Home > Good, GoodDevelop, ModGood, Rare Wine Fine Wine Old Wine Mature Wine, Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews, VeryGood > A 1978 dinner with wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux

A 1978 dinner with wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux


It was just several weeks ago that Darryl commented on an odd bottle of 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Darryl had served it at a tasting full of Rhone wine lovers.  I did not attend the Rhone dinner but David did and he too felt something was amiss.  Both Darryl and David felt that this bottle was not representative of the 1978 vintage.  Fortunately for me, Darryl had purchased a second bottle which he was willing to open up so that I could taste it.  He did just that last week, around which we organized a small tasting of 1978 vintage wines.

We quickly settled on five wines from the Rhone and Bordeaux.  The 1978 vintage in the Rhone was an outstanding success with Michael Broadbent noting it was regarded as the best vintage since 1911 for Hermitage, Cote-Rotie, and Chateauneuf du Pape.  This same vintage in Bordeaux experienced an “appalling growing season” but Chateau Leoville-las-Cases and Chateau Palmer were regarded as very good.  With the wines selected, Darryl, Nancy, Lou, and Todd all gathered in my living room.

A trio of Rhone from 1978

1978Dinner3

I must take time to comment on the 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape.  With one quick look at the bottle it is obvious that this was not an original release.  For an image of an original bottle I recommend you take a look at Francois Audouze’s post 177ème dîner de wine-dinners au restaurant Macéo.  Scroll down to see his two pictures.  The particular bottle that Darryl brought over was purchased from Grapes The Wine Company where it was advertised “Mont Redon is on its way, with perfect provenance, 3 outstanding vintages!!!”  The bottle itself sported a contemporary capsule and contemporary labels with Chateau Mont Redon instead of Domaine de Mont Redon, as it was known until 1988.  The fill went all the way up to the bottom of the capsule.  As for the cork itself, it looked rather young.  In short, it looked like a reconditioned bottle.  Darryl confirmed with both Daniel Posner and Envoyer Imports that these bottles came from Chateau Mont-Redon.  Chateau Mont-Redon confirmed that they have released these wines from their cellar.  They perform cork maintenance on all cellared wines which is why there is no ullage and a fresh cork.

John Gilman featured the wines of Chateau Mont-Redon in the April 2011/Issue 32 of View from the Cellar.  He noted that, “Château Mont-Redon is one of the great, old-time estates in the appellation of Châteauneuf du Pape, but until I began tastings in preparation for this report, I had simply no idea just how great their wines were.”  For the 1978 he concludes his tasting note with “A great and utterly classic vintage of Mont-Redon. 2010-2030+. 95.”

This sort of praise is not without precedent.  James Conaway visited Domaine de Mont-Redon then wrote about it in 1984 for The Washington Post.[1]  He tasted the “dark young wines of the traditional style” noting the juice was left on the lees for three weeks, then passed through a centrifuge before aging up to three years in huge oak barrels.  As for the wines “the ’78 was the most intense, with suggestions of cassis and cherries, a lot of body and tannin and a kaleidoscopic finish.”  One year later, Florence Fabricant visited the estate where she wrote in The New  York Times that you could taste “classic richness and strength in vintages going back to 1977.  The 1978, one of the best of the recent vintages, is an intense burgundy color, scented attractively of fruit, softening but still very powerful.”[2]

It appears generally accepted that Mont-Redon produced outstanding wines in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s but the quality turned in the 1970s and 1980s.  David Livingstone-Learmonth commented in The Wines of the Rhone (1992) on this “absence of the strength and concentration” of the previous vintages.  Amongst the “attenuated wines in the late 1970s” was the “maceration carbonique wines” of 1979.  Sandwiched within, though, was the 1978 which he found “still extraordinarily tight-knit, with a lovely harmony of flavours on the palate, tremendous width and still plenty of opening-up to do to add to an already impressive amount of richness.”  Robert Mayberry simply wrote that the “1978 surpassed 1979 “in Wines of the Rhone Valley (1987).

Robert Parked echoed the praise for those mid-century vintages but he was also damning of the 1978 vintage.  In Wines of the Rhone Valley (1997) he comments on “the desiccated 1978” ran that this “was the first wine to be subjected to the new system of multiple filtrations.  Although the wine is still alive, it displays virtually no aromatic profile, a neutral taste, and no real typicity or character.”  Robert Mayberry noted that “finished red wine is centrifuged or filtered through diatomaceous earth”.

It turns out that Grapes The Wine Company is not the only store where these back vintages of Chateau Mont Redon became available.  Europa Cellars, MW Wines, and Vintage and Vine, all of Australia, had pre-arrival offers put out in 2012.  MW Wines noted “These wines are being offered at special pricing on a pre-arrival basis only, with payment required upon confirmation of allocation.  All wines are sourced directly from the cellar of Chateau Mont-Redon”.

All of the wines we tried that night were popped and poured.    As for the 1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape it seemed an odd combination of rather mature flavors supported by a young structure.  With air the flavors became rasinated and the structure disjointed.  It was not enjoyable on the second night.  Ex-cellar releases are not new for Chateauneuf du Pape; Chateau de Beaucastel is one practitioner.  I guess in this case the changing of the corks (and topping off) created a wine that is just not my style.  However, let me know if you happen to have an original release that you are willing to share with me.

