First Growth Tasting – 1982 to 1996

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Tasting a first growth wine is always a special experience, regardless of the vintage. Even in weaker vintages, you are tasting the height of winemaking and the best the terroir was capable of that year. So of course we were extremely excited to participate in a first growth tasting to compare many of these exceptional wines. When you are tasting many high-end wines simultaneously, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they are all great wines that could all impress on their own. But when you taste these first growth wines together, you really learn to find subtle nuances that make some stand out more than others. At this tasting, there was also a ‘mini-vertical’ of Château Margaux, that included four of the strongest vintages from 1982 to 1996; the stylistic differences among the vintages was evident, but the variability in vintage also allowed us to see the continuum of wine maturation. But as is often said, “There are no great wines, only great bottles,” we found on this night that there were many great bottles indeed.


 

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1982 Château Margaux: For much of the evening, it was difficult to decide whether or not this was better than the 1983. It seemed to have an intensity that built in the glass over time, gaining more aromatics and overall balance. There was beautiful black currant, violets, green pepper, and tobacco. Tannins are nicely integrated but are still present. A silky mouthfeel, with more elegance than power. A medium length finish that isn’t memorable but harmonizes well with the overall experience. There are still some years left here, and the fruit is robust.

1983 Château Margaux: Initially, this nose was much more perfumed and open than the 1982. With time, this shifted as the nose became a bit shy. More spiciness and earthiness than the 82. Both dark and red fruits, mushroom, green pepper, violets, and menthol round out the aromatics. A similar style to the 82, with more elegance than raw power. An appealing mouthfeel with good weight, some of which was lost with more time in the glass. Still fairly tannic, certainly more so than the 82. A medium length finish. Will be interesting to see if the the fruit fades before the tannins resolve. I would drink this fairly soon if you have it, though the fruit should last for the near future.

1986 Château Margaux: The consensus least favorite wine of the evening. The vintage really showed through, with harsh tannins and fading fruit. Interestingly, the color is still good, showing dark ruby. Perhaps the tannins were masking the fruit, which is the best-case scenario. A bit acidic on the finish. Disappointing on this night, certainly compared to its peers.

1996 Château Margaux: My #2 wine of the night. A really big wine with huge potential. A beautifully perfumed nose of black currant, blackberry, sous bois, violets, chocolate, leather, and tobacco. Full-bodied, with incredible complexity and concentration. Certainly well-structured, but the tannins are so soft and marry beautifully with the fruit. Very fresh acidity on the finish. Incredible length. Easily the best Margaux of the evening.


 

IMG_41961990 Château Haut-Brion: My #1 wine of the night. With the first sniff, I predicted this would be wine of the night. As good as the 1996 Margaux was, this was easily better due to its advanced level of maturity. A sexy wine that is a true stunner. An intoxicating nose of cassis, matchstick, wet gravel, barnyard, sweet tobacco, tar, and leather. Just incredible complexity. The balance is all there, with the tannins creating an exquisite mouthfeel. Acidity is in its right place. An incredibly long finish. I don’t particularly love scoring wines, but do so for my own relative reference; this is as close to 100 points as you get, in my opinion.

1995 Château Haut-Brion: It’s amazing how much younger this seems than the 1990. A shy nose that shut down in the glass. Still, there’s great fruit, chocolate, and developing tobacco and leather. Some floral notes as well. A bold wine on the palate, with firm tannins and lots of great structure. A very nice finish with high acidity. This is far from maturity, and I would give this wine at least three more years of aging.


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1995 Château Mouton Rothschild: The chameleon wine of the evening. At first, there was an enchanting nose with loads of fruit and complexity. With time, this also shut down in the glass. Lighter on the palate than the 95 Haut-Brion, but with a nice silky mouthfeel. The tannins aren’t overbearing, but there is need of more integration. Excellent concentration. Good acidity on the finish. This wine appears to be in an awkward phase, and I would probably hold off for a few years. I still feel there is great potential for this to turn into an impressive wine. Perhaps it’s showing a bit of the character of the 1995 vintage.

