As I sit on a plane headed for Bordeaux via Paris, I figure it is a good time to release the second day of my Bordeaux trip last December! Sorry, I have been a bit backed up this year. I will be tasting a wide assortment of 2005s this week, so before that report comes I best catch up, albeit only a bit.
In case you forgot, day one of my Bordeaux trip, which was organized by Bipin Desai, saw visits to Las Cases, Cos (including lunch), Lafite, Mouton, Margaux, Rausan Segla and dinner at Montrose. Day two began with a morning visit to Lafleur, a good way to start any Tuesday in my book.
The owners, [Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau], were incredibly warm and generous people. We saw the winery right away, as it is basically a part of the ‘chateau’ (which was more like a house), and people were working away tending to their wines practically on their hands and knees. Despite the big name that Lafleur has, one could see right away that these were artisans rather than big businessmen, and I had the feeling that I was in Burgundy rather than Bordeaux.
We got a few facts straight during an introductory chat. I believe they said the annual production of Lafleur was 8-14,000 bottles, and that 60% of the wine they make goes into Lafleur, with the other 40% going into the ‘Pensees de Lafleur’ second label. I am not sure if that estimate was for both wines or not, forgive me. Jacques began making the wine himself in 1985 and has ever since. They do not make Lafleur if they feel the vintage is not good enough, which was the case in 1987 and 1991. 1987 marked the first ‘Pensees de Lafleur’ bottling as a result. The grapes come from four hectares with four different soils in the center of Pomerol. From outside the house, we could see just about every major Chateau in Pomerol around its horizons.
We began with a 1996 Grand Village, a Bordeaux Superieur (80% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc) that they have also been producing. The wine had a pure nose with aromas of plum, rose and light earth. Smooth, easy and round, with a touch of earth and leather, the 1996 was not bad for ten year-old ‘Superieur’ Merlot. We were informed that the 1996 was opened accidentally, but once it was, they figured ‘what the heck?’ I neglected to write down a score, either for that reason or accidentally myself.
The 2003 Grand Village was next, which should show a big difference in quality, Jacques insisted. Fat yet subtle Merlot fruit, light minerals and excellent character for a ‘village’ wine resulted in a very nice impression. Jacques remarked how in 2003, the young vines were much more difficult to manage than the old vines due to the excessive heat. There was decent richness to the palate, a little lushness and excellent balance with its earth components. Very toasty with nice mouth-filling tannins, this 2003 was one Right Bank wine from this vintage that could be enjoyed without much thought or expenditure (88)!
The 2004 Pensees de Lafleur obviously had more depth in nose. It was more pungent and intense, full of meaty, vitaminy, Pomerol fruit. It had spice, t n’ a, pungent plums, iron and minerals as well in the nose. The palate, still a bit shy, was nonetheless very good with its rich, concentrated fruit, excellent definition and nice length (91).
The 2003 Pensees de Lafleur had a sweeter, more concentrated nose and lots of grape, cassis, blackberry and black raspberry aromas. Jammy with that kiss of Lafleur pungency, the 2003 was tasty and rich in its fruit expression. There were nice earth complements wrapped around the outside, and the 2003 was more approachable than the 2004 but less intense, with more breast and less butt than the 2004 but qualitatively similar, and I only use those terms in the most respectful manner. I adore them both (91).
It was time to get serious, as five vintages of Lafleur were about to be served. Bipin Desai is a most excellent host, I must confess! Jacques commented about what were the most important factors in making Lafleur what it is: first and foremost was the soil, and the blend and age of the vines were the other two, in no particular order.
The 2004 Lafleur (55% Merlot, 45% Cab Franc) was ‘grape juice – almost black,’ Frank observed. It had a deep, intense nose – thick like an impenetrable fog. The fruit was amazingly thick and brooding, almost hibernating but oh so there. Its tannins and alcohol were buried within yet around its edges. There were touches of anise and minerals, but the core of concentrated Pomerol fruit was what set this wine apart, and while there were still a lot of baby fat qualities to its fruit, it was still decadent fruit aromatically. On the palate was a contrast, as the 2004 was very shy and youthful, dominated by its structure and extraordinary tannins and alcohol. So mouthcoating and long, very dry, and possessing a boat load of minerals, the 2004 reeked of extraordinary potential (95+).
