So how can two obviously qualified men in the world of wine leave an audience with such different feelings?
Simply, I think it’s a matter of preference.
Bordeaux’s climate is oceanic, or maritime. Its summer rainfall negates the need to irrigate, which is convenient since it’s not allowed, and its average summer temperature is 67 degrees, although guest French winemaker Vincent Lignac of Château Guadet said that the region’s seasons have been warming in recent years.
Walla Walla, on the other hand, is considered hot Mediterranean, which necessitates irrigation, and the area’s summer days tend to hover at nearly 85 degrees.
Warmer-climate merlots have less acid than those of cooler climate, and offer deep, jammy fruit notes. They’re approachable and smooth, which describes the vast majority of American palates. A true Bordeaux, however, can have a stand-offish edge that makes it better suited for cellaring and/or pairing with heavy, fatty meats. It seems to me that each style is being made perfectly for the consumer it’s targeting, so no harm, no foul.
In fact, Dame said that “95 percent of wine is consumed within eight hours of purchase.” Most people do not cellar like they used to, and Americans are less apt to cellar wines than Europeans as a course of cultural norms.
So there I was, trying to understand Tanzer’s palate to prefer a Bordeaux merlot over that of Walla Walla, but I couldn’t do it. I’m a Washington merlot-loving gal, and the delicate palate of the 2010 Château Guadet from Saint-Émilion, France, was reminiscent of a pinot noir, while the acid level sucked my mouth dry faster than a trip to the dentist’s office. And the Italian 2010 Avignonesi Desiderio from Tuscany, Italy, was even more extreme.
Only when I swirled, sipped and spit the L’Ecole No. 41 2012 Estate Merlot from just west of Walla Walla did the saliva in my mouth begin to return. I thank you for that, Marty Clubb, master winemaker at L’Ecole No. 41.
Viki Eierdam is a Clark County native who lives in Battle Ground. She is certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Read the Corks & Forks blog at blogs.columbian.com/corks-and-forks