This past December, I took my first trip to ‘wine country’ in a long time, but not the Napa Valley with which so many associate the term, but rather to the shores of Bordeaux, my first trip there as an adult. Could I have possibly been in the wine business for over ten years and not have visited such hallowed ground? Why, yes. It has only been little over a year since I have reacquainted myself with the retail side of the business, and it did not make sense for me to go there until my experience in the wine business had come full circle to where I begun, as it has now with retail on my mind. Don’t worry, you can still call me 006 as auctions are forever!
I was very fortunate to have the ultimate tour guide, a personal sensei of mine, Dr. Bipin Desai. Every December, he makes his yearly pilgrimage to Bordeaux, accompanied by his two most trusted friends, Dr. Frank Komorowski and Wolfgang Grunewald, two of the most serious collectors in the entire world, and great guys to match (they don’t always go together!) So, there we were, four horsemen united in spirit and spirits, looking for some answers to the age old question, ‘What’s going on?’
My three cohorts were actually already ahead of me, starting off with a couple of nights in San Sebastian in Spain, which many feel is one of the world’s great culinary destinations now. If you end up in the area, let me know and a recommendation or three will follow. Having my December auction on the 10th, I had to miss that part of the trip. In fact, I was on the redeye flight that left right after the auction. Suffice it to say that I was jello by the time I had gotten to Bordeaux on my connecting flight. After a six-hour nap and then a decent night’s sleep on Sunday, we began our journey on Monday at Leoville Las Cases.
On the way to Las Cases, the first thing I remembered was that wine country is actually farm country. Despite all the big names and world-renowned chateaux, there is very little modernization on the outside on a surface level. It seemed as if the place looked the same twenty years ago, and probably fifty before that as well. Being such a lover of older wines, I felt at home and quite comfortable amongst the vineyards and old chateaux, these magical places trapped in time. While the city of Bordeaux is quite metropolitan, its wine country is not, and that’s not a bad thing.
We were greeted at Las Cases by its winemaker, Bruno Rolland, a third-generation winemaker who has been the official winemaker since 1996. He did not speak much English, so we did our best in Franglais to communicate. Sometimes, the wine spoke for itself. Chateaux Nenin and Potensac are also managed by Las Cases now, so we had a healthy introduction to the week at 9am featuring three chateaux, their second wines, and two vintages, 2004 and 2003.
First up was the 2004 Fugue de Nenin, which was 92% Merlot, the rest being Cab Franc. Youthful and pleasant with a touch of bitters was about all I came up with. Young wine is not as easy to write about for me as it is for others, and I was trying to take quick snapshots as we had a very busy schedule, and time was of the essence (85).
You could see the immediate ripeness of the vintage in the 2003 Fugue de Nenin. Its nose was much more aromatic, and its palate more open, which was grapy, young yet smooth (87).
The 2004 Nenin itself had more depth and a smoky, meaty, gamy, Pomerol nose. It was medium-bodied with nice richness, and good slate, plum and chocolate flavors. A decent finish rounded out this good, almost very good wine (89).
I actually preferred the 2004 Nenin to the 2003 Nenin, which was not as ripe as I had expected. This was a trend that would continue throughout the week when it came to Pomerol. The 2003 still had some sweet plum to it, along with chocolate, soy and earth. Drier and with more acidity than the 2004, there was a long finish and olive and bread flavors, but I enjoyed it a touch less than the more classic 2004. Dr. K was in agreement, also in the fact that we both ironically preferred the 2003 Fugue, the second label (88).
We changed lanes and domaines with a 2004 Chapelle de Potensac. The nose was pleasant and had some sweet fruit, but the palate was very uninspiring, a bit lemony and lacking depth or weight (82).
The 2003 Chapelle de Potensac had more structure in the nose with nice mineral aromas. There was lots of structure by comparison to the 2004, but the 2003 still suffered from the same deficiencies overall. Bipin was taken aback by the fact that it was ‘so alcoholic,’ and we whispered amongst ourselves that perhaps Potensac should not have a second wine (84).
