Sunday, the New York Times ran a piece by Florence Fabricant in the Magazine section on white wine paired with cheese. The fundamental argument is sound (and has been made before), but several details along the way made me very disgruntled.
1. Name-dropping + absurd reductionism:
"Ever since I was taught, by none other than Aubert de Villaine, an owner of the esteemed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy, that good red wine is not flattered by cheese, I have been annoying restaurateurs and friends on the subject. With cheeses, de Villaine pours Le Montrachet, a buttery white Burgundy, never his top-of-the-line reds."
So, Le Montrachet is just a trifle, alongside the reds? Um?
2. Fabricant's conclusion:
"My personal theory is that the fixation on red wine with cheese is a Victorian English conceit. Dinners in which women participated were usually served with white wine, typically riesling. At the end of the meal, the men retreated to the library to drink clarets and ports with cheese, none of which were considered proper comestibles for fine ladies."
Yet, at the beginning:
"Christine Salsedo seemed somewhat surprised. 'Most of the time people drink red with cheese,' she said. 'We’re French, so we definitely prefer red.'"
Claret with cheese is a British invention? Yet the accusation is that the country that makes the cheese is traditionally interested in pairing with reds? Quelle disconnect.
3. "The selection included a St.-Marcellin, one of my favorites. 'Do you have any white wines by the glass?' I asked."
Whatever the validity of whites with cheese, St-Marcellin is not one of them. It cries out for Beaujolais.
Please, please, just make this woman go away.
End of extremely annoyed post.
When we woke up at 9am on Sunday morning, it was icy outside in Tours. A half-hour later, we were walking down a stone staircase to the banks of the Loire, where our car was on a curb next to a full parking strip. We used a pocket mirror to scrape down the ice and got in.
Forty-five minutes of winter wonderland by the banks of the Loire river led us toward Bourgueil, then we turned to Azay-le-Rideau and took the long, smooth, hilly road straight for Chinon.
We drove the car into Yvon’s cave, where eight people – three of them Arnaud’s cousins – were standing by a big vat, with Yvon filling bottles and different participants moving filled crates toward the corking instrument. The bottling of the 2006 would go fairly quickly. We tasted a glass of the 2007 rosé, but it was still in some fermentation stage and we spat it, laughing. The 2006 was cold but rolling around on the tongue gave notes of perfect Chinon-ness; violets and light sour cherries.
Then we turned the car around in the different pits and valleys of the cavern and drove off with five clanking cases toward Arnaud’s family cave in Beaumont-en-Véron, beneath the vineyards. We would have to make room for the 2006 amid the other years and other regions on his concrete shelves, right across the way from his father’s very orderly rows of Saint-Emilion, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Morgon.
The yearly bottling and stocking of the Chinon is a ritual you get through as quick as you can, because it’s cold – it was colder outdoors than in the 12°C caves – and because afterward, the whole clan gets together around a long table in a local restaurant to feast on coq au vin de Chinon.
But as we corked bottles with the plunging metal apparatus and then clacked cases into our cars, we were far from those steamy, suave aromas of stewed wine and mushrooms and pearl onions.
You have to work for your pittance! And so we did, assiduously, and with great self-abnegation, not touching the wine that flowed from the spout into bottle after bottle that we would cork. And so, after driving to the cave and storing the new wine among the old, as we refilled a case with mismatched years to take back up to Paris for daily consumption, my stomach growled.
I looked over at Arnaud, who smirked at me. “Come on,” he said, as we rounded up two passengers – Benjamin and Anne, who had been meticulous in arranging their stash – and revved up the car to go meet our happy reward, washed down with some 2006 Chinon. And damn if it wasn’t delicious.
Nah, I haven't become a rap star. And I have to admit that in my wine drinking life, I have never quaffed a bottle of Domaines Ott Rosé.
But yesterday we had the Blanc de Blancs. That I had had before. It was during the summer a couple of years back, and Hervé was the most generous of hosts - as soon as night fell and the temperatures cooled, three or four of us would gather on his sprawling roof deck in Paris. And during these evenings, he once told me about the legendary Blanc de Blancs d'Ott. Of course, since Hervé's tales include half-mad cousins living in castles in the Pyrenees, lesbian antique collector friends tromping through Thailand's brothels, and other highly colorful vignettes, he made that wine, with its wafting dry herbs of Provence, sound so enticing, with cliffs overlooking the hot sea. So I found a bottle, that summer, in a wine store on the rue du Bac, and brought it one night.
