Second labels, or second wines, hold a secure place in my world of wine. They can be excellent, delivering chateaux or house styles sans incremental touches of their primary labels’ magic or inflated price tags. Estate bottling, declassified barrels, blended younger vines, and vineyards in close proximity to primary estate boundaries are just some strategies and caveats that give consumers more affordable paths to great producers. I doubt you will find second wines served to guests over dim sum on Sunday afternoons by luxury brand-crazy, new breed, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese billionaire winos whose cultural ego pumping trumps quality and value whenever push comes to shove.
In anticipation of a Jets victory over the mighty New England Patriots that would serve to deflate egos of millions of fickel, chest pounding Patriot fans that I grudgingly live amongst in New England, our game time beverage was ($60 ****) 2008 Clos Erasmus Laurel. The bottle of Spanish Garnacha/Cabernet blend was my perfect secret voodoo doll, and I pricked it with polenta, brocoli rabe, and braised ribs that had been simmering in an aromatic pancetta and herb based tomato gravy for the better part of the day. A wine of modified ego could only help the cause of us six humble Jet fans sitting in my Boston home, marveling at the blind rabidity of New England fans clinging to their first growth labeled Patriots. Clos Erasmus, a mighty new millennium Priorat wine project that Mr. Parker’s Wine Advocate graced with multiple year 100 point scores, is a most compelling wine that now unfortunately sells for $200 a bottle.
Laurel (Daphne in Greek Mythology and aptly named for the winery’s founder Daphne Glorian) sells for $60 without discount and last night it not only helped undo the Patriots (my sons and I are very superstitious about these things), it offered an alternate fixation for my six favorite Jet fans, reminding us that great things exist besides football, keeping our green tinged enthusiasm and egos in firm check. The Laurel is a combination of select barrels once intended for Clos Erasmus status, but declassified to be blended with younger vines. In 2008 the primarily Garnacha fruit was blended with Cabernet to create a deep purple wine, with intense black cherry fruit aromatics that combine with sweet floral goodness on the nose. The wine definitely needs a few more years to tame some tannic bite, but still provides impressive and immense pleasure with its rich palate coating fullness and intense spiciness. I think of purity in wine a lot. I am not exactly sure I know why that adjective is in wine vernacular. But, this wine’s color, clarity, focused black cherry fruit, silk clad power, and graceful integration of all its components speaks to purity. When you try the wine, you will know what I mean. It should sit comfortably in any world class cellar.
I have decided to lay this wine down now for three more years, but it will not be easy to ignore. I intend to also save a few bottles until 2020, checking back then as well. I would have loved to be drinking Clos Erasmus last night. But, of course, who knows if the Jets would have won that marvelous game of football yesterday if I had. One thing I know for sure, I would have been $140 poorer as a result.
You can find both Clos Erasmus and Laurel in stock at one of my favorite wine shops.