The 2004 Potensac had nice aromas and rich fruit in its nose with bread, grape, earth and some baby fat to it. The palate was drier, classic in an earthy and slaty way with a dry finish. It was a good wine (87+).
The 2003 Potensac had more meat, nut and oil to the nose, more flesh on the palate but less structure than the ’04. It was pleasant and nice to drink with some dryness to its finish, but again I preferred the 2004 by a small margin (86).
The 2004 Clos du Marquis,. the official second wine of Leoville Las Cases, had a nice, nutty nose that was softer and fleshier than Potensac. The palate was too dry and a bit sandpapery, however. I found it average (85).
The 2003 Clos du Marquis was the first wine to crack the 90-point barrier (phew). The week was off to a bit of a slow start by my usual standards, I know. The nose was very nice, sexy and musky with a very good balance between its nut and fruit components. The nose was open and flirtatious with lots of mouth coating tannins and some ripe fruit to match, cassis and coffee flavors mainly. The wine felt like it still needed more time to truly open, unlike the other wines that preceded it (90).
The end was near, beginning with the 2004 Leoville Las Cases. The nose was deeper, elegant yet robust at the same time, with meaty fruit underneath. Aromas of nut, cassis, oil, earth and tobacco intermingled complexly. The palate was rich and long with refined tannins and excellent acidity. Flavors of leather, earth, sandpaper and lemon graced its finish. Only 34% of the crop made it into the 2004, versus 54% of the 2003! The palate had flesh without sweetness and was very good, just short of excellent for the time being, but I do have a bit of a handicap sometimes appreciating younger, Old World wines (92).
The 2003 Leoville Las Cases was clearly at the head of this class, jumping out of its glass and taking center stage quickly. Nutty and aromatic, the 2003 had coffee, vanilla bean, smoke, earth and dark fruits underneath. Its concentration was on another level. Its tannins were long, acidity fine and flavors mineral, earth, cassis and tobacco. Everyone was definitely awake after this wine (95)!
We said our goodbyes, and we were off to Cos d’Estournel for a tasting and lunch with Jean-Guillaume, the dynamic son and successor of the legendary Bruno Prats. I liked the guy even before we met him, as he is a ‘John William’ as am I. My middle name is William, for which Guillaume is the French translation. We arrived a little before Jean-Guillaume and began to taste some recent vintages of Cos, one of the hottest Chateaux in Bordeaux over the past ten or fifteen years. Upon pulling up into the chateau, we noticed three flags were flying out front, one from India (for Bipin), from Switzerland (for Wolf) and, of course, the good ol’ USA (for Frank and I). Now that’s class. Cos also has a beautiful museum and tasting room, where we gathered for a vertical of 2002 through 2005, the only ’05 we ended up tasting the entire trip!
The 2002 Cos d’Estournel had nice spice to its nose, and I almost saw the Indian connection on display at the Museum, or perhaps I was being subconsciously influenced. Cos has a history of trading with India a lot over the years. There was nice earth and great balance with its fruit, accompanied by lightly toasted bread, meat and cassis. The wine was pure and had lovely fruit and great flesh, balanced all the way. ‘2002 was a great success in St. Estephe,’ Bipin commented, and Jean-Guillaume’s assistant called the ’02 ‘classic Medoc.’ The palate also had great fruit with vanilla, smoke and mineral kisses and a fine, delicate finish. ‘Really good’ was how Bipin summed up the 2002, and it was. It was beautiful but did not have the concentration or weight of the greatest of vintages, but I bet it will be delicious for the next 10-15 years (92).
The 2003 Cos d’Estournel was a bit muted in the nose at first, with some fat fruit churning underneath. I had some glass issues, so I got a re-pour and started fresh. Pure minerals, light toast, light nut, and subtle earth all graced its nose. The palate was very concentrated and hedonistic, making me sneeze due to its intensity. The wine was a bit Caliesque in its fruit, but oh so Bordeaux on its finish. Someone (sorry I forgot who) said the wine was ‘exotic with a round attack…for such a young wine, this is extremely unusal.’ Secondary aromas of coffee, nut and musk emerged, and the nose started to ripple with minerals. Its finish was first class, loaded with minerals and length, and great earth flavors. Wolf found it ‘very roasted,’ while Bipin felt that quality was ‘burnt’ (95+).