The 2003 Lafleur (50/50 Merlot and Cab Franc) was more fruit forward (surprise) but still intense. Bipin was cooing about the ‘soft and silky style of Lafleur.’ There was great anise and a pungent minerality here, almost jumping out like a cat from its box. Pinches of gingerbread, lots of black raspberry fruit and divine earth rounded out its nose. I saw what Bipin said on the palate, as it was softer and silkier, approachable and with less weight in the middle, yet still possessing excellent grip, but the 2003 was clearly not the 2004. ‘Exotic and seductive’ someone remarked. The 2003 made 2004 seem all the more special (92).
An interesting debate broke out about 2004 versus 2003, and the consensus of the house was that in 30-40 years, the 2004 would be a great wine, while the 2003 was atypical, interesting yet far from classic. Guinaudeau continued that the biggest difference today about Lafleur is not the manner in which they make the wine, but rather the selection. Everything used to go into Lafleur, and now they make a stricter selection.
The 2002 Lafleur (60% Merlot, 40% Cab Franc) was a ‘difficult year for me,’ Jacques confessed. It had the pungent anise and cat’s box edge, also having smoke, coffee, plum, an exotic wood spice a la mahogany and a big streak of slate. To me, it was already very nice. There was lots of minerality to the palate and rock solid tannins and alcohol, excellent pungency, slate and good structure, but Sylvie liked its fruit the most. There were approachable flavors of black raspberry and plum in this medium-bodied Lafleur, which was way closer qualitatively to the 2003 than most would think (91).
The 2001 Lafleur had a classic nose with excellent balance between its fruit and finish components. The fruit had gorgeous plum, earth, bacon, and molasses qualities and great balance with its mineral, earth and t n’a qualities. The nose was both open and aromatic but structured as well. The palate was very tasty with its mirabelle, mineral, earth and slate flavors. Pungent, rich and fleshy, this was another great Lafleur. When Jacques said, ‘it will be interesting to compare the 2000 and 2001 over time, and no one talks about 2001,’ I knew it just wasn’t me. The 2001 won the ‘Miss Congeniality’ award of the morning (95).
The 2000 Lafleur had a ‘phenomenal nose,’ Frank cooed. It was classic all the way around with incredible breed – the pungent minerality, the unbelievably pure red and black fruit symphony, the light cedar and jam, and there was an unbelievable harmony amongst all. ‘The ’98 is less concentrated than the 2000,’ Guinaudeau (I think) remarked. There was great structure and intensity, but its balance and high pitch set it apart. The palate was rich, concentrated, mouth-filling and delicious with its chocolaty and minerally flavors. Long, balanced and pure, the wine was dripping with plums, plums and more plums. Believe the hype (98).
It was already a great day, and we were offto Cheval Blanc to lunch with the dynamic Pierre Lurton. Pierre shared some insights about Cheval as well. Generally 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot, Cheval Blanc was more than St. Emilion; it was ‘unique.’ Some of the keys to making the wine were an early ripening and controlling the water level in the soil, according to Pierre. Generally, Cheval sees 15-18 months in 100% new oak and at least three different types of oak. They believe in picking the Merlot early, as an overripe Merlot is ‘dangerous.’ Not only does Pierre manage Cheval Blanc, but also Marjoresse, Cheval des Andes from Argentina, a new South African project and Chateau d’Yquem, whose 2005 is ‘incroyable’ (unbelievable). When the topic of 2005 Cheval followed, Pierre was nothing but laudatory, citing its ‘exotic fruit and classic structure,’ also noting that each of Cheval’s 23 individual plots were vinified separately.
Ok, it was time for some more wine. The 2003 Cheval Blanc had an amazing perfume, and Bipin found it ‘very true.’ ‘Last year it was completely closed,’ someone observed, but the 2003 was apparently starting to come out of its shell. Its great perfume also possessed purity and elegance, and we were told it was 55% Cab Franc, 45% Merlot. Its nose had red fruits, light minerals, wintry spice and stunning earth aromas to it. The palate was tasty with rich sweet fruit but lacking definition in the middle, similar to Lafleur. The finish was delicate despite some lingering acidity, and the 2003 was very feminine in style. Even Lurton remarked that it was good but not great. It did have an amazing nose, though. Pierre noted its ‘coffee,’ while Bipin admired its ‘sweet biscuit’ aromas and slyly said, ‘almost a touch of Yquem to the nose.’ Its finish came out a bit with time (92).
