I have to say that my first week using the dictaphone has been a resounding success. Expect a flurry of notes from me this summer, as I have a lot of catching up to do, and the following notes are Part III of my trip to Bordeaux…last December.

My third day in Bordeaux last December was centered around a lunch at Chateau Figeac. When we arrived at the Chateau, I was practically falling asleep due to some irregular sleep patterns, but I was quickly able to gather myself in time for a spectacular lunch by our most hospitable and generous hosts, Thierry and Marie-France Manoncourt, the proprietors of Chateau Figeac.

It started innocently enough with the 2004 Figeac, for which I only have a brief note, as I was still warming, make that waking, up. The 2004 was classic, rustic and gritty. Thierry commented how Figeac was the only Right Bank wine with such a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (91).

Next up was the 2003 Figeac and not counting the wines from Hubert de Bouard, the Figeac was the most concentrated Right Bank wine that I had tasted so far from 2003. It had more natural concentration and purity and was very tasty and ready to go. I was very impressed by Figeac’s ’03, even more so than Cheval Blanc (93).

The 2001 Figeac had a deep plumy nose with lots of wintergreen, plum, chocolate and spice aromas. It was quite impressive in the palate with its subtle spice box, solid tannins and alcohol, and long minerally finish. There were also plum, chocolate and earth flavors; the wine had elegance, length and style. It was very impressive, but after the 1990 and 1986 that followed, it didn’t seem quite as special (93).

The 1990 Figeac was very aromatic with lots of olive aromas, both green and black, also with lots of red, wintry fruits, earth and stalk. There was excellent concentration in the mouth, and the wine was very rich yet still so smooth. The nose got saucier and riper, sexier as purple joined the party. There was a nice Cabernet Franc kick to its flavors on the finish. Bipin admired its balance and great acidity. I was then told that the average blend of Figeac is generally 35% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. Olives continued to dominate the wine in a fantastic way (95).

The 1986 Figeac was all about the leather at first, “cuire” someone commented. It had a beautiful nose with more wintergreen, meat, nut, and plummy, sweet, purple fruits. There was a cake-like quality to its sweetness. There was also a kiss of olive, but that was secondary. The palate was rich, long and with excellent tannins and acidity, just a flat-out great Figeac. The ’86 actually had more vigor then the ’90 as it stayed in the glass, still maintaining its level of richness and style, and Madame Nicolas of La Conseillante, who was also a guest at the lunch, also admired its character (95+).

We then time traveled back two decades to the 1966 Figeac. Frank was having a “winegasm” over the nose, but I found it a bit shy, with pinches of anise, minerals and cat box, an edgy personality overall. There were also black fruits underneath. The palate was smooth and pretty, supple with nice earth and forest flavors and a kiss of mineral grit. Bipin thought the ’66 “had everything,” and he could not believe I preferred the 1986 more, but I found the ’66 a bit mellow and liked the whips and chains of the ’86, I joked. The 1966 did put on more weight with time in the glass, and the nose became more and more classic with the wintermint, red fruit and leather flavors, but the palate never quite caught up to the nose in this excellent and beautifully mature Figeac (93). The grand finale was a rare bottle of 1950 Figeac, a vintage that Bipin hailed as a “great Figeac.” The bottle had a cognac-like edge that really jumped out at me, and even Wolfgang found it “very alcoholic.” Mrs. Manoncourt felt that this bottle needed aeration and some extra elbow action, so to speak. Behind that cognac was some chocolate, but this bottle did have a touch of oxidation to it. The wine was “very powerful,” according to Bipin, “more than normal,” according to Wolfgang. There was a lot of concentration on the palate but it was a bit figgy in its flavor profile along with secondary flavors of rust, earth and chocolate. There was a lot of alcohol, earth and leather on the finish, but a kiss of must on the palate. Upon further review, Thierry went down to the cellar to get another bottle, as this one was a bit off. About twenty minutes later, Thierry returned with a second bottle of 1950, and we were all very glad he did. The second bottle was much better. Initially it had shy and sexy fruit, black and purple with pinches of fig and chocolate, all supplemented by light earth. The fruit was so rich that it buried the earth and light leather as well. There was a touch of minerals, baked bread and sexy spice, almostgingerbread in nature. The fruit was so fresh, and the second bottle was night compared to day, or vice versa. The wine was unbelievable in the mouth – rich, big, round, long and with a huge finish. There was plenty of dust and wintry spice and “fabulous!” and “extraordinaire!” came out of the mouth of Madame Nicolas. It was a special experience, indeed. We were then told that three double magnums of the 1950 remain in the cellars at Figeac – what a treat those will be! The palate was long, gritty and decadent with its plum flavors and extraordinary concentration. We were told that at this time Figeac was bottled barrel by barrel, which would account for variation. There was great structure in the nose and excellent grit in the mouth of this extraordinary wine. The rust, leather, earth and tobacco delivered “oomph” and “kapow” like Batman, and Bipin loved its “candy-like sweetness.” This wine was so fresh, as were all of the wines we tasted in Bordeaux that were older for that matter. “Something has to be said about the wines coming from the vintner,” Frank wisely observed (97).

I was most impressed with the wines of Chateau Figeac and left not only feeling fat and happy but also a bit perplexed that this extraordinary Chateau does not receive the recognition that it deserves in the context of other St. Emillions. I can see no logical or sane argument that excludes Figeac from having the highest rating of Premier Grand Cru Classe in St. Emilion. Thierry has always beat to his own drum and is certainly still a fiery and intense personality despite the fact he is approaching ninety years of age. Perhaps he has rubbed some people the wrong way, but I would think that those in control in Bordeaux would be able to put that aside and rate this classic wine on its obvious merits.