The 2004 Cos d’Estournel had coffee and its grinds in the nose, along with some sexy plum and chocolate behind it. There was a bit of a stalky edge, this pungent earth to it that I liked. Very dry on the palate, the 2004 reminded me a bit of 1986 or 1975 in its tannic and dry personality. There were roasted coffee flavors and plum ones, too, but this baby clearly needed some time. After the 2004, when we went back to the 2003, we could all see how atypical the 2003 really was, and that it was indeed more ‘Caliesque,’ as Clive has been insisting. The enormous finish of the 2004 reeked of potential. Jean-Guillaume joined us in the middle of the 2005 that we were about to sample, and he said something very interesting about his 2004, that in 2-3 years the 2004 will be a wine that many prefer, as it is the most classic of the first three wines we sampled. It is pretty rare that I make a ‘buy’ recommendation, but this is one of those rare occasions where I feel I should say something, and no, I do not have any in inventory as I am writing this (94+).
The 2005 Cos d’Estournel was still ‘grape juice,’ as Bipin noted, ‘but still very balanced.’ Jean-Guillaume was quick to caution us that they just finished the first blend, and that this was more for fun than to be able to seriously evaluate it. He continued that 2005 had ‘the balance of 2000’ but was ‘more profound and with more expression. There is a pulp on the mid-palate, a fatness very rare in Bordeaux.’ The woman from Cos cooed about ‘1945, ’47, ’61.’ As Paul Wasserman said to me in Carmel a couple weeks prior, the 2005 vintage is ‘a fait accompli.’ That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, get ready for a big-time Bordeaux futures campaign this Spring. Back up the trucks and take out your second mortgages now, because they are not going to be cheap, either. Back to the wine&despite the non-sample quality that was insisted, I could see the style of Cos come through the roasted earth, the plum, the cassis, the exotic spice. There was a lot of baby fat and a touch of mint with defined cedar despite its grapy personality. Despite that grapiness, there was balance and distinguished length in its classy, stylish finish (95+).
It was off to lunch we went, after a quick gathering in the salon with some 1988 Krug. After just a few minutes with Jean-Guillaume, one could tell that this was a driven, classy, and intelligent young man (hey sounds familiar), and that the future of Cos d’Estournel is in the most capable of hands. It is clear that Bruno’s torch is at the very least in the process of being passed. Lunch was a trio of older wines (finally!), beginning with one of my all-time favorite Bordeaux of the last 25 years, the 1982 Cos.
The 1982 Cos d’Estournel had a fabulous nose. ‘I love this wine and always have,’ I wrote. Jean-Guillaume was quick and proud to point out how they made 35,000 cases of the 1982 compared to only 18,000 estimated cases for 2005. Regardless of what may have been a high production that year, the 1982 was still singing to a sold out audience. Its nose was fabulous with great nut, cassis and plum fruits with cedar and chocolate supplements, a touch of raisinet, oil and caroby flesh. The palate was rich, creamy and fleshy with the perfect amount of nut there, great cassis flavors and excellent t ‘n a. It was a first class wine with hints of autumn but by no means autumnal. I have rated it as high as 98 points, and it was good to see this bottle be consistent, as I hadn’t had it in a while and was starting to wonder if I had gone too far that one night after seeing my note over and over in our catalogs! I didn’t (97).
The 1970 Lafite Rothschild required us to go through two bottles, as the first one was slightly corked. The second bottle was a bit fresher, nuttier, meatier and oilier with a Thai peanut edge. The palate was nice and fresh, smooth with a nice ‘Burgundian’ quality someone noted. Velvety, smooth and lush with pleasant, old red cherry fruit, leather and earth on its finish, the 1970 was nice but did not hold in the glass all that well and is definitely in a period of decline (88).
