Help please--gone bad or just lousy?
I just bought a bottle of 2000 Reserve Speciale Barons de Rothschild Pauillac.
My experience with Bordeaux is very limited, and this tastes off...and not in a "I don't like this" way, but in a "is this right?" way.
The cork was fine, and the wine is dark red/puple--no brown. It's been in the decanter for three hours.
The palate is blah, nothing there...I can pick up subtle flavors in most wine, but has basically nothing. Once swallowed, the finish whacks me with the taste of barbecue sauce. Good, old fashioned BBQ. It lingers and I wouldn't call it pleasant.
I know a lot high quality Old World wines don't work well for us New World fans, but I've had some Burgundy and Cotes that while I didn't care, I didn't think for a second "this has gone bad."
Keep in mind (no offense intended) that this was never a great wine to begin with. It is a negociant wine, rather than one from an individual estate, and retails for under $10. I suspect it's just plain lousy, and I would hasten to add that getting an enjoyable red Bordeaux for under $10 is even more difficult than getting a good California Merlot for that price.
Well, keep in mind the wine's background.
After Baron Philippe Rothschild (the "Mouton guy") launched Mouton-Cadet and other negociant Bordeaux wines, the "Lafite guys" decided they, too, should get into the act.
There are four wines offered under the "Réserve Spéciale" designation. From their own website:
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In addition to the wines produced from their prestigious vineyards, the Barons de Rothschild have for many years created a range of wines which are easier to drink on a daily basis. They were called the « Réserves des Barons », as at the beginning they were destined for close friends and family.
To perpetuate the essence of these Réserves, the Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite decided to make them available in four of the biggest Bordeaux appellations: Bordeaux, Bordeaux dry white, Médoc and Pauillac. By creating this «COLLECTION», DBR-Lafite has demonstrated its determination to offer real classic Bordeaux wines for immediate pleasure."
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Specifically vis-a-vis the Pauillac (not the Medoc, or the "straight" red and white Bordeaux), the website claims the wine is 50-70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30-40% Merlot and 5-10% Cab Franc, depending upon the specific vintage; the wine spends a whole three-to-nine months in oak (wow!). Production runs 10,000 cases per year.
(Another 10,000 cases are produced every year of the Medoc, 15,000 cases of the white, and 50,000 cases are produced of the "straight" red Bordeaux.)
There are certainly better red Bordeaux wines to be had out there in the $20-25 range.
Hm-m, it should still be drinking OK. I found some notes, re: the '01:
The first of the first growths! As far as the experts are concerned a great vintage of Lafite is the quintessence of all that claret aspires to. The Lafite Reserve Speciale Médoc gives you a chance to sample such excellence at an affordable price.
Normally only poured for important guests at the estate's formal occasions, the Lafite Reserve is crafted by winemaker Charles Chevallier (the genius behind £300-a-bottle Lafite Rothschild) from premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes to create a deep, dark claret with wonderfully ripe aromas.
Rich, concentrated and smooth, you get a mouthful of opulent blackcurrant flavour that makes it ideal with roasts and game dishes. Rich sauces a must! And it's extra special because this super quality Médoc is a limited release - exclusive to us!
Awards and Medals
London Vintage Festival Awards Silver 2004, United Kingdom"
From: Laithwaites, UK. It is a £13.95 wine, and, though from Rothschild, obviously NOT the Lafite Rothschild.
With reds, TCA contamination can be a bit more difficult to detect, even for one, who is sensitive to it. The first clue is the "damp cardboard" aroma, then the lack of fruit, and finally an increase in acidity. As some reds have an "earthy" element on the nose, one might be fooled between "earthy" and "damp cardboard." The lack of fruit (heck, it's only 6 years old) would make me suspect cork-taint (TCA contamination). If you can take it back, cork it up and head to your retailer. Ask them to sample it. If necessary, buy another bottle then and there, and sample it with them. Are they the same? If so, then ask them for their take on the wine. Even a third-rate Bdx. should have some "character" still left in only 6 years. I've had B&Gs (négociant) Bdx. that were 20 years old, and still had good character. Note that these are NOT classified growth Bdx, but blends/pressings by a bulk buyer/producer. Without a search, I'd guess that B&G is in about this price range for their Pauillac Bdx.
While indeed a low-tier wine, the Pauillac Réserve Spéciale is still fairly representative of the appellation, and BBQ sauce is not a smell or taste associated with Bordeaux. Assuming your senses are accurate, you had a defective bottle. I seriously doubt it was corked, since cork taint usually comes across as a musty smell not unlike wet cardboard. My guess would be bacterial contamination, perhaps combined with cooking (storage at temperatures above 80F).
After giving it a few more hours to open, I've declared it undrinkable---sadly I bought this around a week ago and no longer have my receipt. Rather than fuss with it, I just counted my losses and dumped it...it happens. The next time I'm there I'll mention it to the people working and see if they have an opinion.
I have had corked wine before and that doesn't seem to be it...no wet newspaper/wet dog smells.
I was wondering if this is a symptom of "cooked" wine, something I don't think I've encountered, at least as severely as this...my hesitation to think it was cooked is that the cork was fine: firm, no leaking, etc. The bacterial contamination is something I didn't think of.
Thanks for the feedback.
>>my hesitation to think it was cooked is that the cork was fine: firm, no leaking, etc.<<
If the wine reached 85F or 90F while the bottle was standing upright (like on a store shelf or in the back of a delivery truck), the cork would appear intact and there wouldn't be any leakage.