A quick smell and taste of the 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage revealed some serious funk.  It was almost of the nature of fish sauce which I find a bit smelly but love the flavor.  Unfortunately, this bottle of Hermitage rapidly became less interesting.  One sniff of the 1978 E. Guigal, Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde promptly indicated we were in for a treat.  The Brune et Blonde uses fruit sourced from nearly 50 small vineyard owners and a large portion of estate vineyards.  Fruit from the three La-La’s and Chateau d’Ampuis are excluded.  The wine is mostly Syrah with approximately 5% Viognier added.  The wine itself is aged for three years in casks and barrels.  David Livingstone-Learmonth writes in The Wines of the Northern Rhone (2005) that the “quality of the 1970s was extremely good” and that in big vintages the wines can live for “around 20 years” though longer in spectacular vintages.  Clearly this was one of those bottles.  If you ever come across a bottle it will be a worthy purchase.

A Pair of Bordeaux from 1978

1978Dinner7

It was a treat to taste both the 1978 Chateau Palmer and 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases.  Both wines feature more than half Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend but Palmer sports a good deal more Merlot at the expense of Cabernet Franc which is the opposite of Leoville-las-Cases.  David Peppercorn summarizes mature Palmer as, “the wine develop a bouquet of rare penetration and show all the finesse of a fine Margaux with rather more body and richness.”  For Leoville-Lascases he writes that the essence “is a bouquet of great elegance and sauvity and an incomparable flavour which is almost silky in texture when mature, very long but at the same time firm and well balanced.”  Michel Delon took over the production of Leoville-Las-Cases from his father in 1975.  According to Clive Coates, he imposed a very severe selection with roughly 40% of the harvest going into the grand vin and meticulous vinification.  He continues that this is a “full-bodied, austere and tannic wine” whose heart is the Grand Clos vineyard which lies just south of Chateau Latour.  Thus the 1978 vintage of Leoville-las-Cases is from a new period of quality whereas for Palmer it is yet another strong effort since the 1940s.

The 1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux was evidently in great shape from the very first sniff.  It did develop more complexity with air but it always had that seductive, seamless quality to it.  It was no slouch either.  Nancy told me that last glass in the bottle would be fine the very next day.  It was.  The 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien proved exemplary of a structured nature with increased Cabernet Franc.  I would have preferred a longer finish but nevertheless I enjoyed this earthy, more robust bottle.

In the end, my favorite wine of the night was the 1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux.  The fill was into the neck with Darryl commenting that it was the best example he has yet opened.  This wine was closely followed by the 1978 E. Guigal, Cotes Rotie Brune et Blonde.  A step down was the 1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien.  Not bad for a Wednesday night.

1978Dinner1

2006 Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage Rosé Champagne
Imported by .  This wine is a blend of 42% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir, and 19% Pinot Meunier.  There was a strong yeasty aroma with dark toast.  In the mouth was an aggressive start before the bubbles immediately burst.  The wine had hints of hard, cherry fruit, minerals, and some earth.  With air the wine increasingly tasted young but did take on dry, baking spices.  I think it needs time.  ***(*) 2020-2030.

1978Dinner2

2002 Weingut Hauth-Kerpen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Imported by Valley View Wine Sales.  Alcohol 8.5%.  With a little bit of air the nose opened up to reveal rich petrol aromas back by some rubber-like notes.  In the mouth was a soft, slightly weighty start then drying flavors of green apple and petrol.  The finish was short. The nose was *** but overall ** Now.

1978Dinner4

1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
Imported by A & A Liquors.  There was old leather and stinky aromas.  With air the nose turned strange.  In the mouth there were fruit flavors and it was a generally drinkable wine but strange.  Will Last.  * Now.

1978Dinner5

1978 E. Guigal, Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde
Import strip fell off the back.  There was a beautiful nose of fruit, red ripe fruit, and some earth.  In the mouth were slightly earthy, garrigue-infused fruit, mineral, and an attractive foxy finish.  The finish was a little rough but followed by an expansive aftertaste.  With air this wine showed slow building power to the lovely tart and ripe fruit.  It had beginning lift, beautiful acidity, gorgeous fruit, wood box notes, and good weight.  **** Now – 2020.

1978Dinner6

1978 Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Envoyer.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was old but the wine tastes like an old and young wine blend with young structure.  With air there were raisinated fruit flavors, juicy acidity, old perfume, and still a wealth of tannins.  Odd.  Not Rated.

1978Dinner8

1978 Chateau Leoville-las-Cases, Saint-Julien
Shipped Arcande.  Imported by B & H Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Top-shoulder fill.  The nose bore more greenhouse aromas than the Palmer.  In the mouth were tart red fruit flavors, a mineral-like middle, and salivating acidity.  It took on some funk and vintage perfume.  There were even attractive, sweaty and musky aromas that came out.  Overall this was a solid wine with a short finish but a long, low-lying aftertaste.  *** Now-2020.

1978Dinner9

1978 Chateau Palmer, Margaux
Imported by Parliament Import Co.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Bottom-neck fill.  There was a sweaty nose with grippy aromas of ripe, sweet bakins spices.  The flavors filled the mouth with fresh, good grip, leaving lovely, seductive impressive through the aftertaste. With air the wine was made seamless as if covered by a layer of delicious fat.  **** Now.

1978Dinner10


[1] Chateauneuf – A Cask by Itself.  Conaway, James.  The Washington Post Magazine. Page  38. November 11, 1984.
[2] A Little Town And Its Big Red Wine: Vintage Chateauneuf-du-Pape. By FLORENCE FABRICANT. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 2, 1985; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. XX15

  1. Darryl Priest
    July 22, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Was indeed a great Wednesday night lineup. I too would love to taste a real 1978 Mont-Redon should one materialize.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: