fades and the structure persists with a slightly inky presence. A good wine, not for anything other than short-term keeping. It’s not quite reminiscent of that early taste of Barreyres, lacking the even blend of balance, intensity and persistence that a truly great vintage brings, but it offers an appealing, short and for me sentimental journey just the same. 16/20 (4/9/06)