The 1961 Pichon Lalande was a real treat and had an excellent nose with nice vigor of its t ‘n a, peanutty fruit and underlying cassis, a real autumnal cassis. There was this exotic perfume to it blending into the nut that I couldn’t quite put my finger on for a minute and then it came to me: lavender. Words such as ‘elegant, forward and silky’ came from the group. This bottle was actually in the cellar of Cos since 1961, as was the Lafite since 1970! Now that’s provenance. You could see the freshness in both of these wines accordingly. Some Asian grill rounded out its complicated nose, a nose that was much better than its leathery palate. Frank got ‘cassis’ flavors, and the 1961 was smooth and supple, just holding on to its very good status despite the intoxicating aromas (90).
I took a few interesting tidbits from our general conversation that were not related to the three wines we tasted. Jean-Guillaume thinks that Chile is the best place to make good value wine in the world, but that Argentina had better grapes and vineyards, except for the fact that Argentina is much more difficult to deal with. He also cited South Africa and Eastern Europe as the next two potential hotbeds for quality wines, particularly Romania and Bulgaria when they join the EC in 4-5 years. The question of Cos vs. Lafite came up, and what was the difference, and Jean-Guillaume reasoned 1) terroir; 2) Lafite’s consistency over 150 years; and 3) the fact that Lafite always had the financial resources to declassify in bad vintages and make a better wine. Jean-Guillaume went on to define longevity as market penetration and brand recognition, and also stressed the importance of educating one’s workers about wine. The topic of reconditioning came up, and, of course, Bipin had the last word when he said, ‘Those who recondition wines have never learned elementary physics.’ Praise the Bipin!
There was no time to dilly-dally, as we had appointments with Lafite, Mouton and Margaux that afternoon. Lafite was first, where we sampled a trio of 2004s with Charles Chevalier, manager at Lafite.
The 2004 Carruades de Lafite had a sexy nose of sweet fruit and that Bordeaux reserve. Grape and cassis were everywhere, and there was a nice perfume to the wine and a touch of earth, but the nose was decidedly plump. The palate was plump too, rich and delicious with light grit. ‘For such a tannic vintage, there are very ripe and soft tannins,’ Bipin concurred. A higher percentage of Merlot was our answer, of course; 47% compared to 28% for Duhart and only 9% for Lafite in 2004 (90).
The 2004 Duhart Milon had more structure in its nose and was more consistent with the vintage with its minerals and earth along with nut, vanilla, beef and cassis behind those. The palate also had more structure and tannins and while the Duhart was not as pleasing as the Carruades right now, there was greater richness and lots of minerals and length. With time, some depth to the fruit emerged on the palate and more coffee came out. At first, the Duhart was surprisingly close in quality to the Lafite and more enjoyable, but with time the Lafite distinguished and separated itself a bit more (92+).
So the Duhart vs. Carruades brought up the interesting debate of a wine being rated less but at the same time being more enjoyable. I am sure that concept would keep a wine chat room or two up late at night.
We finished with the 2004 Lafite Rothschild, which immediately reeked of a different level. Its regal qualities were quite noticeable, and there was exquisite earth, light nut and deep, black fruits to the nose – not sweet, but deep. The palate was very chalky with a touch of ‘burnt’ to its tannic finish. The wine was very inky and full of unsweetened, plummy fruit. The long and regal finish was impressive and its acidity piercing, but this was a brooding behemoth of a Lafite that needs a lot of time to find itself (93++).
Off to Mouton we went, where we were able to sample a trio of 2004s and 2003s with manager Herve Berland. We began with the 2004 D’Armailhac, whose pleasant nose had a unique dash of cinnamon and floral characteristics. There was also nice cassis aromas, and supplemental earth and leather with a touch of carob. The wine was rich and inky on the palate with concentrated fruit and a nice, sandy grit to its earthy finish. It bordered on excellence, until the Clerc Milon knocked it back to very good (92).
