2009 Charmes de Kirwan, Margaux

Wine_Cellar_at_Chateau_Kirwan_This week we were sent a sample of Chateau Kirwan’s second wine, Charmes de Kirwan by the négociant firm of Schroeder & Schyler. Schroeder & Schyler has owned the property since 1904 when they picked up the 3rd Growth Kirwan at auction for only £25,000!  Before you dismiss this as a second wine, (Charmes is produced primarily from younger vines and lots that didn’t make the grand vin) they’re doing some really nice work at Kirwan, and it has really paid off in terms of quality for the Charmes.

Kirwan, sits on the gravelly “summit”, if you will, of the Cantenac plateau.  We’re not talking about a whole lot of elevation here, but this rise of Pyrenean gravel that was deposited here 2 million years ago by the nearby Gironde River,  creates excellent drainage for the vineyards.  The chateaux of Cantenac and Boyd-Cantenac are Kirwan’s nearest neighbors, and the superb Chateau d’Issan just down the road.  In this large appellation, Kirwan is very well situated. The vineyards are planted to 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot.

2009 Charmes de Kirwan, Margaux  $40-$45

On day one,  this was showing some very pretty, delicate, floral notes that gave this wine a special quality.  It drank well immediately upon pulling the cork with soft tannins, medium weight, beautiful, and lovely Cassis fruit, with some dried herbs on the finish. Very classic and pure, it had a warm elegance to it, with no hard edges,  With Charmes de Kirwan, most of its intensity and weight is up is front; the wine lightens up on the finish with notable gracefulness. One might complain of a lack of acidity, and certainly a little more crispness would give the wine verve and intensity, not to mention a classic backbone, but at the same time the wine is refreshingly not at all heavy and is absolutely seamless.

On day two, the pretty floral nose is now gone, replaced by minerals, loam and a touch of pencil shavings.  The fruit is dryer, the tannins are very fine but a slightly drying with wood. However, the wine is so well-balanced and it has a good amount of complexity. It has filled out a bit with a fuller profile, gaining a bit of weight.

The bottom line.  The Charmes de Kirwan is a lovely wine with some complexity, but it does lack some intellectual stuffing. For a nice dinner this would be hard to fault, and would outshine most much more collectible young wines in this role. It was stunning with simply grilled lamb last night. For this aspect, I’d rate the 2009 Charmes 92+ points.  However, as an aperitif, while the Charmes is very good, this isn’t quite vivacious enough, or intellectual enough, to hold my attention for too long. In this capacity, I’d give it 88 points.imgres

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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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