There is something utterly delicious about being lucky and good, or at any
rate, working with individuals upon whom such fortune has been granted. ’02
was something of a crap shoot throughout Europa. In Madiran, it was very
successful, though the harvest chez Bortolussi concluded roughly two hours
before the onset of a solid month of rain. Not all growers completed their
harvest before the tempests.
There is a school of thought which postulates that the very best wines are
made by the great producers in what are according to conventional wisdom,
very good—but not great—years, like 2004. By this logic, is not maximum
ripeness which is synonymous with greatness, but balance and completeness.
Frequently, however, wines from the so-called ostensibly “great” years are
merely monolithic caricatures of great wine—distended and lacking definition,
attempting to make up with mere scale what they lack in complexity and detail.
[Editor’s Note: We shall see in roughly a year how superb a vintner is Alain
Bortolussi when we release the Heart of Darkness from 2003—one of the
hottest and “ripest” vintages on record in France.]
Madiran should never be delicate, though it can be refined and wellmannered.
Perhaps we are being unduly influenced by the knowledge that there
is for the first time, a 10% addition of cabernet sauvignon in the blend this year,
but the wine does seem to have a more Bordelais character than previous
vintages. The hard granitic character translates this year as cedary cigar box and
balsamico. And while Heart of Darkness will never be delicate or modest, this
is nonetheless a more refined and well-mannered example than we have seen
in recent years—more Aramis than D’Artagnan. The tannins are fairly modest,
yet the wine still has great depth and the flavor impressions reach into all
palate’s back alleys and subterranean nooks.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted and significant among the five dominant varieties in France’s Bordeaux region, as well as the most successful red wine produced in California. Though it was thought to be an ancient variety, recent genetic studies at U.C. Davis have determined that Cabernet Sauvignon is actually the hybrid offspring of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon berries are small with black, thick and very tough skin. This toughness makes the grapes fairly resistant to disease and spoilage and able to withstand some autumn rains with little or no damage. It is a mid to late season ripener. These growth characteristics, along with its flavor appeal have made Cabernet Sauvignon one of the most popular red wine varieties worldwide.