The Majesty of Malvasia Dinner: Tasting vintages from 1926 through 2002
It took quite some time for the 20 bottles of Madeira to be equally poured into some 400 wine glasses. With each pour the room became incrementally more aromatic until everyone was collectively talking about the beautiful aromas. The doors to our private room were even shut at one point so as to infuse all of us. During this waiting period I was able to meet the other attendees. While there were mostly new introductions, there were a few people I had read about passionate Madeira lovers whose names are synonymous with old Madeira.
The day’s festivities did not end with the Malvasia tasting. Dinner was to be held after the tasting in the private room next to ours. We were all asked to bring a bottle or two. What had not already been shipped was being collected then staged in the dining room. Several others took a peek at the other wines and returned excited. Curious as to what could be exciting compared to 20 bottles of very old Madeira, I entered the dining room. There on two spot lit tables stood bottles and magnums encompassing old vintages of European wine.
It was a cache of vinous treasure. I was rather stunned to see magnums of Burgundy such as 1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes. The brace of 1950s Staatsweingut bottles brought pleasure but the bottles of 1929 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, 1928 Frederico Paternina, Gran Reserva Rioja, and 1926 Chateau Latour Haut Brion stopped me cold. How incredible that there was a trio of red wine from the 1920s! And I should also mention a 1933 Moulin Touchais Anjou Blanc.
After spending approximately six hours tasting and discussing Madeira, I was both tired and hungry. As we all moved to the dining room the mostly magnums of Champagne were broached to be accompanied by platter after platter of appetizers. There were such bottles as 1985 Lanson Brut, 1990 Pol Roger Brut, 1996 Philipponnat “Clos des Goisses” Brut, 1999 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blancs de Blanc, 2002 Les Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, and a vintage of Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs that escaped me. It was not a time to take notes but rather to recharge, fortify, and chat with others that I did not sit next to during the tasting.
Suitably recovered I sat down to dinner between Ricardo Freitas of Barbeito Madeira and Mannie Berk. We were at one gigantic table which fortunately still allowed us to speak with those across the table. After the sommeliers had performed any requested service, each bottle they were placed on the table in front of each owner for the first taste. This was handled in the order of Champagne, white wine, red wine, and dessert wine. The number of bottles opened must have been staggering for the next several hours a new wine came by every three to five minutes. Indeed, at the end of the dinner there were nearly four dozen bottles and magnums arrayed out for the staff to finish.
This quantity of top-notch wine might seem obscene but it worked for me. Through everyone’s generosity I knew this would be another unique tasting so I did my best to capture it. True, I had trouble keeping up with all of the wine, even with just writing the coarsest of notes, while eating dinner and talking away. I managed to accumulate some five wine glasses which I used to triage what I was going to concentrate on. For example, I tasted but did not note 1996 Louis Jadot Griots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1990 Domaine Paul Pernot Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1989 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles, 1973 Berberana Rioja Reserva, and 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. No doubt there were other wines I could not even get to.
I must first state that the most revelatory bottle, though not the “best” per se, was the 1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau. It never even occurred to me that old German Spatburgunder or Pinot Noir could drink so well. This bottle was still perfumed on the nose and though the residual sugar and short finish were indicating age, it was a pure pleasure to drink. There must be a few others onto this wine for the 1935 vintage fetched over $2500 at the spring auction held at Kloster Eberbach. As for young wines, the 1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru was stunningly complex with a killer nose and all the components for long aging. I can see what all the fuss is about. At the more mature side of Burgundy, the 1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche showed great from magnum. Even Berry Bros & Rudd notes on their website that this wine “was superb, still remarkably youthful” when drunk in 2009. If I had to pick one Italian wine it was, again in magnum, the 1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà. The nose alone left one satisfied! There were many other lovely bottles of wine so I encourage you to step through my brief notes. Thanks again to Mannie and Roy for organizing the dinner as well as to everyone else who pulled from their cellars and excitedly shared their precious bottles.
1953 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Rauenthaler Wulfen Riesling Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
There was a great nose followed by flavors that were not too sweet but of ripe fruit. The wine still had some richness with a spicy, soft finish. In great shape.
2002 Domaine Patrick Javillier, Meursault Les Tillets Cuvée Spéciale
This had apple-like flavors with a more austere finish.
1996 Domaine Roulot, Meursault Les Luchets
This tasted young with great acidity that was lively on the tongue. The flavors had controlled ripeness with both chalk and smoke notes and a citrus pithe finish. Nice.
1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
The nose was very aromatic with red fruit. In the mouth were racy, black fruit flavors, the whole wine was à point.
1982 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo Bussia Soprana
This was young with dry, firm and linear flavors. I noted it needs a few more decades of age.
1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà
There was a beautiful nose followed by lovely, dry fruit, and a tart, linear finish. With air the fruit became more prominent and the nose, stunning.
1995 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco
There was a rather perfumed nose followed by concentrated flavors of bramble and dry, young fruit. The wine turned black with drying, grippy tannins that left a very youthful impression.
1958 Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva
After decanting this revealed a good Riscal nose. There were mushroom flavors in this wine that was still very much alive. It had dusty, black fruit, dry flavors, and still had structures. If faulted it was a touch hollow.
1964 Bodegas Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Reserva
The nose was slightly medicinal but seemed to clean up. Compared to the Riscal this bottle had riper, polished fruit that was still supported by structure. There was more power in the finish with a better sense of completeness.
1928 Frederico Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
There was tart, red structured fruit that was brighter and youthful in a sense. But with air it started to fade.
1979 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
This was classic with bell pepper notes, black fruit, grippy tannins, and a fresh personality.
1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche
The nose bore mature aromas that mixed with campfire notes. In the mouth the wine was straight up beautiful with youthful grip to the fruit and noticeable structure.
1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes
The beautiful nose set up the wine with its structure that supported ethereal flavors, turkey stuffing notes…simply put, a lovely wine to drink.
1979 Dupont-Tisserandot, Charmes-Chambertin
The nose was of roast earth and mushroom. In the mouth earthy red fruit, acidity, grip, structure, that made for a lovely, overall experience.
1995 Joseph Roty, Cuvee de “tres vieilles vignes”, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
There were beautiful flavors of deep orange and red fruit that was clearly the youngest tasted thus far. It took on some lovely cranberry red fruit and showed a lot of potential.
1979 Mugneret-Gouachon, Echezaux
The nose was stink with tart fruit and eventually cleaned up a bit. The flavors followed in the mouth but not so much. Still had some body.
1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
This wine was surprisingly lively with old perfume, some sweetness, and fruit. The finish was a bit sharp and short with noticeable residual sugar. Still, an old wine that was a treat to drink.
1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru
Wow, there was a killer, young nose of lipstick and perfume. In the mouth there was incredible complexity despite this young wine having tart, cranberry, red, and black fruit that was structured. This left an impression.
1966 Graham, Vintage Port (bottled by Justerini & Brooks)
Beautiful. This bottle left me wanting for more.