The 2003 was Pierre’s version of an aperitif, as we sat down for lunch and began with a 2000 Petit Cheval, of which there are approximately 3,000 cases made every year and whose first vintage was 1988. Itwas a ‘great Petit Cheval,’ Pierre proudly stated, as if he was talking about one of his six children. It had an open nose with that Cabernet Franc kink, that weedy quality, but a lot better than the connotation. It had some red and wintry fruits underneath, and Wolf found it ‘very opulent.’ In the mouth, the wine was very tasty, with nice texture and length, and a flash of flesh and earth. Round Two of the wine gave off more purplish hues in the nose, as well as more bread aromas. Rich and in a good spot with its open and semi-lush fruit, the 2000 Petit Cheval also had nice grit to its finish and good character overall. A touch of benevolent Cab Franc green rounded out this very good wine (92).
A 1988 Cheval Blanc had a sexy nose, also in a good spot. Pierre commented how 1988 was a ‘very classic vintage, deep and dark in color,’ and that 2004 was like 1988 with more ripeness, which caused Bipin to mutter something about Pavie that I won’t repeat! Wolf appreciated its ‘great nose’ and found the ’88 to be ‘a wine for Cheval lovers, for the thinking’ drinker. He went on to say ‘nothing (was) overstated’ and admired its ‘beautiful harmony.’ The wine was open and singing, Pierre picking up on some ‘minty’ qualities. The nose did have gorgeous red fruits, nuts, a kiss of vanilla, caramel and a touch of earth. The palate had excellent richness, great balance and a long finish. This was an excellent Cheval all the way. As the wine developed, its bready aromas became divine, and its nuttiness got sexier. Flavors of chocolate, meat and earth expanded on its rich palate, which was a bit rusty in a good way. Tasty and with definition, the 1988 Cheval was a real surprise to me, and its vigor held as tertiary aromas of olive, wintergreen and almost dill joined the party (93).
After the eye-opening 2001 we had at Lafleur, the question of 2001 was asked to Pierre, who felt that 2001 is a ‘forgotten’ year but was a ‘classic’ that ‘will age.’
Pierre pulled out areal treat, a bottle of 1959 Cheval Blanc that had never left the cellars. I had had a great bottle of this wine before, the other also being with Frank (how does that always happen?). This bottle did not disappoint either. From 1950 to 1964, there are a slew of incredible Chevals that seem to be ignored or missed by the American market. Don’t! The ’59 had an amazing nose full of rich, meaty and wintry fruits. Someone was in awe of its ‘amazing sweetness.’ It was fat and meaty with aromas of red brick fruits, a shred of vitamins, oil, earth and game. ‘The wine is perfect to drink. Il vous attendez! (It is waiting for you),’ Pierre gushed. A flash of deep purple, honey-roasted nuts and a pinch of mint rounded out its nose. Rich, sweet and delicious summed up the palate, which still had great t ‘n a, a veritable Raquel Welch of a wine. Incredibly complex and very sweet, this 1959 had hints of 1947 in it. Fig emerged in this rich, lush and gritty wine. It did mature in the glass a bit more quickly than I wanted, but other than that it was magnificent. Some wines are meant to be consumed and enjoyed sooner rather than later when they get to this age. Wolf found it ‘healthy with no flaws,’ while Bipin admired the ‘1959 character of opulence.’ ‘Not a wine of fashion, it is a wine of substance,’ one of my four wise companions said. Raisins crept into its seepy style, and there was some maple to its sweetness (96).
Pierre shared a funny story about how when he was interviewing for the job of Managing Director at Cheval, there was a little discomfort with his last name being Lurton, which is obviously a famous wine name in Bordeaux associated with many other properties. They had asked him if he could use his mother’s name instead, and what was it. ‘Lafite,’ he replied. That got a big laugh. Some people were meant to be in the wine business. One last little tidbit that Pierre left us with was that there are over 1000 bottles of 1937 and 1500 bottles of 1967 still in the cellar at Yquem. Like, whoa.
We changed the dial to modern rock with an afternoon visit with Hubert de Bouard at Chateau L’Angelus. Hubert is one of the more aggressive Chateau owners in Bordeaux right now, working on and acquiring new properties on a regular basis. In 2001, he assumed control of Clos des Jacobins, for one. I must confess that I was a bit exhausted at the start of this tasting, but Hubert’s wines woke me up right away with their more modern style, a style that still managed to respect some of the terroirs’ inherent classicism.