1982 Château Cheval Blanc: From a magnum. My #3 wine of the night. This really didn’t impress much from the get-go, but really blossomed after time in the glass. The aromatics showed nice complexity, with black currant, cherry, spice, toast, tobacco, and mocha. Medium ruby color. I really enjoyed the weight of this wine; after a few hours, at times it seemed almost Burgundian. While there are tannins left to resolve, they are ultra-soft and well-balanced. An outstanding finish with great length. While this vintage has suffered a bit in the critical scores department, this is yet another great example that there are no great wines, only great bottles.

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Bordeaux Trip Overview – September 2015

Even though we had recently visited Bordeaux earlier in the summer, it was obviously hard to stay away for long. We found ourselves coming back a mere three months later. It turned out that this was a fantastic time to visit. The skies were clear. The rains abated. And fortunately for us, the harvest was just beginning. The 2015 Bordeaux vintage was just hitting its stride. 1-chateau-haut-brion-harvesting-grapes

Our trip began in St.-Émilion, where we stayed at the restaurant/B&B Logis de la Cadène. Hubert de la Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, owns this small guesthouse. For those who are aware of the fantastic restaurant, it should come as no surprise that the rooms here are top-notch. The service was also fantastic; we will definitely stay here again. Our visit here was also highlighted by a great dinner at Le Tertre, an excellent family-owned restaurant across from Logis. 

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In the Right Bank, we visited a number of properties in both St.-Émilion and Pomerol, including Clinet, La Conseillante, Petit-Village, Vieux Château Certan, Beau-Séjour Bécot, La Gaffelière, La Dominique, and Villemaurine. Echoed at most châteaux was the belief that the Merlot ripened extremely well, which should bode well for the vintage. Some even felt that the sugar ripeness was possibly a bit high and could lead to higher alcohol levels. Despite this, there was an excitement here that this vintage will easily eclipse the past four.3-chateau-la-conseillante-wine-glass-vineyard

When we reached the Médoc, the harvest was in full swing. Again, this early harvest was due to the excellent ripening of the grapes. We stopped by Château Margaux and spoke with Managing Director Paul Pontallier, who relayed his cautious optimism about the 2015 vintage. At Margaux, they were also planting a few vines in front of their new winemaking facility; these vines won’t be made into wine, however. They are going to serve as ‘reference vines’ to teach visitors about the different varietals. We visited other properties in the Médoc, including Lynch-Bages, Palmer, Phélan Ségur, and Giscours. At Palmer, Thomas Duroux was furiously moving through the vineyards, likely awaiting the upcoming harvest.

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Finally, we made it to Péssac-Léognan and Sauternes. The harvest was in full swing at Haut-Brion, which had already harvested the white grapes and had just started with the young Merlot (destined for the second wine). Château Climens in Barsac was also harvesting the beautifully botrytized grapes. We also visited La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Guiraud, and d’Yquem. The weather throughout was just amazing, with clear azure skies contrasting with the rolling green vineyards.

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Our trip ended in the city of Bordeaux. Again we dined at Garopapilles, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. The chef here previously worked at Haut-Bailly, and the food here is consistently brilliant. We also briefly joined Jane Anson, the renowned author of numerous Bordeaux books, for a glass of wine at Le Bar à Vin. This was followed by a special dinner  at Comtoir Cuisine, where good friends Hamish Wakes-Miller of Bella Wine Tours, Ronan Laborde, and Monique Bailly joined us. Ronan is the owner of Château Clinet, which produces some of the best wines in Pomerol. Ronan and Monique brought a bottle of 1960 Château Clinet to share with us, and what a special bottle this was. 6-chateau-clinet-1960

All in all, this was a whirlwind of a trip, but what a trip it was. We covered a lot of ground, but there is so much more to cover. Until next time… 