Of course, it's now cold and drizzly in Paris.
Yesterday, after a photo exhibition opening, Arnaud and I found ourselves on the thin line between Paris's first and second arrondissements at right about apéro time. After ambling through the little streets around the rue Montorgueil, we alighted at the wine bar Wine & Bubbles.
Finishing a couple of glasses of NV Thiénot Brut (had never had this champagne before; it wasn't memorable but drank fine, with a good bitter kick at the end - better, in any case, than the Mumm Cordon Rouge they were serving at the opening beforehand), we ordered some rillettes, jambon de pays, foie gras and my eyes fell upon a bottle of 2005 Ott Blanc de Blancs on the list.
The nose was absolutely mute. Vigorous swirling sent a bit jetting out of the glass (oops), but no aromas seemed to beckon. On the palate, though, there was some complexity, and as the bucket chilled the bottle (it was a touch too warm in the beginning) it started to express its very minerally, iodine notes, with a measure of roundness from its mostly semillon body. No fruit, just mineral, saline, and dried herb notes.
I think this is a wine that needs more age (or a boat off of Hyères, or a roof garden with a rhapsodic host) to be truly expressive, but it was enjoyable. And as the room filled up with young skinny-jean-clad urbanites and a thick haze of cigarette smoke, it did start to seem almost like a rapper scene.
Loving wine is about loss.
Flip the coin and you might also argue that loving wine is a voyage of discovery; every wine tasted - every single one, even brother bottles from the same case - is different, because it is tasted on a different day, at a different stage of its maturity, opened for a different length of time and sipped from different stemware with a different number of people imbibing it and different foodstuffs accompanying it, or not.
But this is why, to me, mélancolique de l'automne that I am, I see it also as a certain sense of loss. You can never wet the rim of your lip with the exact same 1990 Figeac or 2005 Thomas Sancerre Cuvée Spéciale. And that very first taste of Selosse Substance that had me laughing will have me sit back, maybe, at some future point, and furrow my brow, wipe my lip and take another bite of lobster bread pudding.
Wine is an alchemical substance more than a simple draught. It is a philter, and a filter for our experience and our emotions.
So maybe I should be glad it is so unrepeatable. I hate repetition.
I'm in no danger, here.
Just when I didn't think my wine dinners could get more eclectic, they did. The only thing homogeneous about the night was the fact that nearly all of us were Americans. A rare occurence in this Left Bank apartment building. Yet we were thus, Trip, Kathy, Ken, Jodi, Sharon... and Arnaud, just for kicks. (And of course, Arnaud is always a kick and not to be missed on any pretext.)
We assembled ourselves and some wines at my place. As my kitchen is too small for collaboration, I manned it solo...
1999 A. Margaine Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru "Spécial Club" - My opinion on this has changed. I was immediately struck by the dosage, which seemed a little too marked. Beneath it was a classy, yeasty champagne with a nice mouthfeel and length. Good crisp blanc de blanc qualities. But maybe it would have been better with a gram or two less per liter?
1994 Buisson-Charles Meursault - the first time I have had a wine from this producer. The color, while a slightly golden yellow, was not at all worrisome. The nose was pure Meursault: buttery, nutty, delicious chardonnay aromas. In the mouth, it was a little thin, at first, but it was sprightly and very young-seeming. (It turns out that would be the order of the evening: two other wines we would go on to drink would taste far younger than their years.) As it warmed in the glass, it showed itself to be classically styled, nice but somewhat light, as the vintage would suggest. It was drinking very well; Trip commented he would have thought it was a 2001, blind.
I brought out bread and butter - and as it was starting to be devoured, I realized I should get into the kitchen and sear the foie gras. (Yes, indeed, it's a hard life.)
Pan-seared foie gras with pear chutney
1998 Domaine Weinbach Clos des Capucines Tokay Pinot Gris Altenbourg "Cuvée Laurence" - A completely elegant, viscous, wondrous wine that paired perfectly with the foie gras and slightly piquant chutney. Full and lush in the mouth but with a pinot gris delineation and almost offhand nobility, which is so different from gewürz's spices or riesling's wicked minerality and petrol. What a great bottle.