We started with a 2003 Chateau La Commanderie, a property located only 300 meters from Cheval. What was Hubert’s secret to resuscitating this property? Lower yields, stopping fertilizing and paying attention to the different lots within the property were his answers. The wine had a pleasant nose of red fruits, olive, light citrus, and minerals with a limestone edge. One could taste more vanilla from the oak, but it was still balanced and reined in, revealing nice texture and richness. There was a pleasant freshness and sweetness to the wine. Bipin found it ‘low acid,’ but it had a nice, dry finish. The vines were less than ten years old, Hubert pointed out, as well as the fact that 30-40% of the crop was cut back at the end of August for both Commanderie and L’Angelus (90).
The 2003 La Fleur de Bouard was next, a wine consisting of 85% Merlot that was again very modern with the vanilla, new oak edge that was again reined in over its plummy fruit and edges of Cab Franc stalk and perfume. There was more structure and richness here and also good fatness in the middle. There were a lot of vanilla flavors and a nice, dry finish to go with its plum syrup fruit. 1998 was this wine’s first vintage, fyi, and the property (a Lalande de Pomerol) is located 2.5 kilometers away from Petrus itself (92).
The 2004 La Fleur de Bouard was a barrel sample and had more wood accordingly, along with more maple syrup. Vanilla, interior wood and barrel smoke were dominant, but there was still creamy and sappy fruit underneath. While oakier, spicier and longer, the 2004 was a bit square relative to the 2003. Despite all my observations of oak, it was not overwhelming; i.e., it worked, although it probably would be overwhelming to some. The tannins were very gripping, and a touch of bitters rounded out its unbalanced finish (90+).
The 2003 Clos St. Jacobins had an ‘exotic tea’ component, Bipin observed. Hubert countered with ‘dry fruits like fig.’ There were aromas of vanilla (of course), along with smoke, earth, toast and wild Cab Franc stalk. There was excellent structure for 2003 here, but the palate was very vanilla-y and woody with that green Cab Franc stalk flavor. It was a bit aggressive for me but well-made nonetheless (90).
The 2002 Le Plus de la Fleur de Bouard, also a Lalande de Pomerol and basically a reserve selection of the regular La Fleur, had an ink black color. Its nose was also very inky and deep, with syrupy black fruits, vanilla, smoke, earth and pinches of minerals, vegetables and animals. Round, smooth and long, the Le Plus was still on the vanilla side of things but classier, longer and more regal. For a wine from 2002, it was pretty impressive, although I couldn’t help but think that Bouard’s wines reflect his style more than the terroirs, but again it works. Hubert observed ‘minerals and licorice’ (93).
The 2001 Le Plus de la Fleur de Bouard had a milder nose by comparison, and I liked that. Its nose had an exotic, floral edge but still a bit of beef, along with sap, purple and black fruits and a pinch of jasmine. Cleaner on the palate, the 2001 had less upfront density but nice length and a cleaner style. There was more mineral and leather on the finish (92).
The 2003 L’Angelus, 58% Cabernet Franc, had the most regal style, and 2003 produced ‘unbelievable Cabernet Franc’ according to Hubert. There was that kiss of modern vanilla, yet also an underlying style and the elegance of the earth. Hubert found ‘red fruits and raspberries,’ and there was also coffee, chocolate and cassis. The L’Angelus was much denser than the Cheval, with an extra touch of dryness to its finish. Big, rich and robust with a long, dry finish, the 2003 had lots of beefy flavors. It was not my style of wine but quite respectable (92).
Wow, is that dark,’ Frank remarked about the 2004 L’Angelus, which to me also had more style than the 2003. There were deep purple fruits and less vanilla than anything so far, although it was still noticeable. Additional aromas of plum liqueur, chocolate, beef and leather were in this subtle (by comparison) nose. The palate was spiny, with a lot of dry minerality and a leathery finish (93).
There was no time to dilly-dally, as it was off to the office of Christian Moueix to taste through the wines of the first family of Pomerol. While Christian was not around, his most knowledgeable son Edouard was there to lead us through a horizontal of 2004s. He was accompanied by the company’s Sales Director Frederick Lospied.
The 2004 Magdelaine had a beautiful nose and such pure fruit, red cherry and currant to be precise, along with musk, vitamins and earth. ‘Just plain sexy,’ I wrote, the 2004 also had a delicious palate full of rich red fruits, earth, vitamins and great minerals. This was gorgeous fruit for a 2004, and the wine still had a nice, long finish, and its dryness was reined in unlike other 2004s that we had already had. The wine did have a lighter to medium body with a small hole in the middle, but the purity was beautiful (92).
