A Tale of Two Freddys
The best way to learn about wine is to taste wines side-by-side. With two or more glasses in front of you, and the chance to compare wines one to the other, you’ll be amazed at how easily the wines reveal their differences to you. I hear people say all the time “I don’t know how to taste”, or “I can’t tell the difference” – to both of which I say “hogwash”. Yes you do, and yes you can.
Over time we all develop our own vocabularies to help describe what we’re tasting, but even at the beginning of our journeys we can tell that one wine feels thicker in the mouth, one seems more abrasive, one appears sweeter, one smells like roses, one like cherry pie, etc.
Pour two different glasses of wine – preferably with something in common between them (such as vintage, region, producer, or variety) – then look, swirl, sniff, taste, swish, and swallow (or spit, if you’ll be tasting a lot or need to drive.)
Et voilà, as my French friends would say. You will quickly notice the differences, at the very least. Then you can start to describe those differences in your own way. Don’t get caught up in looking for obscure fruit references or “wine speak” lingo, just start a dialogue about what makes one wine different from the other. It will lead you down some very interesting paths, if nothing else.
In the name of science, I popped a bottle of the ’09 Mugnier Clos de la Maréchale and an ’09 Lafarge Volnay VS the other night with dinner. Two wines I enjoy immensely, but had never tasted side-by-side. It was quite illuminating indeed.
Freddy Mugnier and the father-son team of Michel & Freddy Lafarge are two of my very favorite producers on the planet. I love them and their wines, and prize their understated and elegant styles. I think of both their aesthetics in a similar vein – ethereal, lighter-bodied and less-extracted. And indeed they are. But when you taste these two wines side-by-side, the differences are as clear as night and day.
Terroir, of course, accounts for the lion’s share of the difference between these two – the Mugnier coming from the more powerful and intense mother-rock of Nuits St. Georges, and the Lafarge from the fractured limestone of Volnay. Boy is that clear in this tasting. Yes, the Mugnier is a lithe and slender dancer, but it has so much more underlying power and tannic punch than the Lafarge. The Lafarge is also achingly beautiful, but very delicate and lacy, almost crystalline in its purity.
I would say I love them both equally for what they are. Tasting them together provided a magnifying glass into what makes them tick. As much as I know about these producers and their wines, and as often as I drink them, it wasn’t until drinking these two together that I saw such a clear delineation.
So pull some corks and practice at home. It’s tough work, but you’re just the one to do it, and you will definitely learn a lot!