Since 1980, the amiable and enthusiastic Bernard Faurie has slowly built up his Domaine, with holdings in Les Greffieux and Le Méal of just over 0.5 hectares to nearly two hectares. Bernard is patiently awaiting the construction of a brand new cellar but in the meantime he has to make do with his current one, which doubles as a general storage area. This can often prolong tastings quite dramatically as Bernard scrambles over an assortment of objects from trampolines to tricycles in order to get from one cask to the next. However, his wild, typical and traditionally-made examples of Hermitage and Saint Joseph really do make it worth the wait, both wines packed with aromas of violet and flavours of crunchy, powerful and spicy hedgerow fruit.
"Wait" seems to be a key word with Faurie's wines, as I experienced little while ago.
I opened up a bottle of Saint Joseph 2002 few months ago, not knowing what I was getting myself into...
I opened the bottle out of curiosity, still being fairly ignorant and uninformed regarding French wines. At first, the wine was showing an incredible amount of acidity that almost felt like carbonation on the tongue, and the tastes were going everywhere like a chicken without a head. It was not so pleasant I must say, but there was something about it that was telling me to wait.
And that's exactly what I did - I waited for 3 hours and had another sip from the first glass I had poured myself.
It seemed as though it had become another wine! Now the acidity was gone, leaving space for the raspberries flavors and some hints of green herbs.
It was still very tight, however, and the tannins were astringent - the bottle was acting like a grumpy old farmer that doesn't warm up easily to strangers.
At this point, I was convinced that this was a matter of being patient and seeing just how long it would take to get to the heart of the heart of the wine.
So, I called it a day. I covered the neck with a napkin, secured it with a rubber band and left it alone until the next evening.
Day 2 , a little over 24 hours after opening;
That evening, the old grumpy farmer living in the Saint Joseph was ready to tell me all kinds of stories; tales of terroir, and the unrelenting difficulties of the year 2002 with prolonged rain and flooding, and how, in order to achieve the highest possible quality, the master hand had to cut, reduce and sacrifice in order to make just a few good bottles.
Now, the wine was perfectly balanced, elegant, the tannins were sweet, firm - nothing like they'd been the day before.
At this point the wine was close to its peak, but still seemed to have some more time in front; so I left it alone for another day.
Day 3 over 48 hours after opening.
Finally, that evening the wine had stopped developing and was starting the curve of descent, still enjoyable but lacking some of the complexity I had previously enjoyed. There were some oxidation notes, and the finish was not as persistant as it had been before.
This was the first time that I encountered a wine that opened so very slowly, and it would lead me to think that that vintage can be in the bottle for at least another 15 to 20 years - I will try it again by the end of the spring, and see what the grumpy farmers of the Saint Joseph have to say in a new season.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti