When I was a wine merchant, I was the first importer into the UK of the wines of Manfred Krankl, the idiosyncratic producer of wines that everybody LOVES. I’m not going into the story of Sine Qua Non here, you can easily Google it and have a really fascinating read. Manfred was introduced to me by John Alban for whose Alban Vineyards I was already the UK importer, and the reason for this blog is to talk about their unique collaboration in producing “Tant Pis” – a tribute to the great Jacques Reynard, considered one of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s greatest ever producers who passed away in 1997. Why it is called “Tant Pis” is a bit of a puzzlement to me as I always thought that the translation of that phrase was something like “so what?” or “too bad” (for him or her in the sense that we can do better than…….). If they are lamenting the death of Jacques Reynard, I would have thought “dommage” might have been a more appropriate name for the wine. But I digress……
The wine was made from a 1995 single barrel cuvée of around 60% Grenache from Alban and 40% Syrah from Krankl and was bottled into 148 magnums, sold in cases of two magnums and released in 1999. My allocation was 4 magnums i.e. 2 cases. I drank one of the magnums with some friends to celebrate one of my birthdays, but the trouble is with having too many friends, was that I didn’t get much of a look in, but I do remember that the little I had of it was rather delicious. The other night, having suffered the trials and tribulations of putting up with building works for the last 9 months whilst re-modelling our home, and having got these wines out of storage, AND having to find space for all our possessions in half the area that we used to have, the thought was – “here is a box of two magnums with only one magnum in it – let’s drink the other one and get rid of the empty box”. That’s beside the fact that I had an overwhelming desire to find out how this was getting on before I went the same way as Jacques Reynard. Another reason to celebrate was that Arsenal had just thrashed Man. U.
I have never given a wine a score of 100 before – I could never bring myself to believe that a wine could reach perfection, but this time I really felt that this was the best wine I have ever tasted and drunk. Shared between myself, my wife and my 20 year-old French grandson who came over to London to watch the match with me, it was an astonishing experience. This was an iron fist in a velvet glove par excellence; a combination of finesse and power with lashings of brambly fruit underneath the tannins, rich complexity and a long, lingering finish. And we had part of it with FISH! Some baked salmon that Sonia overcooked a bit due to her excitement over the wine. We left about a quarter of the magnum for the next day (we find these days that some red wines taste better the next day, especially if they are a bit high on alcohol) and this didn’t disappoint.
Wondering when would be the next great occasion to drink such a wine of merit, I idly glanced through the Wine-Searcher website to see what the wine was worth, I can’t remember what I paid for it, and was astonished to find that they had been selling for between £5,000 and £7,000 a magnum over the last few years (you can also buy one for a tad over £16,000 at Hedonism Wines). Remembering the blissful experience I have had with this wine and the enormous costs of my building works, I have come to the conclusion that next time it won’t get better than 100, so I might just be a wee bit disappointed and in view of the enormous cost of my building works, it might be better to let my one case of two magnums go.