Shepherd's pie with lamb and sweet potatoes, raisins and onions
1993 Ridge Monte Bello - I'd told Ken I was on a Ridge kick, and he went above and beyond. This was an intense wine. Young, incredibly precise and well-crafted, I think this will be even better in ten years. But it already gave a lot of pleasure, with notes of dark fruits and a strong mineral streak.
1973 Sterling Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - Another preternaturally young wine. The fill level was just below the capsule, impeccable storage since its release (thank you, Trip), and a very Bordeauxish Napa cab. I would even give it more time... With some currant and tobacco, very well-structured, as well.
Cheese platter: Reblochon, Comté (24 mo.), Crottins de Chavignol, Langres, Fiancé des Pyrénées (a goat's milk cheese not unlike a Reblochon in shape and style)
Now we were out of American wines... What to do? I grabbed the keys to the cellar, and said, "What do you like from France?" I think I did hear "Burgundy!" I'm not imagining it...
2001 Lignier Charmes-Chambertin - Hey, this is open for business. Smooth, light-handed and very pure pinot fruit, with a bit of a tannic bite at the end that to me signals 2001, as opposed to the more sultry 2002s. This had some luscious strawberries and dried rose petals.
Raspberry, apple and chocolate tarts
I think the remaining Pinot Gris went best with the apple tart, but I am kind of a fan of reds, sometimes, with dessert.
Rather than shun champagne, the only solution, of course, is to embrace it even more!
Yesterday at the crack of dawn, I jumped in the TGV, and 45 minutes later, I was in Reims. Fellow wine fanatics Michaël and Guillaume picked me up - in a rented Mercedes big enough to hold cases and cases of wine, which is always reassuring.
In the early afternoon, after a morning visit to Raymond Boulard (to be described soon here; stay tuned), the three of us drove down to taste Jacques Selosse champagne in Avize.
Anselme Selosse is absolutely fascinating; he just holds you in some kind of cusp with his presence, with his bright blue eyes, and with a very imaged way of talking about things. He's got a kind of visionary/idealist streak, but isn't at all dogmatic. Just impassioned, and completely, utterly persuasive. And then, his wines speak for themselves, directly and unabashedly above-and-beyond.
He's also simple, down-to-earth. Wears jeans and a polar fleece jacket. He used a comparison for the soul of his wines, which he says is in the nature of the vines: "If I changed my clothing, it wouldn't change who I am."
After talking for some time, we moved deeper into the vast barn that is his chai. Bottles from all around the world lined the top of one wall (those were empty) and a long trestle table (there, they were unopened). My friends had brought a bottle of Donhöff German riesling, which was cradled for a while in Selosse’s arms while we discussed it, then set down with the unopened bottles on the table. There were the bottles, too, of Jacques Selosse to be tasted from.
So, he poured some of his champagnes for us. We took our time, talking in depth - but here, I'll jump the gun: each one was more unreal than the previous. These are wild champagnes. Aside from the cuvée Contraste and the rosé, they're all blanc de blancs. None have more than 2g/l of dosage, making them pretty much all extra-brut. If I were shooting off to a distant planet, I would pack my spaceship full of Jacques Selosse...
Brut 1998 - He started us with the vintage Brut 1998, which was astoundingly rich, walnutty and buttery. He raises everything en barrique - apparently with barrels he gets from the Domaine Leflaive after they have used them for a few years. The 1998 was exceptional; very mature, and with great depth to it.
Brut 1990 - Next, he opened a bottle of vintage Brut 1990, which was fascinating to taste, because it was made before he switched to his "oxidative" style. It was a pure, refined champagne, very young seeming, with great balance and acidity, but not at all "Selosse." I asked him when he started to work in the oxidative style and he said in 1995, after being inspired by winemakers like Overnoy in the Jura.
Contraste - the blanc de noirs is called Contraste, and was also one of those times where you didn't think it could get better than the 1998, but it did, this was an amazing champagne - rocking, on fire. Its beautiful, biscuitty notes and lush mouthfeel were overwhelming. It was long and full of walnut, biscut, and ripe fruit tastes. It seemed to go on forever, just taking over the palate.
