Fool Me Twice . . .
I tend to frequent places that have adventuresome by-the-glass lists, whether wine bars or restaurants, and fortunately, they’re becoming easier and easier to find. My eyes generally scan the list for producers, appellations and varieties I’ve never tasted or even heard of—maybe a Passarina from the Marche or a Monastrell from Bierzo—or for wines that I would probably never buy by the bottle because of their price.
Older vintages sold by the glass pique my interest as well. But twice in the past month, at two different wine bars, I’ve ordered an older-vintage dry white—in both cases a wine from the Loire, and in both instances costing around $25 per glass—that arrived in decrepit condition. Think Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. Beautiful in their youth and glamorous in middle age, both of these withered hags should have been dumped down the sink years ago (the wines, not the actresses).
While I cautiously nosed the heavily oxidized aromas of one of these fossils, which showed the color of an amontillado sherry but with none of the complexity or charm, the barman remarked on its “bouquet,” being very careful to assign neither a positive nor negative connotation to the word. “Bouquet” is a term rarely used by wine geeks these days, but it certainly seemed apropos here since it refers to the aroma of mature wines. This, however, was not a pleasant nosegay. And the flat, funereal palate that followed was even worse, compounded by the lack of a nearby spittoon.
I’m all for adventurous drinking, but someone should have vetted these bottles before serving them to unsuspecting consumers. Should over-the-hill wines be served—at $25 a glass—just for the sake of curiosity? My vote is No. I’ve become a much more suspecting customer after these two occasions.