The 2004 Clerc Milon was another impressive wine, though it had a milder, shier nose that was very classic but seemingly shut down. The palate was clean, round and precise with nice balance, length and dryness. While the D’Armailhac was fatter, the Clerc Milon was more classic with its earth, tobacco and dry cassis flavors (93).
The 2004 Mouton Rothschild was very fragrant with lots of nutty decadence. It smelled sappier and nuttier and had lots of coffee aromas, along with firm t ‘n a integrated within its thick fruit. At first, the wine was relatively closed on the palate yet very long with its spicy finish and flavors of sand, leather, earth and mineral that accompanied it. It got an ‘amazing, long and classical’ from Bipin. The Mouton certainly had more depth than the Clerc, but the Clerc was definitely more expressive at the moment. I was quite impressed by this trio of 2004s (94+).
The 2003 D’Armailhac also had a fat nose but was less expressive than I thought it would be. There were nice, subtle aromas of plum, smoke, slate and tobacco. Its fruit was a bit roasted in the mouth, and the wine was more two-dimensional, and ‘more astringent’ Frank chipped in. Bipin loved its silkiness ‘now,’ but I was not as impressed, although it was obviously good wine (89).
The 2003 Clerc Milon mimicked the 2004 with its shut-down personality, but it was still pure with classic cedar, minerals and light earth all in reserve. The palate was in line with its spicy finish, but again I preferred the 2004 counterpart, and I did go back and forth a lot. The 2003 did not seem to have much fruit going for it on the palate, which is supposed to be the hallmark of this excessively hot vintage – was it shut down (91)?
The 2003 Mouton Rothschild left no doubts as to what was the ‘grand vin’ for this session. It had a great nose full of fruits, nuts and earth, and someone chimed in ‘cigar box and pencil.’ Bipin said, ‘it is not burnt like many 2003s.’ It was gamy in its nose with a hint of coffee, chocolate and lots of vigor. The level of concentration of fruit in the nose was a sight to smell, so to speak. Some youthful vanilla rounded out this incredibly rich nose. The finish was enormous, layered and seemingly endless. The palate was rich and oily with lots of vanilla and nut flavors, complemented by earth and animal ones, and the wine still needed to flesh out a bit as it was reined in stylistically, but that finish was like a shot of Novocaine! It coated the mouth for a long, long, long time. ‘We like dry years,’ Herve commented, calling the 2003 the ‘most comparable since 1982’ (96+).
Mouton was a tough act to follow, but Margaux was up to the challenge. We started with the 2004 Pavillon Rouge de Margaux, which had a seductive and charming nose. There was rich plum and cassis fruit, nice nut and vanilla, good minerality and a touch of roast. The wine was delicious, seemingly tannic by Margaux standards but still elegant and refined. There was nice expression of fruit on the palate and a long, mineral-laden finish (92).
The 2004 Margaux was almost identical to the Pavillon Rouge except there was less fatness to the fruit and more structural components. There was great breed to the wine, both aromatically and in mouth, where the palate was spicy, long and sensual, with excellent balance between its fruit and finish. It still retained the elegance, light on its feet as a great Margaux should be. It struck me as the 2004 of the day. Assistant winemaker Phillipe Bascaux commented how the 2004 had much more Merlot and a strict selection to make the best wine possible in this vintage (95).
As good as the 2004 Margaux was, the 2003 Margaux took things to another level. While the 2003 retained the signature style of Margaux found in the 2004, the 2003 was more ripe, heady, forward and sexy than its younger sibling. Wolf found it ‘roasted,’ while Frank picked up on the ‘similar characteristics to Mouton ’04 vs. ’03.’ Bipin joked it was like ‘Chateauneuf du Pape,’ as the wine was so ripe, and its rich, decadent fruit was full of plum, cassis, vanilla, nut and light minerals buried in there with slate aromas. The palate was very rich and super spicy, and this was definitely the wine of the day. This was clearly an exceptional wine, although Bipin noted that it was ‘so unusual to see wine like this in Bordeaux’ (97).
