We opened our last 2005 Fielding Estate Meritage, a wine that has evolved beautifully in bottle, far exceeding my expectations.
Vintage 2005 in Niagara has often been characterized as poor, and the truth behind this was a severe winter with widespread winter-kill in the vineyards that resulted in a very short crop — average yields were about 50% of the previous year (VQA vintage report for 2005). But the 2005 growing season was quite fine, with a warm, dry spring, lots of sun, and normal rains. Thus, with the naturally low yields, grapes could achieve good ripeness, and I’ve found that many very good wines were made. The 2005 Fielding Estate Meritage is a fine example.
The wine is a rather dark ruby red, with deep garnet on the rim, although there is some translucence around the core. Surprisingly fresh blackberry and black currant fruit fill the nose, with some underlying savoury notes, such as tobacco leaf, dry earth, and dried herbs. As the wine sat in the glass, the savoury elements increased and the fruit took on a little more dried character, but overall the freshness was quite surprising. To be sure there was a hint of volatility, especially on opening, but on the second day (I saved a little for further scientific investigations!) it was not an issue, although the savoury elements continued to increase their presence.
The wine is dry, with bright, elevated acidity that I think is the key to the wine’s continuing life. Alcohol is completely in balance, and the tannins, while still quite present and elevated, are extremely fine with a light chalky edge. Although the wine obviously spent some time in oak, it is no longer obvious as flavour, and imparts a light note of cedary resin far below the surface.
The elevated acidity and tannins will allow this wine to continue evolving in cellar for at least another five years, if not more. But the wine gives so much pleasure now, after ten years in bottle, that unless you have a number of bottles left with which to experiment, I’d be tempted to drink this in the near term.