45 years old and still in perfect health
Drinking history: there are times when only a well-worn phrase will do. I’ve just had one of those times with, as you can see from the photo, a 45-year-old Pinot Blanc. You may be able to see that it’s a Spätlese and be able to make out other clues to its origins but, as I’m (all too obviously) going to tell you, there are no prizes for identification.
Before I go on, there are two important things to say. First, I wouldn’t waste your time by writing about the wine if it wasn’t good. It’s not only good, it’s glorious: in impeccable health and with years to go. The winery says it has another 20–25 years. I wouldn’t be surprised (stored in ideal conditions, of course).
Secondly, this is not one of those wine-porn articles describing wonderful rarities and one-offs that people in a less vinously privileged position can only read about. I admit to writing plenty of those sorts of pieces, but part of the pleasure of writing about this is that it’s a new commercial release from a cellar archive. You can buy it online from the winery. Anyone can. At a price: €316.95 (ex taxes) a bottle. You can even choose to go and collect it from the winery (details below).
Preamble over, identity revealed. This 1971 late-harvest Pinot Blanc is Slovenian, from Jeruzalem Ormož, a hilly, terraced region in the north-east, which is within Štajerska Slovenja, itself within Podravje, one of the country’s three main regions. The altitude is 250–350m (comparable to Burgundy), the latitude is comparable to New Zealand, there are 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, an average temperature of 10.5ºC, cool nights and ancient marine-origin soils. Because of the slopes and terraces, all grapes have to be hand harvested. It all bodes well for white wines of quality.
The producer is p&f wineries (they write it lower case) whose young white wines you may have tried or seen in Waitrose under the label puklavec & friends (yes, lower case). P&f started as a wine growers’ co-operative in 1934, with Martin Puklavec its driving force for the next 35 years building new cellars and driving up quality and exports. The Puklavec era ended with his death in 1969, but resumed four decades later in 2009 when his son Vladimir took control (trademarking the puklavec & friends label that year).
The archive started with the 1959 vintage and some of the best bottles are laid down in most years, with the quantity varying according to quality. 1971 is described as one of the best in the cellar’s history, with every variety being of ‘supreme quality’ and the Pinot Blanc Spätlese 1971 listed as one of the top ten wines in the entire archive. Interestingly, it was the first late-harvest wine ever made in the cellar – a brave decision to delay picking in the hope that the good weather would continue. Fortunately it did.
Now the tasting note:
p&f wineries Pinot Blanc Spätlese 1971, Jeruzalem Ormož, Slovenia
Golden in colour.
Nose: still fresh but with mature aromas too – fresh and dried apricot, honeysuckle, honey, fresh orange, marmalade, beeswax candles and a hint of smoke and coffee bean.
Palate: medium-sweet with an attractively oily texture and fresh orange-and-lemon acidity balancing both the sweetness and the texture. The flavours echo the aromas, but add dried fig, apple, beeswax polish and touch of orange peel bitterness on the finish. Long and harmonious.
You could drink it as an aperitif or on its own instead of a pudding, but it also goes very well with cheeses, such as Comté, Parmesan, hard goats’ cheeses and creamy blue cheeses such as Perl Las from Wales.
There are 2,900 bottles of this wine available (possibly only 2,899 now), at €316.95 (ex taxes) from http://www.archivewines.com/en/webshop. The main website is a mine of information http://www.archivewines.com/en/