The 2004 La Grave, (formerly Trigrant de Boisset), was a property bought by Christian in 1971. It had an attractive nose of plums, light minerals and slate, but also plump, sweet fruit without being too sweet. ‘Nice and smooth,’ Frank observed, and it absolutely was, but it also had a spicy finish. There were flavors of pure, tasty, plummy fruit and excellent earth to this very impressive and classy juice (93).
The 2004 Latour a Pomerol was a bit more pungent in the nose with more animal, yeast and anise aromas, a touch too yeasty. The 2004 was the ‘last vintage with the old block next to the church,’ we were told, as the vineyard was replanted in 2006. The flavors were anise and a touch of cat box, back to the drier style a la other 2004’s. There was still nice, plummy fruit and a drop of oil (90).
The 2004 Certan Marzelle, a property of which I was unaware, was formerly part of Certan Giraud, now across the street from a lower plot of 20-25 year-old vines, next to La Fleur de Gay. It had a musky nose with more blackberry fruit, but it was missing that second level of complexity and a touch dry with more bitter flavors (87).
The 2004 La Fleur Petrus had a great nose, rich and sappy with decadent, plummy fruit. There was also excellent musk, touches of caramel and leather, vitamins, nice earth and bread aromas, along with a touch of baked something in a good way. Edouard observed that it was ‘more fleshy but needs more time,’ and he was right on in that observation. It had a big palate, ‘a mouthful,’ Frank exclaimed. Rich and concentrated, it had plummy and oily fruit and a long finish (94).
The 2004 Trotanoy had a deep, intense nose full of iron, minerals, slate, earth and the sexiest plummy fruit of the afternoon. While Edouard commented how it was ‘always difficult to taste when young,’ a statement with which I agree, this Trotanoy had no problem expressing itself. It was the most stylish wine so far of this session, and I was really digging the core of blackcurrant jam and musk. The palate was very spiny and had super acidity but was still very tight and coy on palate in regard to its fruit. The Trotanoy was so spicy that I needed to lick my lips over and overagain! Despite it being very dry, its finish was indubitably outstanding. If the fruit can keep up, the 2004 Trotanoy may turn out to be truly great and one of the wines of the vintage (95+).
The hits kept on coming with the 2004 Hosanna. It was on the opulent side of plum with a yeasty backbone. Bipin found its ‘chocolate absolutely remarkable.’ Frederick noted its ‘pepper, spice’ and found it ‘elegant, not heavy.’ Mouth-filling, round, and with dry tannins, the 2004 Hosanna had nice flesh and great structure (93).
It was time to have the 2004 Lafleur again, the second time in one day! It was a new context and therefore a new experience, as well as the fact it was the first time I have ever had the same wine in the morning and then in the afternoon. Yes, even for me, that is a rare occasion. Brooding, deep and intense, its nose was like a lurking giant with its muscular style. Chocolate, earth, slate and smoke rounded out the nose, and the palate was consistent, also with enormous, mouth-coating tannins, great acidity, flavors of purple fruits, vitamins and earth, all of which took a backseat to the tannins (95+).
The 2004 Petrus had a much more playful nose despite the same brooding intensity as Lafleur. It was also a bit more approachable, redder in its fruit, muskier and with additional aromas of earth, smoke, vitamins, jasmine and light cedar. The style on the palate was more Muhammad Ali than the George Foreman style of Lafleur. The Petrus danced on the palate with shy yet delicious flavors of plum, earth and tobacco, along with a long, dry finish. The Petrus was indubitably in the same class as the Trot and Lafleur, although perhaps a step behind in its intensity, but that was probably the point! Bipin found it ‘restrained, balanced, beautiful,’ and Edouard made a 1975 analogy and went on an anti-extraction speech citing the ‘delicacy of its dryness,’ summing it up succinctly by saying ‘the better is the enemy of thegood.’ (95+)
You would think that the above would be enough for one day, but remember this is Bipin we are talking about! Dinner was soon to be served, and tonight was ‘Bipin’s Thanksgiving,’ a dinner he hosts every year at Chateau Lafite featuring a who’s who guest list from Bordeaux: Herve Berland (Mouton Rothshild), Jacques Boissenot (enologist), Hubert de Bouard (Angelus), Jean-Louis Charmolue (Montrose), Charles Chevallier (Lafite), Jean Delmas (formerly at Haut Brion), Alexandre de Lur Saluces (formerly of Yquem and still with de Fargues), Thierry Manoncourt (Figeac), Jean-Francois Moueix (Christian’s brother and negociant), Paul Pontallier (Margaux), Jean-Guillaume Prats (Cos), Christoph Salin (Lafite), Christian Le Somer (enologist) , and there were two people who were invited but couldn’t make it: Pierre Lurton (Cheval Blanc) and Christine Valette (Troplong Mondot); and the guest of honor, Jean-Pierre Perrin, who is from a chateau of different sorts, de Beaucastel. Pierre is a Paul Bunyan of a man, tall and broad, and I swear he told me that he biked 200 kilometers that very same day already! There is no doubt he could beat me in any form of any race whatsoever.