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www.DrinkBordeauxWine.com

Margaux – Pauillac Tasting – Wines from 1959 to 2000

11-4-2015 Margaux – Pauillac tasting at Wine Watch, Ft. Lauderdale

Margaux_Pauillac_wine_tastingContinuing the theme of appellation tastings, Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale hosted yet another great tasting. This time, the tasting highlighted the Pauillac and Margaux appellations. What made this tasting more special was that it truly showcased some of the best châteaux from these esteemed appellations. The Margaux appellation was represented by only Margaux and Palmer, while Pauillac wines included Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lynch-Bages, and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. There was also a wide range in vintages tasted, from 1959 to 2000. The appellations were evenly matched, and there was no clear winner on this night


1959_Palmer_GPL1959 Château Palmer (Margaux). The WOTN. A dark garnet hue with brown edges; the color was the oldest aspect of the wine. Nose was still very much alive. Cherry liqueur, raisin, tobacco, and a hint of barnyard. Complex and layered, this was one wine that seemed to gain momentum throughout the evening. While more concentrated than the GPL, it was still on the lighter side. Structure hanging on. A special wine. 97/100.

1959 Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac). Improved throughout the night, but more of an average aged Bordeaux. Similar aromatics, with cherry, fig, raisin, and tobacco. Lacked some weight on the mid-palate and fell a bit flat on the finish. Still an enjoyable wine if you find it. Clearly this round goes to the Palmer. 91/100.


1961_LynchBages_Palmer1961 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). Drinking extremely well for a ’61. Still with excellent concentration and deep color. Cassis, black cherry, leather, Asian spices, and cedar. Opened up over two hours and improved significantly in the glass. Still has a solid tannic structure. Only knock would be a bit high acid on the (lengthy) finish. 94/100.

1966 Château Palmer (Margaux). Not a favorite in the room, but I personally considered this the #2 of the night. Dark fruit, smoke, earth, and some beautiful barnyard scent. Exceptional balance. Everything seems in its right place. Extremely smooth on the palate. Long finish. The Palmer edges out the Lynch-Bages in this round. 95/100.


1983_Margaux_LynchBages1983 Château Margaux (Margaux). Has that perfume one would expect. Dark and red fruits, spice, and floral notes. Solid mid-palate. Still with prominent tannins. Long finish. Again, a wine with exceptional balance. Its strengths are its complexity and concentration, but not really a stunner. 95/100.

1983 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). The most unique wine of the night. Cassis, licorice, old dusty library book, and urban funk (distinct from a barnyard funk). This strange nose was initially off-putting, but became quite charming. More elegance than power. Still has a bit of grip. No detectable heat on the medium length finish. Acidity a bit out of balance. Definitely better than the 81 point wine scored by RP. This round goes to the Margaux, but for the value, this Lynch-Bages is something to look at if you don’t mind funkiness. 91/100.


1995_Margaux_Lalande1995 Château Margaux (Margaux). Perhaps the disappointment of the night, considering its pedigree. Shy on the nose, but had a nice mix of dark fruits, spice, and floral. Full-bodied and mouth-filling on the palate. Structured as can be. Very long finish. So why a disappointment? It’s very far from showing its true colors, so it was hard to be too excited about it tonight. 93/100.

1995 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac). More powerful than the Margaux, with a more open nose. Black currant, cedar, and mint. Lacks the earthiness of typical Pichon Lalandes. Sampled the ’96 Pichon Lalande last night, and the ’96 is definitely the superior vintage with far more complexity. Better on the nose than palate right now. A little tart on the finish. Still, tonight the Lalande beats the Margaux (though that will change in 10 years). 94/100.


LynchBages_Palmer2000 Château Palmer (Margaux). Similar to last bottle enjoyed a few months ago. This is a great Palmer, but like the ’95 Margaux, so far from its potential. Blackberry, raspberry, lots of violets, and mocha. Concentrated and tannic. My first note I wrote was, ‘tons of potential.’ Cellar this baby, and drink your ’83 and ’89 Palmers. 93/100.

2000 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). Simply a great wine. Lots of layers, with cherry, tobacco, pencil shavings, and cigar box. Nice balance of power and elegance. Has serious grip. A fantastic finish. No bitterness and acidity is where it should be. This round goes to the Lynch-Bages. 95/100.

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