Friday, September 3, 2010

Bordeaux Harvest Begins, and What to Drink for Labor Day

It’s that time of year again: Harvest season. Just when you thought the pitch couldn’t get any more fevered regarding Bordeaux, the time has come to start picking grapes and speculating about the potential quality of the 2010 vintage.

The first estate to harvest, Chateau Carbonnieux, “is due to begin picking its Sauvignon Blanc grapes at the end of this week after a 'roller-coaster' season of highs and lows,” reports “A cold start to the growing season, and dry weather combined with cool nights in August, have meant that most vineyards are around a week behind schedule.”

It is, of course, too early to really assess the overall quality of the vintage, but that won’t stop the soothsayers (informed and otherwise) from weighing in. The best we can do as consumers is to follow the reports from the various chateaux, process them with several grains of salt, and wait patiently until the barrel tastings start rolling in next year. Until then, I’ll be reporting on developments at key chateaux right here, and doing the best I can to filter the good information from the purely speculative.

On a different note, this weekend marks the unofficial end of summer on this side of the Atlantic and, assuming you’re not in the path of Hurricane Earl, it promises to be a beautiful one throughout much of the country. And with all the barbecues and picnics planned, the big question is, as always, what bottle of wine to pick pick up and pop open.

I recently tasted the Conundrum 2008, which would be a perfect treat for the Labor Day weekend. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, and Viognier, but, as always, the “exact composition” remains a mystery, as Conundrum’s web site says.

Whatever is in there, it’s delicious. A spicy, deeply floral nose of honeysuckle, orange blossom, lilac, and candied orange peel jumps from the glass, but those more perfumed notes are supported by exceptionally pretty apricot and grilled peach. The palate possesses a luscious glycerine texture, as well as a vaguely smoky toastiness that nods in the direction of Viognier. The mid-palate is sweet and ripe, the spice of the nose carrying through and finding a counterpart in hints of dried pineapple, waxy white peach, caramel, and vanilla. This is a wine bursting with pure California exuberance, and a sure-fire hit for the upcoming Labor Day festivities.


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