We had had our fill of young wines for the day, so we started the meal with a 1985 Montrachet. I had almost forgotten what Burgundy tasted like but soon remembered! Reticent aromas of wax, corn, butter, alcohol and minerals graced the nose. A bit of yeast and wild field were on the outskirts as well. The palate was very toasted and buttery, burnt like smokehouse wood in jerky. Very tasty, the 1985 was creamy, lush, oily, rich, long and smooth, with hidden acids, exotic yellow fruits and wax and nut flavors. Although it might be at its best now, the was still very fine indeed. I asked Bipin if it was at its peak, and he said yes, but then a philosophical discussion regarding the concept of peak begun with Paul Pontallier. To paraphrase Paul, ‘over time we lose some things yet gain in others, what is a peak? Not sure there is such a thing.’ He continued the wine was ‘absolutely delicious – not sure it’s at its peak but it’s everything I like.’ The food brought out the alcohol and acid on the palate a bit, supporting Paul’s thoughts (95).
It was back to our regular programming with anything but a regular wine, a 1945 Calon Segur served out of magnum. It had a great nose full of minerals, chocolate, cassis, nut, old cedar and earth. The wine had such beautiful and fresh fruit, almost grapy. Creamy, lush and elegant, the wine still possessed a nice delicate length to its finish and flavors of slate and old cedar. Simply a delicious wine, the 1945 Calon even got sturdier in the glass and its tannins came out more and more with time (96).
There was another magnum of 1945 claret, this time a 1945 Gruaud Larose. This magnum had a lower, mid-shoulder level but was not bad, perhaps not as good as it could have been, but if I didn’t know, I might not have noticed. It had nice fruit, dark plums and grapes, and a lot of soft, supple structural aromas such as earth, straw, hay and light minerals. There was a touch too much minerality to the palate in its earthier profile, but it still had depth to its fruit and excellent tannic expression. Long, fine, still sturdy and possessing more tannins than alcohol, this was still an excellent bottle, despite the kiss of sherry to its flavors (94A).
Paul gave me some facts about the 1945 vintage: there was a Spring frost, a low crop, a very nice summer that was hot (but not like ’03 and ’47), dry (not like ’05) and there was an early harvest about 9/15 or earlier. Charles Chevallier was in awe of the amazing color that these 1945s were able to retain.
The 1945 Rausan Segla was another excellent wine, more musky in a minerally direction with meater fruit and a sprinkle of brown sugar, wheat! (that was it), caramel and decadent cassis. Rich, thick, meaty and mouthfilling, the Segla coated the mouth with its cassis fruit and long, minerally finish. It was spectacular at first but seemed to get oakier in the glass, but there was no doubt its port-like concentration was incredible (94).
A 1945 Leoville Las Cases had more straw and chalk to its nose, vimful and vigorous in a spicy way without being spicy. There was still a wealth of plummy fruit there and almost a touch of cinnamon, blending into a foresty wood. The palate was smooth and minerally with nice grip and length but an overall milder impression, but like that 2004 Petrus showed, that can be a good thing! Very pencilly, the Las Cases was initially outclassed by the Rausan Segla but surpassed it in the end (94+)!
It was interesting to study this renowned group’s reactions to this flight. Paul preferred the Calon, Hubert the Rausan Segla, while Charles did the Leoville Las Cases. So much for a consensus! I figured now was as good a time as any to make my ‘bring back the foudre’ stand, especially at a table where it would actually mean something. Paul countered that most fermentations are still done in wooden vats like foudres, and that there were always barrels, just not necessarily new ones, but everyone would have used new ones if they could have afforded them.
