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I can see my house from up here!
In a moment of weakness a few years ago, I fell pray to a marketing campaign by one of the
Only after confirming the order
with my credit card, did I actually sit down in front of the computer in
search of a few statistics on my new acquisition. I read adjectives
like: unwavering tannins, harsh, atypical, and ‘possibly underrated but only
time will tell’. No wonder it was on sale! To add to the
anxiety, the bottle was in
Fortunately, a friend was off to the windy city for business and gladly agreed to pick the bottle up and deal with boarder security on the way home – for a price, of course. He somehow felt that this ‘favour’ was worth a bottle of his own from the auction house. And so for another 50 bucks, I agreed to his terms and conditions and we set our plan into action.
Miraculously, the bottles did arrive unscathed and untaxed, no questions asked on my part. But the anxiety remained as this ‘atypical’ bottle of Grange stared at me daily from its tiny cubicle in our cellar. I could sell it, never knowing what it was like, but then do I really want to pass the burden on to some other unsuspecting soul? No, I’m a better person than that; the responsibility shall stay with me.
Two years passed, the debt was repaid to the generous folks at VISA, but the worry remained. I have Google’d this wine a thousand times hopeful that someone might pay it an exceedingly high complement but unfortunately, the comments have remained rather consistent. Until one day that is, when my search turned up overwhelming praise for a bottle of ’95 Grange, the same vintage to haunt my cellar. ‘Bottled Perfection’, the tasting note said; ‘the greatest wine to ever grace our table’. This is it! The tables have turned, I thought – and with my wife's birthday the following week, the timing could not have been more ideal. Jacquie and I had planned to open a bottle of Haut Brion to celebrate but suddenly the Grange seemed a more likely candidate for the occasion.
I made reservations at Bistro Seven
Seven, an extravaganza of culinary delight in
My Australian thorn was decanted upon arrival at the restaurant and by this time had sat open for nearly 2 hours. Our server commented on the significant amount of sediment in the bottle, an indication of the need to partake sooner than later. Stephen and I ordered the beef tenderloin; Krista, the beef bourguignon; and Jac, something slightly more exotic called gnoochi. All suitable choices to combat the potential wave of tannins about to descend upon us, I assured myself.
Wine will never meet your expectations in the wrong environment and will only taste as good as the setting in which you choose to indulge; the drink itself, after all, is half atmosphere, and on this evening, our atmosphere could not have been better. I watched as the Aussie icon flowed from the decanter into our glasses. The dull red tint revealed its age but as the decanter passed before me, I captured the reassuring scent of black fruit – and lots of it. Krista raised the glass to her nose and declared the scent ‘wonderful’, so with glasses in hand and ‘Bon Appetite!’ pronounced, down-under we plunged.
I keep a mental list of my top-10 favourite bottles and with each new opportunity, the list undergoes a review. Rarely does anything shuffle the order of these labels but on occasion, a bottle will rock the boat - tonight was one such occasion. I can’t help but wonder though, was the ’95 Grange really as good as I thought or was my mind still feverishly at work convincing my consciences that this was actually a worthwhile purchase?
For the record, 1995 Penfolds Grange is a profound wine, massive in both aroma and flavour. I found no hard edges whatsoever; the alleged tannins were perfectly balanced by a plethora of fruit that coated my mouth with what is undoubtedly the best bottle of shiraz/syrah to ever surface from our cellar. I tend not grade wines on a numerical scale (I don’t agree with the concept), but let’s just say that if you lived in a building with 100 floors and you stood on your balcony sipping ’95 Penfolds Grange, you’d be able to see for miles!
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Tyler Philp is a member of the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada
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