Substance - this is his top-end wine, which is made in the Portuguese "solera" method of having two enormous barriques stacked atop each other, and each year the juice from those vines (an old vine parcel in Avize on the Côte des Blancs) is put in the top barrique along with the rest, and the pressure sends a mixture down; the wines are drawn progressively from the bottom barrique - so that the cuvée is a perpetually evolving product of many different years.
Selosse himself is fabulous, brilliant and swift with a metaphor. It was interesting to hear him describe that even though in Champagne, vintage champagne is considered the top of the line, that is only like a snapshot of a given year with its climatic variation, and that is not what interests him most in winemaking. What he would rather do is give a portrait of the earth, the rootstock, more "essential" things to those particular vines that come through in the Substance cuvée.
And that wine is just unbelievable. I felt this surge of hilarity rising in me, it was just so unfathomably, improbably good. I couldn't believe it. Immensely layered, as its creation suggests, it goes through a full, round phase in the mouth, with toast and hazelnut notes, and then you think it's gone. About a quarter of a second later, a note of orange zest suddenly hits your palate, and then the finish comes sweeping in, and lasts forever. This made me burst out laughing.
Brut Rosé - I didn't know how we could go anywhere else after that. We hung around in the chai talking with Anselme. He told us about his upcoming single-parcel wine which will be a rosé de saignée, but not labeled a rosé, bottled in a dark green bottle, and we tasted it from the fût. Then, he looked around and wondered what else we could taste. He went for the non-vintage rosé. A first bottle he opened was a recent bottling (10 days before); it was disjointed, but fine for a nice rosé, for which I don't have high expectations in general. But he wasn't happy with its stage, so he went and got one that had been disgorged in June. It was a completely different drink. Utterly, suavely harmonious - like no other rosé I have ever had. Almost like a white wine but with some extra layers to it, though the whole thing was beautifully harmonious.
I have to say, this was one of my most incredible tasting experiences ever.
One of us asked Selosse if he thought of himself as an artist. He said absolutely not; he was if anything like an orchestra conductor working with an unruly group of self-centered musicians. It was his job to bring them all together, making some become more disciplined and others loosen up, making the flashy ones mesh better into the group, coaxing out the shy ones, so that in the end, the performance would go well. "But I'm not the composer," he said.
Well, that's what he says.
OK, my back's to the wall. After giving Arnaud no end of grief about the fact that all of his friends (or their girlfriends or live-ins or wives) have a steady supply of champagne in their fridges, to open at whim - or in some cases, perpetually open, drunk, and replaced - Arnaud has assured me that I am getting if not my fill of champagne, then at least a goodly amount, as a general rule.
We were in London when this issue cropped up again. I was laughing over the fact that while waiting for him to finish up a meeting, I went to a wine bar in the City and ordered a glass of champagne. The barman said to me, completely serious, "Are you sure you wouldn't like the whole bottle?"
Yes, I was laughing a little over the excesses of wine and alcohol consumption in England - even I felt out of my depth, which is saying something... but also talking about how it was nice to have champagne, ostensibly "for a change."
Arnaud put me to the challenge. "When we get back to Paris," he said, "You are going to write a little 'C' on the calendar each time you have champagne."
So I held myself to it. We've been back in Paris for nearly a week. And to my shame, I have to admit that the C's are starting to roll in...
A nice bottle of NV A. Margaine Brut 1er Cru, by the way, last night with some friends...
Well, it's raining in Paris, and chilly, so what better way of cheering myself up after a sunny trip to Rome this week than heading over to Augé for a little tasting of a couple of Krugs.
Standing under the awning by a barrel - I love Augé's everyman attitude: even Krug just gets a barrel out front! - getting the backs of my legs splashed by the rain, I tasted two different cuvées of Krug, in the sole presence of one other taster - an eighty year old man with a band-aid on his nose. Serving us was a Krug representative, a young and engaging guy. Then one of the Augé fellows came out and we all had a chance to banter.
MV Krug Grande Cuvée - This is my second time with this wine. The other time was a much older bottle - it was at François Audouze's vins anciens dinner, so the bottle was from the mid-1980s. But I digress. I hate to think of myself as "less open" to certain types of wines than others, but for champagne, I am just unavoidably a blanc de blancs fan. So this one came across as pungent, a little bitter, full-bodied, with the kind of push-and-pull between a nutty depth and an easygoing shortbread taste. Seamless, completely invisible dosage. A nice wine, obviously well-bred, but more like Dante's Purgatorio as compared to the Paradiso of blanc de blancs...
