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Notes from two difference bottles of 1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe


There was little mention of the 1966 Bordeaux vintage upon harvest in the American press.  Whereas Cyril Ray was reporting in The Guardian during January 1967, that the Cordier wines of Talbot and Gruauad-Larose were “deep in colour”, there appear to be no similar ongoing coverage in American newspapers.[1]  The 1966 Bordeaux vintage began hitting the American shelves in the fall of 1969 with a full complement by the spring of 1970.[2]  Wine store advertisements provide the majority of the newspaper content about these 1966 wines.  They are full of compliments about the vintage such as “very great” but also contain recommendations to purchase in light of the poor 1968 and over priced 1969 vintages.

True, these were the early years for American wine journalism, but Ruth Ellen Church writing in 1969 for The Washington Post indicates a key reason, that market for fine Bordeaux wine was in development.  Her comments that this vintage did not have enough volume, coupled with increasing prices, might also indicate there was not enough supply to generate reader interest. [3]  However, she continued that the vintages of 1963, 1965, and 1968 were regarded as poor, leaving the “great” vintages of 1966 and 1967 of interest for “the escalating affluent appetite”.  Paul Fortino noted in 1980, that the “quality wine boom” was stirred with the 1966 and 1967 vintages but it was the “copious, high quality vintage ” of 1970 that played to the “very large number of now-dedicated oenophiles.”[4]  This combination of factors appears to explain the absence of reportage.

The 1966 vintage in Bordeaux resulted in yields that were average for this decade of high yields.  Fine September weather produced healthy grapes that made for ripe, full bodied, and colorful wines.  David Peppercorn summarized the wines as, “full, powerful, and harmonious wines of considerable charm.”  Stephen Brook noted for the Medoc and Graves that the “wines are quite tannic and austere, but have great elegance.”  Michael Broadbent rated the vintage four out of five stars, with the description of a “lean, long-distance runner”.

By many accounts, then, the 1966 vintage is one to survive to the present day, giving chance to my first taste of 1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe.  Chateau Montrose was a traditional estate at the time with Jean-Louis Charmolue having taken over from his mother in 1960.  The vineyard lies between the chateau and the Gironde some half a mile away.  The soil is composed of gravel and large stones with a high iron content that led Stephen Brook to speculate it is in part responsible for the tannic nature of the wines.  At the time of the 1966 vintage, there were still wooden fermentation vats.  The wines from this earlier period are described as hard and tannic with Edmund Penning-Roswell writing, “deep coloured, strong flavored, and tannic.”  The wines were made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon followed by a portion of Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc.

Binpin Desai, the architect of many a famous wine tasting, focused in on Chateau Montrose at a tasting held in 1982.  Here he poured some 42 vintages of the wine from 1979 back to 1906.  Nathan Chroman, who attended this tasting, echoed what I have often read, “Longevity and consistency are perhaps Montrose’s greatest virtues.”[5] Of the 1966, he wrote that it “showed extremely well too, with a nicely developing aroma and a softening of its hardness, allowing delicious flavor to surface.”

Cases of old wine from a large cellar, of mixed storage conditions, have been on sale for the last few months.  Last week, I opened the lowest-fill of the 1966 Chateau Montrose that I picked up from this cellar.  Bill Moore, a Washington, DC area wine lover, also purchased the 1966 Chateau Montrose from this same cellar.  He opened his bottle, with higher fill than mine, last week.  Bill commented, “Blind, I would have pegged the 1966 as an early 80’s [Bordeaux]. Especially after it breathed up, the acidity settled down and the remaining wisps of fruit peaked out, making for a really classic aged [Bordeaux] experience.”

My experience was no where near as good.  I do not mind, though, with high-fill bottles waiting to be uncorked, I know there is the potential for a great glass of wine thanks to Bill.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

Montrose1

1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe –
Shipped by Schroder & De Constants. Imported by Ajax Distributors Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Looks like the good fill made a huge difference with the Montrose. Breathed up beautifully with a classic, mature BDX nose, and even the dark-fruit and mineral qualities I typically get from Montrose. Got the same, almost juicy acidity on the palate and some grip on the finish. Really remarkable performance considering the storage.  Bill Moore.

Montrose2

1966 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe –
Shipped by Schroder & De Constants. Imported by Ajax Distributors Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Mid to low-shoulder fill.  There were roast aromas on the nose.  In the mouth were hints of red fruit that mixed with roast flavors and a hint of coffee.  The fresh structure was immediately attractive and showed good polish. In the end this bottle had less fruit and though the structural components were enjoyable, it was past prime.  *(*) Now.

Montrose3


[1] The colour of claret Ray, Cyril The Observer (1901- 2003); Jan 8, 1967; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer pg. 30
[2] Display Ad 44 — No Title The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 02 Nov 1969: 30.
[3] Fine Wine Going Up: Wines By Ruth Ellen Church The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973); Aug 14, 1969;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. E6
[4] The Vintage After a Decade By Paul Fortino Special to The Washington Post. The Washington Post (1974-Current file) [Washington, D.C] 28 Aug 1980: E25.
[5] CHROMAN, NATHAN. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Oct 7, 1982; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. M50

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