1995 Bottle Vintage: Sampled 2001 at Drie Fonteinen cafe
I decided to go for broke on the next beer that I ordered at the cafe, so I ordered the 1995 bottling of the Gueuze, which means that the majority of the beer contained therein was at least 8 years old, if not more. The waitress whisked off to the bar (after making sure that I actually wanted a beer that only came in 750 ml bottles) to request the beer from the bar tender. The bar tender promptly disappeared down into the cellar. He appeared again a few minutes later reverently holding the bottle at the proper angle (again about 15-degrees). The bottle was carefully put in a basket that maintained the angle properly and brought to me. At this point I was getting giddy with excitement, or was that full day of beer consumption. Either way I was anticipating the sampling of this one.
The bottle was completely unadorned except for a white paint mark that let one know which way was up (so as not to disturb the yeast). What surprised me was the fact that the standard Champagne bottle that it was served in was corked with a normal wine cork with no accompanying wire cage or any other restraint. Despite this the beer made an appropriate popping sound when the cork was drawn.
The beer when poured into the glass was lively with carbonation and had a dark gold to amber hue that was quite clear. It was quite evident just from the clarity of the beer that it had been aging, as it had enough time for the characteristic haze to settle out. The nose was only slightly acidic, at least for a Gueuze. The taste was quite similar to the 2000 bottling of the Gueuze, but was quit a bit mellower and overall was perfectly balanced between the contrasting and complementary flavors that make up a Lambic. As an accompaniment to the meal that I had (a wonderful salmon filet) it was quite nice, with a hint of an alcoholic finish to it that was brought out by the fish.
April 16, 2002 Vintage Bottle, Sampled October 2007
Pours with a lightly hazy, cherry tinged, light amber color (quite dark for a Gueuze / Lambic) and is crowned by an initially two-finger thick, light tan colored head that is a mix of large and tightly beaded froth that leaves some lacing patterns on the sides of the glass as it recedes. Ah yes, the aroma is just want I need; funky, woody, tart and fruity, it smells oh so good. Aromatic notes of cured leather, ripe plastic (in the process of curing), urea, dried mushrooms and a touch of farmhouse cheese are all noticeable. The aromatic tart notes run the gamut from hints of lactic, acetic, definitely citric, with notes of tart apples, sour grapes and even some touches of tart, exotic fruit. Other aromas of rotting wood, cedar, spicy oak, damp cellars made of stone and thick-amply-aged wood structure add more complexity to the aroma.
Soft and almost creamy up front before the acidity kicks in. The acidity is never hard or overbearing though (which I sometimes like and even crave in a Lambic) and in fact melds quite well with a substantial (for a Lambic) texture & body. The acid is most notably lactic in character, but has touches of citric flavors at times. Notes of crab-apple, un-ripe star-fruit, touches of grapefruit (and even more than that at times) and a green, un-ripened, sauvignon blanc grape flavor add to the fruit component of this beer. Despite the supple texture and heft of this beer it seems quite bone dry. The carbonation, though light for a Gueuze, adds a zesty textured touch of froth to each sip. The flavor is not quite as funky as the aroma was, but this is still quite funk driven. Flavors of woody mushrooms, damp leather in the finish, cherry pits, most definitely musty and even a bit moldy at times. Touches of ephemeral vanilla, butter cream flavors (or is that just evoked from the texture), uriatic acid (cat pee to the layman) and wild flower petals add to the subtle backdrop of this beer. Quite tannic at times, almost coating the mouth, though not the teeth like a very tannic green tea, in light astringency.
I could wish for a bit more carbonation here as I like my Gueuzes to be very effervescent, but this is a damn fine example of the art. Very well blended, very well integrated, there is nothing that is dominant here. I do love a good Lambic, Gueuze especially, and I wish that I had the ability to drink more of these on a regular basis. Almost a bit too refined for my tastes; still rustic though and definitely a finely crafted product, but I think I prefer the regular non-vintage, and the 1995 vintage that I had in 2001.
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