I am in the midst of a ferocious few days of fine and rare wine. And on three of those nights, I had the pleasure of properly reconnecting with wine’s original Bad Boy, aka Bruce the Returner. On two of those nights, we were joined by The Rev, one of the fine wine world’s kindest hearts and most gifted palates. The Rev and Bad Boy happen to be good friends, forming what is most certainly the wine world’s most ‘Unholy Alliance.’ On one of those nights, we were also joined by the Botrytis Brothers, who made the evening all the more sweet, of course.
1979 Champagnes were one of the themes, beginning with a 1979 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. It had a lightly creamy nose with traces of vanilla rust and orange rind. It continued to move in a rusty and citrusy direction, possessing nice acidity and length. There were nice kisses of white sugar to its palate (93).
We all thought a 1973 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne was a 1976, as that’s what I told everyone it was, but it was a 1973. Oops. Bruce said ’76 should have been ‘one of the greatest Champagnes ever,’ and he would know. He likened it to ‘sucking down the best lemonade,’ and while the 1973 was similarly a touch lemony and had great zip and doodah to its full finish, this was an affected bottle whose color was a touch brown. It just wasn’t where it needed to be (94+A).
We shifted gears to a couple reds, beginning with a rare 1943 Latour, a bottle that came from the Noble Family Latour Collection we sold in Hong Kong last year, so I knew we were in for a treat. Even though 1943 wasn’t a great vintage and seventy years old, its fruit was fresh with cassis dripping from it. There was some pleasant minerality still to it, along with snowcapped fruit. Its nose stayed on the rocky side, but its palate was softer and more supple, caressing and beautiful. There was just enough acidity to make it still interesting, and there was no question this was in as good condition as this wine could be at this point (93).
Wine Porn Circa 1943
A 1961 Figeac was unfortunately cooked, with too much fig and molasses present to evaluate (DQ).
The 1979 Roederer Cristal took immediate charge and quickly became everyone’s wine of the night. Its nose oozed butterscotch city. It got a ‘f*%king great’ from someone, likely Bad Boy. There were some secondary gingerbread cake aromas, along with toast, melted butter and caramel. The palate was razor sharp at first, fresh and zippy though mellowing over time, but a lot of time, like an hour. Bad Boy hailed it as ‘a perfect bottle,’ and its vim and vigor seconded that emotion. One of the Botrytis Brothers hailed it as ‘the best Champagne I ever had’ (97).
Cristal Not for the Club
The ’61 theme continued with one of its legendary wines, the 1961 Haut Brion. There was an ever so slight touch of must or cork to its nose that had us trying to figure out if it needed more air, or indeed was affected. Behind that pinch of peculiarity remained the hallmarks of this great wine – tobacco, gravel, smoke, cassis, plum, leather and meat. More rocks joined the party, and the palate was rich and saucy. Flavors of tobacco and chocolate were present, and its finish was satiny, although the wine seemed to gain in intensity. Ultimately, that touch of must didn’t leave the nose, but it was barely noticeable on its palate. I still felt this bottle, while outstanding, was a touch affected and not quite hitting the heights this bottle usually does (96A).
Sticker of Approval
The Haut Brion was paired with a glorious bottle of 1961 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Roberto Conterno happened to be in New York this week, and I saw him on a couple occasions, but we did not get to share this beauty. This was clearly a special wine at first sniff. There was a leathery kink here that felt like a good spanking. There was ample flesh to handle it, along with aromas of tobacco, old rose and old book. A kiss of citrus rounded out the nose. The palate was steamy and sexy with great grip and delicious flavors. Its acid lingered impressively, and there were layers of complexity to its flavors. Someone joked that it was the kind of wine that could leave you with a 10k dental bill. It’s worth it (97).
Four Fabulous Courses
There was one last Champagne on this special evening, a special late release bottle of 1979 Krug. It was released in 1990, and ‘younger’ because of that fact. It definitely came across younger than the Cristal, but not necessarily better. It did feel like it would age longer if trying to gauge in terms of decades. The Cristal had more immediate delectability, but the Krug kept growing on us as well. There were signature apple flavors in this monstrous Krug, which kept improving and opening despite its searing acid. Bad Boy likened the Cristal to a ‘hot blonde’ and the Krug to a ‘sultry brunette.’ Decisions, decisions (97).
The Botrytis Brothers provided an obligatory Yquem, it being a 1961 Yquem. I had twenty-two vintages of Yquem eight days prior, including this vintage (you’ll read about that one soon enough). Its nose unfurled slowly to reveal signature caramel and cream along with some hay. The Brothers commented how this was ‘one of the least sweet Yquems at least 40 years old,’ and that there was ‘a lot of alcohol.’ There was a light, burnt quality to its palate in a brulee way. It was still an excellent Yquem, showing a bit better on its own than in the company of some of Yquem’s greatest vintages ever (93).
Botrytis Brothers, Activate
The waiter asked us if we wanted dessert, to which I quoted Hemingway. ‘A man who eats dessert is a man who doesn’t drink enough.’ The Yquem was enough, and we finished our wines while celebrating this ‘Unholy Alliance.’
In Vino Veritas,