1995 Krug - The nose! It smells like... cake batter. But in a good way. Like cake batter with peeled, sliced pears thrown into it. In the mouth, it was sprightly, quick, then bloomed out into a kind of flashy white flower that evolved nicely with green apples and rocks and some dough, and ended with a little tight acidity. Not a "pleasurable" wine, but certainly something to keep an eye on.
Afterward, I ducked inside. When the Augé guy came in, we reconnoitered. Laughing, we talked. I think we were on the same page, as it were. We nodded seriously and discussed. Sure, Krug is legendary, but what we wouldn't give for a glass of Selosse....
It was unbelievably beautiful in Normandy this weekend, where we went once again, this time for Marc and Sarah's wedding.
After a failed attempt to participate in the wedding - there were about 60 guests too many to fit into the town hall meeting room where the mayor of Blonville-sur-Mer presided over the ceremony, and unfortunately, we were among the stragglers - we threw rose petals, kissed the bride and groom, and then repaired to our manor house hotel outside of Pont-l'Evêque for a nap.
At 7pm, we drove through a dipping, winding road back to Blonville-sur-Mer for the reception.
Marc's parents' country manor has a name, which I learned because it was on the invitation. When we had parked up the road and walked to the entrance gates, I saw there was a large tent for the dinner, which would come later - but for now, among the apple trees, several white-canopied stands studded the vast lawn. And on the stands, here, some canapés, there, a caterer slicing foie gras and topping it with spoonfuls of mango chutney. And, oh, on three of the stands, gigantic punch bowls full of water, ice, and bottles of NV Pierre Gimonnet Brut 1er Cru "Cuis".
I love this precise, elegant, utterly harmonious grower brut. Light tastes of unbaked bread, white flowers, and apple. It was delicious, and went well with the seafood hors d'œuvres caterers were walking around and offering us, from prawn beignets to bass samossas to smoked salmon puffs. So, we dawdled. We commingled. We laughed and talked. Alexandre cited Shakespeare in charmingly accented English.
And, as the evening fell, we sipped flute after flute, until it was almost too dark to see, and then we headed for the tent.
This time, I'm not going to write about wine, per se. I'm going to write around wine. That is, write about the reaction you might have when you taste wine with knowledgeable friends. You wouldn't think so, but tasting wine with other winos can in fact be treacherous territory.
Yes, I'm talking about tasting envy. No, not the jealous grip in your gut when you read about a bunch of the happy few drinking 39 vintages of La Tâche - no, I mean the uncomfortable sensation of looking over the rim of your glass with narrowed eyes when someone you're tasting with "gets it"... maybe better than you do.
We were sitting in a ridiculously sun-filled apartment high over the quai de Grenelle, where a generous and somewhat eccentric wine-lover had invited a tiny cluster (read: 3) of us over for a Burgundy tasting.
Michel sniffed the 2003 Yves Darviot Beaune 1er cru "Clos des Mouches"... and the rest of this paragraph is not a tasting note, because he got it and I was slow. Sure, maybe by the time the wine started to open up in the glass I was catching up, but it was mostly thanks to his tip-offs.
Another day, I tasted a white Burgundy with Neil. "A little watery on the attack, and there's a strange kind of butterscotch spiked with lemon rind on the finish," he mused, before my brain had started processing what was going down my throat. Well, damn. Yes, that's right. Thanks. I'm going to go hide behind this stack of Veuve-Clicquot cases.
We can't always get there first, I know. I smile and nod. And of course, in the end, my only consolation is to think that maybe sometimes, somewhere, someone is thinking, "Damn, how did she get that?"
Ask me and I'll be the first to tell you that if I have a blind spot in wine, it's situated somewhere in the gaping hole a map would show to bear the Gironde and Dordogne rivers. I.e. Bordeaux.
Yet this week, intrepidly out on the Atlantic coast to visit Arnaud's parents in their new home near Fouras, we just as intrepidly embarked on a journey to none other than the Missing Region. Swing out of the autoroute at Saint-André-de-Cubzac and sidle along through Libourne until all signs point to Saint-Émilion.
