A Taste from the Barrel
Tasting wine straight from the barrel is an interesting exercise. As a winemaker you do it often to see how your wine is progressing. You know it is not a finished product and you learn over time to gauge how it will develop based on how it smells and tastes at various stages. And in our case we know that two years of aging our Cabernet Sauvignon in French oak barrels is usually perfect. Then once we have bottled, I want the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to get another 4 years of bottle maturation before release. The reason is that so many additional flavors come forward beyond the dark berry tastes and the tannins that you get from a younger wine. With time more of the laurel, olive and smokiness is brought to the forefront. Some vintages develop more towards coffee and chocolate, others will seem earthier and then we have the more smoky, cedar, laurel tones. The type of barrel I use will also impact the flavors. Vicard and Seguin-Moreau both make great French barrels but their flavor profiles are different and by using both I get a more complex and interesting wine. And of course the most important ingredient when getting the most sought after flavors is time and patience.
To offer barrel samples to our clients is not something that we usually do since we craft our wines for long maturation and the wine in a barrel is still 3-6 years away from drinking. But once a year in March we participate in the Barrel Weekend event arranged by Wine Road and it is really fun to engage in conversation with our visitors about the wine and its journey in the barrel and in the bottle. Of course we make sure to have bottle samples from various vintages for vertical tasting at the same time. This year we opened a barrel of 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and also had 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve as well as 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to taste alongside. This gave us an opportunity to discuss what happens in the bottle as the wine matures.
I really enjoyed meeting everyone who came to visit and discuss our style of wine. For the next 12 months the barrels will be tasted mainly by me and the rest of the West Wines team, but March 2015 it is time for more barrel convesations again.