The 2004 Pavillon Blanc de Margaux had a fresh, Sauvignon Blanc nose with aromas of grapefruit, passion fruit, guava, pineapple, ‘quince and melon,’ Wolf added. The nose was quite exotic, and the wine, which was 100% Sauvignon Blanc we learned, had flavors more on the glue and mineral side and was clean but not crisp. It was a nice palate refresher, though (88).
We had one final stop for the day, a visit to Rausan Segla, where we were to taste both some Rausans and some Canons, both under the same management of John Kosala. First, we tried five vintages of Canon. The 2004 Canon had a nice nose with redder fruits, earth and minerals and a touch of wintry spice. The palate had good richness on the attack, those same redder fruits, some Cab Franc stalky complexity and nice earth on the finish (92).
The nose of the 2003 Canon had more 2003 in it than Canon, somewhat mild in its overall personality, red in hue. There was concentration in the mouth but some definition missing in the middle despite a spicy finish (90).
The 2002 Canon had a milky nose with a touch of herbalness, and a palate to match yet a decent finish (87).
The 2001 Canon again was a bit milky and herbal but less so on both accounts with some redder fruits in the nose. The palate was nice with its red fruit, stalk and mineral flavors and long finish. Medium-bodied, this Canon was flirting with being very good (89+).
The 2000 Canon had a classy nose with a lot of breed on the structural side and a feminine personality overall. There was nice balance in the mouth despite some heat on the finish, but the fruit seemed shut down at the moment (90+).
We changed gears back to Margaux with the 2004 Rausan Segla. The ’04 was fragrant with lots of cassisy baby fat and supplementary vanilla and smoke aromas. It seemed a bit overly dry, but I did note that my palate was starting to feel worse for wear (90).
The 2003 Rausan Segla was excellent, starting with its rich fruit in the nose and nutty kisses. There was good earth and a pinch of garden goodness as well. There was nice breed in the wine without any overipeness, although there was certainly more fruit than structure in its balanced nose. Smoke and brick rounded out its aromas. The palate was rich, long and balanced. It had excellent spine and still retained that Margaux elegance. It was an excellent 2003. Frank found all the 2003s throughout the day to be ‘leathery’ (93+).
The 2002 Rausan Segla had a very mild and reserved nose but was nice in that regard. There were touches of cassis and nut there. The wine had a lighter body and lacked weight up front, but it also had a pleasant finish (88).
Finally, we made our way to the last wine of the afternoon, the 2000 Rausan Segla, which had a nice nose with good, nutty aromas that Bipin found ‘absolutely incredible.’ There was a lot of elegance and style here in this classy wine. The palate was long, elegant and fine, with nice structure and length, and Frank found it ‘heads and shoulders above’ any other wine in this session. I liked the 2003 equally, to be frank, or make that not Frank (93)!
So you think that would be enough for day one, right? Did I mention to you that Bipin orchestrated this trip? There was time to shower and change and get right back in the car to go to Chateau Montrose for dinner with the lovely and charming Jean-Louis Charmolue, and his wife, Anne-Marie.
We started with a white, a 2000 Olivier Leflaive Corton Charlemagne. The nose had a touch of baked fruit, very waxy and yeasty in its personality, and a little corn underneath. The wine seemed very advanced for a 2000. There were morning mouth flavors (yes, that is not good), and the wine was too yeasty and weird despite some decent acidity (83).
The theme of the evening was 1975, and we begun with a 1975 Giscours, every lumberjack’s favorite wine. The spiny character of the 1975 vintage jumped out of the glass with anise and alcohol, but there was a surprising wealth of cassis and chocolate aromas along with a kiss of old oak. The palate was also surprisingly rich and fleshy, and its finish had good acidity and tannins that were just starting to melt away. There was nice grit and tasty plum and wood flavors. It was ‘a star of the vintage,’ someone noted, and also the most ready of the evening and actually showed fruit (93).
