Roederer Brüt Premier & Cos d'Estournel 1996

Pre-gaming is an interesting concept. It's drinks at home before a night out - an attempt to get a bit of a buzz on before the having to shell out on overpriced, rubbish booze. It is especially essential before balls, as the booze is that much more rubbish and that much more overpriced. At least, that's what I think pre-gaming is. All this is told to me by younger people, in the prime of their partying age, with hundreds of hangovers in their future.

So I decided to go to a ball with some of these young folks - and they decided to pre-game. Standard fayre for pre-gaming is Smirnoff and a 2 litre bottle of coke. Jack Daniel's often plays a significant role as well.

I'll be honest, neither of those really pique my interest. Fortunately, the folks coming over for pre-gaming also included a mate in the trade, and so our apero (French for pre-gaming) consisted of Roederer Brüt Premier and St Estephe's super-second pagoda-clad Cos d'Estournel - 1996 no less.

The Roederer was less of a revelation than a happy reminder of just how good their non-vintage offering is. I don't really care for their new, streamlined packaging and branding, but that's not really my thing in any case. I marvel at Champagne marketing and the impatience they have for their image. It seems a label must be changed every few years or so, especially if a close competitor has had a makeover themselves. So yeah, I think the new Roederer labels are pretty ugly. Fortunately the wine still tastes ace. Quite rich and toasty with classic apple and perhaps a touch of pear? The bubbles are soft and a little lively. Refreshing and classy.


St Estephe - particularly Cos - produces the most exotic wines of the left bank, in my humble opinion at least. Always heady on the nose with crazy spicy fruit on the palate. Cos '96 is no exception. I always feel that the winemakers in Coonawarra are trying to make St Estephe-style wines. They don't often succeed.

The nose is fairly explosive - dark tar and nutmeg surrounding piercing, dark confit fruit. The edges find hints of cedar and leather and a touch of savoury smoked meats.

That piercing dark confit fruit punches big on the palate, but it's never jammy. It's rich, forming the centre from which all the secondaries blossom. Exotic woodspice, nutmeg and cinnamon, a hint of tar with a finish of saddle leather all follow on from that fantastic, heady, exotic fruit. This is not a cerebral wine. There is no lingering, ephemeral dovetail finish. This is an emotive, decadent beast which, were it not for its superb structure and phenolics, I would probably mistake for a new-world blockbuster. I like it.


Tasted 26/6/2009 at Shorehead