What a charm of a town! We wandered, we admired, we strode on cobblestones, we gaped at overpriced wine stores with the Right Bank's finest, the kings of Merlot - then Arnaud's stomach grumbles got too loud and we sat down to lunch.
A thin, green 2004 Saint-Émilion was not the meal's highlight, but we were happy. Tasty homemade foie gras and some of the juiciest and best french fries imaginable alongside my duck breast consoled me.
We wandered around and bought macarons. Then we drove out, ignorantly, past vineyards (still full of plump, dark grapes) marked with the name of Ausone and arrows pointing down roads toward Pavie and Canon la Gaffelière. We didn't know where to go, so we went to the Union des Producteurs de Saint-Emilion.
Aha, the happiness was not in this large warehouse of a building, either. The reception was nice, and at a modern bar we were served tastes of any and every cru we could ask for. But they were all wan, lackluster and very short on the palate, even their luxury cuvées. I was reminded a little of a trip to Chablis on a Sunday, where out of desperation we went to La Chablisienne. Committees (i.e. some 60 producers) tend not to make the best wines, in fine.
So we got back in the car and were going to leave. I'm stubborn, but one ox does not drive the cart.
Until we passed by a small sign. Château Petit-Gravet. Hey, wait, that name rang a bell. Oh, yes, I tasted their 1929 at François Audouze's Académie des Vins Anciens dinner.
I pleaded with my companions to make another stop. And so we did, despite dubious sentences, such as, "It might have changed in the past 80 years..."
A small cabin of a tasting room, and just one cru to taste: 2005. And damn us all if we weren't smiiling in the sunshine a half hour later when we walked out again, with bottles to put in the trunk. The best experience of Saint-Émilion we'd had, and a rich, generous wine. Thank god for Petit-Gravets!
I feel as gleeful as if I were going to pop a bottle of Jacques Selosse VO... You see, an article on wine blogs by the savvy scribe Sao Anash, "The Web's Gift to Wine Lovers," has just appeared in The Santa Barbara Independent. She singles me out (oh, OK - "eights" me out, which isn't too shabby, either) for praise.
So we went back up to Marc's summer home on the Normandy coast near Deauville last week. Of course, knowing Alain would be there, I was well aware that our vinous choices would be somewhat limited. Alain knows what he likes, and he doesn't like (list non-exhaustive): red Burgundy, Northern Rhône, Southern Rhône, white Burgundy, white Loires or any rosés.
Marc, however, likes Bollinger Spécial Cuvée, so that was in the cards. And, whoops, Marc also does like red Burgundy, and since he's the host... we just had to bring him some kind offerings.
2002 Philippe Amiot Chambolle Musigny - light as cranberry juice, but far more nuanced, with ethereal aromas of gooseberry and juicy raspberry. I loved this when I first tasted it in 2005, and it's still an approachable beauty, but probably should be drunk in a year or two.
Alain, however, said, "It's too light for me."
I had made pan-seared duck breasts from a local farm, along with a crushed green-peppercorn sauce with shallots and armagnac and a touch of crème fraîche. There was no way we were going to dive into some square-shouldered Bordeaux or other.
1999 Hudelot-Noellat Nuits-Saint-Georges - I knew this would be heartier, and it was. More rustic than the lacy Chambolle, it was brambly, young and somewhat tannic.
I looked down the table at Alain. Strike two. "Still too light." Huh?
So it was something of a provocation the next day at lunch when I went for a third. (Ah, but it was our last day, and I was too curious to taste the third Burgundy we had already picked up days earlier - too curious, that is, to leave it to the overheated closets of Marc's summer home.) So away went the capsule and out popped the cork when we sat down to feast on pork and lamb skewers. Alain strode out to the patio and plunked his contribution to the meal down on the table: a magnum of 2004 Château Something-or-Other Médoc.
The table was cleft in twain, or rather staggered, with some sipping Bordeaux and others, what Arnaud termed "the good stuff":
2002 Catherine & Claude Maréchal Pommard "La Chanière" - far more dense and robust than their Savignys and Volnays, but still a vin de plaisir, as are the best Maréchal wines. Dark fruits, pinot-y nose, a suave swath of some secondary aromas sliding over the mid-palate, and very harmonious: the picture of classicism and balance.
And so everyone kept coming back to this bottle, until it was no more... At which point, we finally did discover that the magnum of 2004 Château Whatsit was actually pretty good.