For the first time in my wine blogging career, I got to play the part of advice columnist. A lady who shall remain anonymous e-mailed me with the question "I have two bottles of Coppola Diamond Claret, a 2002 and a 2003. Which one will be better?"
Here was my response:
I'm assuming you found my post on the 2002 vintage via a Google search... Alas, I have not tried the 2003, but all of the Coppola wines (along with nearly all wines under $30) are released ready-to-drink. Under optimum storage conditions it certainly has the capacity to improve somewhat, but a Claret (from wherever) is generally drunk younger than the more expensive crus from Bordeaux.
If forced to make a decision, I'd say drink the 2002 now and save the 2003 for a couple of months. But since I love this wine so much, here's what I would do in your position: get a half dozen friends that have even a passing interest in wine, and have both wines with a hearty, beef-based dinner (standing rib roast, tenderloin, or simply grilled steaks, or maybe even a leg of lamb). Some fragrant bleu cheese or Stilton will help as well. The composition of both wines is almost identical, just single percent changes to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.
Open both, and have all of the guests taste small samples of the 2003 and then the 2002 before the food is served. Then pour a bit more with the meal, again starting with the 2003 and following it with the 2002. See if anyone can tell a difference between the two. The 2002 ought to be a little softer, but you'll basically be providing a "vertical tasting" writ small.
Here's the breakdown if you wanted to present the percentages to your friends, and feel free to talk up the 5 red grapes of Bordeaux and what each contributes (Merlot smoothes it a bit, the last three grapes provide deep color and hints of herbs and spice, etc.):
89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
Talking up a wine will frequently improve the flavor, it's a psychological thing. I'm happy to provide further notes if you'd like, though I might turn the exchange into a blog post (with your permission, and leaving out your name and e-mail address, of course).
If you enjoy the Claret, I'd highly recommend the Coppola Diamond Sauvignon Blanc. It's a delicious, mellow, creamy-style Sauvignon blanc, and fun to serve aside one of the citrusy fruit bomb Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. There's rarely much joy in serving a wine in isolation; you need at least one other to allow for comparison and contrast. Either of the Clarets will taste better if you serve a lower grade red wine before it.
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I hope this helps, and let me know how it turns out, whatever you decide to do.
She has since decided to drink the '02 now and save the '03 for a friend visiting after the first of the year, though she loved the vertical tasting suggestion. I wish her well and hope she enjoys both! And as a side note, unless your local wine shop has the '02 in stock, it's currently only available from the winery in an $80 3-litre bottle, which I would love to tackle over a long afternoon, just to see if I could do it.
If anyone else wishes to be a recipient of dubious long-winded advice, you know where to find me. I'll ask your permission before I blog about your query, but will always try to answer to the best of my abilities.