Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2004 Cooper Garrod Cabernet Franc, Francville Vineyard

There's a wine term I'd heard several times but never really understood: "reductive".

Now reduction is a chemical term, meaning the opposite of oxidation. In a wine environment it refers to characteristics produced in an oxygen poor environment. Typically sulphur is the major component of the effect. The characteristics are variously described as burned matches, rubber or eggs. You always wanted to know that, didn't you? The good news is that it is reversible with oxygen, which means it will eventually 'blow off' while in the decanter or the glass.

Anyway, last night I opened and decanted a 2004 Cooper Garrod Cabernet Franc. ($22, from Whole Foods) It had a nice, surprisingly light colour, but the first sniff reminded me of rubber bands and hard boiled eggs. On the palate there was a tongue-numbing combination of tannin, acid and alcohol (even though it's less than 14%). Not a trace of fruit in evidence. But it was early in the evening so I gave it a chance to open up.

After a couple of hours there still wasn't anything there. I was swirling and sniffing and sipping, but all I was getting was a numbness in my tongue. I considered pouring it back in the bottle to try again the following day, but I wanted to know how long it would take to come round, if indeed it would at all.

Finally after about 3 hours the fruit started to show. Not much at first, but at least it was there. By the fourth hour it no longer smelled of rubber and eggs and I could taste the blackberries and tobacco that I was expecting. I still thought it had a way to go, but by then it was midnight and time to call it a night.

So for me this turned out to be a wine that was more educational than enjoyable. Not that it isn't a pleasant wine; it had good fruit flavours when it eventually emerged from its sulphur-induced coma. But next time I open a wine like this I'll be sure to pour it into a decanter or jug to give it some air, then back in the bottle, seal it and come back a day later.