For many years now, I have heard the story of this particular batch of 1945 Petrus. When Wilf Jaeger tells you that it is the best bottle that he’s ever had, it’s hard not to listen. It just so happens this batch rested comfortably in the ‘Imperial Cellar’ for many years, and for most of those many years I had to hear Wilf and Eric tell me over and over how great it was, digging my desire a little bit deeper with each recollection of their magical evening, which also saw 1945 Trotanoy as a distinguished runner-up.
Low and behold, the last four bottles turned up in our record-setting May auction, and immediately after the sale, I made my move on the buyer, who happened to be the top buyer of the sale. I asked if we could share one together, my treat, as I had to have this bottle before it disappeared forever like that girl you never asked out in high school. I was determined for that not to happen again. Call me a cork dork if you must :).
My first evening in Hong Kong this past week saw the 1945 Petrus make its way to the dinner table, at long last. First, we started with a 1955 Leroy Mazis Chambertin, a generous contribution from my newfound best friend. The Leroy had a truffly, mushroomy, sous bois nose at first, with some dirty earth and soupy bouillon followed by secondary rose and citrus aromas. Its acidity was still extraordinary, and my host told me after my first sip the story of how one evening, this bottle showed even better than all the top Bordeaux, including a 1947 Cheval Blanc. ‘The power of Burgundy,’ I wrote to myself. The wine got better and better with each sip, shedding some of its dirt to reveal chocolaty flavors with borders of various nuts. Hints of tomato joined the trifecta of citrus, chocolate and earth flavors, and the wine fleshed out in the glass as well. However, it couldn’t top the Bordeaux that would follow on this night, and possibly even suffered a point accordingly (94).
Five years in my making, and sixty-five years in the bottle, it was finally time for this 1945 Petrus. This was an original, no doubt about it bottle. Perfection came to mind upon first whiff, as its nose was a kaleidoscope of greatness, as if every great quality from all the Pomerols I’ve ever had were right there in my glass. Aromas of plum, chocolate and royal garden marched into my nose with style and precision. Fine was an understatement, as its elegance and breed were of an Olympic equestrian level, carrying over to its fruit, which was elegant but at the same time beyond wealthy. Its concentration was golden, as in bars not bracelets. I could not get over its density, both in the nose and on the palate. The 1945 was all that and then some, and it seduced me like a gorgeous woman whispering in my ear, ‘I’ll be whatever you want me to be.’ Its color was still dark and vibrant; this wine could last another fifty years without issue. Its royal garden qualities upgraded to Versailles status, and flavors of mocha abounded on its dense and deft palate, with nice traces of chalk on its finish. There were pinches of wild herbs emerging, in a rosemary meets wheat way, as well as a baked goodness in a coconut direction, but not quite coconut. Our sommelier noted, ‘strawberry.’ The chef at Otto E Mezzo, Hong Kong’s version of Mario Batali, gushed that it was ‘so young and so healthy.’ What was so great about this bottle, and this vintage for the Right Bank in general, is that it still possessed a tension to its fruit, unlike 1947, which produced concentrated and much sweeter wines in general. I can only hope to taste this nectar again in my lifetime, but I strongly suspect that it will be difficult to achieve the heights that this bottle achieved. It touched my soul (99+).
It was a nice warm-up for the week that followed, a casual Monday that was anything but. It’s Hong Kong, they drink it.
In Vino Veritas,