The 1975 Beychevelle continued showing the style of the vintage with its anise and alcohol aromas. Its nose was earthier but also had cassis and flesh. Perhaps the hardest of 1975s only needed better storage! Its mineral components were stellar, and the wine got nuttier and plummier, dare I say sexier, with its mature yet fresh fruit qualities. The palate was stonier and even bigger than the Giscours in its acidity. There was still nice balance and a long finish. The Beychevelle was spinier and more intense on its back side, and despite this fundamental difference between it and the Giscours, they were practically equivalent qualitatively, although the Giscours was more delicious and fruit forward, more ready, but perhaps the Beychevelle will ultimately surpass it with more time (92+).
The 1975 Ducru Beaucaillou was classic Ducru with its pencil/mineral aromas and plummy fruit lurking underneath. A touch of bread crust, earth and a hint of garden were there as well. The Ducru, as it is prone to be, seemed softer, kinder and gentler than the first two wines, but there was still vim and lots of class. The wine got nuttier, but the palate was able to retain a high-pitched character, vigorous yet elegant. I preferred the muscle of the Beychevelle, but I could see many preferring the finesse of the Ducru, and many did (92).
The 1975 Leoville Las Cases was more open and had a touch of wild animal to its nutty fruit, a bit of old oak around its edges and some vanilla and cream. It had a flash of woody fruit up front on the palate, a kiss too much, but the acidity and spine on the finish were there (90).
Wolfgang was talking to Xavier Borie, proprietor of Grand Puy Lacoste, who was there as well, about 1975 and what happened that year. Xavier said that he felt that the vintage was picked too early overall because there was too much excitement after the disastrous 1971 through 1974 vintages, and as soon as some ripeness came, no one could wait. One or more weeks could have made a big difference, he felt, and because of the early picking, the huge potential of this vintage was missed. Some other comments of note included Wolfgang’s ‘I like Burgundy,’ to which Xavier quickly replied, ‘Nobody’s perfect.’ Yes, the Bordelais are very ‘nationalistic’ when it comes to their wine. Wolf, with the quickness of a great politician, quickly countered that ‘I am married to Bordeaux, but Burgundy is my mistress.’ While the Giscours was Miss Congeniality of the flight, Bipin felt ‘it won’t get any better,’ and the general consensus was Beychevelle and Ducru were the best wines.
The second flight began with a 1975 Pichon Baron, which had a stony nose full of meat and perfume. Carob, earth, nut, grape seed oil and cedar rounded out its aromatic profile. The palate had some flesh and spine, but less than any other wine so far. There was pleasant grit and flavors of nut, leather and cedar, but the wine delivered a lesser impression after the first flight (88).
The 1975 Pichon Lalande was more plummy and approachable in its nose, still possessing slate and mineral components, but its Merlot content showed sexily. It had an intoxicating and alluring style with its nut, oil and meat supplements. The palate was soft and fleshy up front and had light vigor in the back with decent acidity, but the wine was not as good on the palate as it was aromatically, similar to the 1961 we had earlier in the day (91).
It was time for the ‘house’ wine, the 1975 Montrose. The Montrose had a classy nose with a lot of breed, but that 1975 edge of pungent alcohol, anise, minerals and earth. There were shy, deep, dark fruits there, and the palate was quite tasty; long, balanced and elegant by Montrose standards but still with plenty of stuffing. I was torn between 92 and 93 points, ie very good or excellent, so I gave it the home court advantage (93).
While the 1975 Mouton had a ‘very good nose,’ it was ‘better than taste.’ There were nice aromas of cedar, caramel, plum and nut, but the palate had dry, old oak flavors, and the nose quickly followed in that oaky direction. There was solid length, but the flavors were just too oaky for me (87).
Bipin was commenting how ‘many reject the (1975) vintage,’ to which Mr. Charmolue exclaimed, ‘C’est une erreur!’
We ended with a 1934 Siglas Ribaud, a Sauternes with a lovely nose full of burnt orange, caramel, hay and straw, but there was too much oak again for me, kind of like a grumpy old man in the glass (87).
So that was Day One. Since I do not know when I am going to get to Days Two through Five, I would like to make some general observations about the entire week and the State of Bordeaux, some of which I have already made, and others that will come forward in the succeeding chapters of this journey.
In Vino Veritas,