Back to the Burgundies we went, and this group of illustrious Bordelais seemed intrigued like kids in a 7th grade biology class dissecting their first frog. and Montrachet was one thing, but I swear that there was a healthy minority at the table who had never even heard of Dujac! It was at that point that I realized that the Bordelais are truly in their own world. One attendee later confided to me that when he is at home, he drinks Burgundy, but he shall remain nameless, as I don’t want to be the guy who gets him exiled to Chile!
The 1985 Dujac Bonnes Mares was first and served out of magnum. It fell all over me like welcome and needed rain with its beautiful nose, a left turn indeed, but definitely one in the right direction! The nose seeped out of the glass with its bright red cherry and raspberry fruit, decadent musk, leather and earth aromas, definitively Bourgogne as opposed to Bordeaux. The nose was also bready, sweet, and with a pinch of citric vigor to get the hair on the back of my neck just right. A whiff of menthol finalized the aromatic profile. The palate was very rich and concentrated by Burgundian standards, possessing spicy alcohol and acid. There were also excellent earth flavors and a kiss of maple sweetness to go with its red cherry fruit. The Bonnes Mares was noticeably breadier than the Clos de la Roche (96).
The 1985 Dujac Clos de la Roche was also served out of magnum and similarly styled to the Bonnes Mares but with more menthol and chocolate; that was what really separated the two. There was also a touch of fresh bouillon and darker fruits in the Clos de la Roche – more black cherries. The wine was firm with more buried alcohol, its flavors redder, and there was less weight than the Bonnes Mares, along with a small hole in the middle of the palate (94).
The 1985s continued with a 1985 La Tache. ‘Still young,’ Paul admired. ‘The older I get, the more I love Burgundy,’ he drifted off, surely a state of temporary insanity if this came to trial! The nose of the La Tache was a bit shut down, a bit dirty to be frank. There was a lot of oil and dirt to the nose, but the palate recovered and was ‘absolutely stunning’ with great lift to its finish, but it did taste a bit beefy and advanced overall. There were great earth flavors and still excellent stuffing to the wine, which had plenty of upside potential left (95A?).
The 1985 Romanee St. Vivant was a fresher style of ’85. The fruit was redder, but the wine still had that dirty edge like La Tache – maybe it was the vintage rather than the bottles? Oily and nutty, there was more seaside action in the nose. There was a similar dirty edge to the smooth and supple palate (92).
The last 1985 wine in this flight was a 1985 Leroy Ruchottes Chambertin, which had a deeper, nuttier, darker Leroy nose that seemed more winemaker than terroir. The palate was full of dark fruits, cola, leather and earth flavors. The finish was very tannic relatively but quickly softened yet maintained a gritty finish (92).
It was time for some wines from the Rhone Valley and our guest of honor. The 1981 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape was another left turn, but more slight of a turn. It had a mild nose by comparison to the Burgundies yet also had some Burgundian edges to its fruit. Aromas of meat, red fruits, leather, earth and leather slinked out, along with bits of sap, soy, oil and rust. The palate was very hearty with lots of acidity and nice, medium-bright red fruit with autumnal edges, earth and light grit to its finish (92).
We were in for a treat, a magnum of 1954 Beaucastel, from the cellars of Beaucastel, of course, as was the 1981. Nut and earth were the first aromas to show themselves, followed by meat, soy, red fruits, animal fur, a touch of Provence, mineral and more earth. ‘Sauvage,’ Bipin added. Rich and fleshy, the ‘1981 was very good, but the ’54 great,’ Paul decided, and Charles agreed. It was delicious and still hearty (95).
It was time for dessert, and this meal ended in as fine a fashion as it begun. The 1945 Yquem had a fabulous nose full of wax, honey, creme brulee, caramel and orange peel. The palate was so thick, so rich so oily and so concentrated that small children should not be within a mile of an open bottle, for they would definitely get wind of this one and want, want, want. Long, spiny and still youthful, there were additional flavors of biscotti and vanilla. Frank called it ‘perfect,’ and it was pretty damn close (98+).
One more to go, a 1935 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port. I think I can, I think I can. ‘OOMPH!’ was aboutall I could muster up. White peppery, pruny and alcoholic, I summed up this port from Bipin’s birth year with a ‘yeah’ (95).
And that was day two.
In Vino Veritas,