After a trip into the actual city of Bordeaux that afternoon, I skipped Wednesday night’s dinner with Alexandre de Lur Saluces, as I was exhausted and needed to rest. All this drinking can be very tiring! The next day, Thursday, we said goodbye to Bordeaux and headed up to Paris where we had a very special dinner planned at Le Cinq at George V, with Aubert de Villaine, only a mere two weeks after I had the La Tache vertical with him in California.

We started with the 1992 Krug Clos du Mesnil, which Frank and I were not feeling at that moment. I didn’t even feel like taking a tasting note. I’ve had this Champagne on later occasions and have found it to be much better. Perhaps it was just that moment in space and time, but it did not leave an impressive impression on that evening. In our initial conversations, Aubert separately shared that he felt 1999 at was the closest vintage he had ever seen to perfection, where both man and nature were in perfect harmony. Take that one to the cellars, folks.

We started with the 2001 Lafon Meursault Charmes, which had a lovely, youthful nose full of tangy and waxy citrus fruits and dust. It was very bright in its wax and mineral components and had a nice dollop of butter. The palate had good richness and roundness, very good acidity, and was quite tasty with nice dust and minerals on its finish. There were lots of citric yellow flavors, and the wine was a touch lighter in the middle but not quite having a hole. 2001 was “a serious vintage, almost too serious, different for whites, good for reds and has never gone through bottle sickness,” Aubert shared. “It is root biting more than fruit biting,” Aubert (or someone else might have) shared about 2001 Romanee Conti(s?) (92).

Next up was a most generous gift to all of us from Wolfgang, a 1978 Montrachet, from Wolf’s cellars. The wine had an amazing nose and was still possibly the best white wine I have ever had. Wolf’s bottle was perfect, amazingly sweet and buttery in its nose with supporting honey, nut and oil. It was deep, long, fat and balanced and had big-time minerals. A botrytis debate developed between Bipin and Aubert about whether there was botrytis in the ’78 or not. Bipin felt there was a touch in not only the ’78 but also the ’71, a claim which Aubert vehemently denied. Wolfgang changed the topic, admiring the ’78 and finding it “like being wrapped in feathers.” The palate was rich, mouth-filling, long and still young, and its acidity lingered in my belly for an incredible amount of time. There was a small tribute to Bipin by Wolf for introducing him to Burgundy a long time ago, which Wolf called “the epitome of pleasure.” The Montrachet had great earth flavors and terroir, and that terroir of Montrachet was clearly evident. There was a touch of benevolent root vegetable flavors, and Wolf likened drinking this wine to a “hole in one – you need a witness.” Bipin called the Montrachet “the only white wine that can match the intensity of a red wine.” The food made the acidity stand out even more and this was certainly a spectacular experience (99).

Aubert shared that the ’69 Vogue Musigny was an epiphany for him. The issue of corks came up, and Aubert said that he has to buy all his corks two years ahead of time, has eight different suppliers and rejects a lot of corks before bottling.

It was time for some red wine, and we had a 1999 Meo-Camuzet Richebourg on tap. Frank murmured to me that the Meo was “not a zinger or doing it for me; maybe it needs some more time.” There was a lot going on in an elegant way for a ’99, lots of crushed red and black fruits, cedar, long t’n a, and some secondary brick, cinnamon, and rust aromas. The wine was very spiny and rusty, and Bipin found there to be “more oak,” but I found the oak under control. Aubert wisely observed that it was “nice to see a wine in its birth after another that is in its completeness.” The palate had razor-like acidity but was still not doing it for Frank. While Wolf and I found more merit in the wine. Bipin joked that he “had never seen Frank in such a sacrificial mood,” to which Frank countered that it was “too young,” to which I added, “we all know Frank likes his wines eighteen and older.” Frank replied in Europe, “Hey, in Europe, it’s sixteen,” which got a laugh. Aubert ended the debate by saying “Forgive me, but I’m used to young wines&I like it!” (94+)

The last wine of this most memorable meal was a 1978 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle, a bottle that came directly from the Domaine. It had a great, classic nose, with deep and dark black fruits, anise, plum, chocolate, minerals, pepper and rust. It was dank and brooding in the nose, a terminator of sorts. The palate was huge with loads of t’n a, still very youthful and almost infantile, shy in its fruit expression but definitely having the “zing thing,” according to Frank. The acidity was like an avalanche on the finish, which had a figgy edge as well. The palate was shy at first with more anise, mineral and slate, but indubitably enormous, and a pinch of flesh crept in over time as the wine gained weight in the glass. This wine was amazingly young, and its youth came across as a bit of emptiness in the beginning, but little by little the wine started to come out of its shell, but it probably needed another four to six hours for us truly to get to know it better. Earth and forest nuances developed and by the end of the evening, we all clearly saw that this was just the beginning for the 1978 La Chapelle (96+).

Aubert was still admiring the 1978 Montrachet at the end. He was clearly moved by Wolf’s generosity and he observed, “you can almost bite the fruit.” He then reminisced about his wedding in 1972, where his 600 guests were treated to twenty-five cases of 1970 Montrachet! “I would never do that today; times have changed.”

The more they change, the more the best taste better.

In Vino Veritas,

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