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A view of the vineyard at Chaillot in Paris

January 29, 2016 Leave a comment
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A General View of the City of Paris taken from an Eminence in the Village of Chaillot. Parr, Nathaniel. 1749. #B1995.13.87. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The Yale Center for British Art recently released over 22,000 high-resolution images through the center’s online collection.  Amongst these images appears a view of the city of Paris from 1749.  The city appears in the background with the green of Chaillot in the foreground.  In the map below, Chaillot is located in the middle, left-hand section where it is colored in blue.  The closest road in the foreground is the Grande Rue des Chaillot.  It is in this area that the famous vines of Chaillot were tended.

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Plan de la ville et faubourg de Paris. Mondhare et Jean. 1790. Hollis #010890191. Harvard Map Collection.

A snow day with the 1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme

January 28, 2016 Leave a comment

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The snow days full of shoveling and sledding left me worn out by the end.  I have mostly drunk inexpensive wines as a result, not wanting to waste anything.  I did manage to open one nice wine.  The 1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme is produced mostly from Spanna which is the local name for Nebbiolo.  Ghemme, like its neighbor Gattinara, are lesser known regions compared to Barolo and Barbaresco.  In Sheldon and Pauline Wasserman’s Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991) the 1981 vintage is not regarded too well.  In fact, the wines of Ghemme in general are damned with the conclusion “one has to wonder if it is really worth the effort to make these wines.”

If you drank this bottle within an hour or two of opening it you might agree.  Confident in the staying-powering of Spanna, I double-decanted this bottle 24 hours before drinking it.  The Wassermans also wrote that Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo is “the finest producer in the zone.”  Given that this basic bottling from a poor vintage showed as well as it did is testament to this estate.  The wine is, in all senses, elegant and tastes as if the flavors are fully mature.  However, this fine wine will continue to hold your attention for many years to come.  This wine was purchased from The Rare Wine Company.

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1981 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Ghemme – $90
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. This wine is a blend of 75-80% Spanna, 15% Vespolina, and 5-10% Bonarda Novarese.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was finely scented with roast aromas.  In the mouth was a subtle sense of sweetness to the flavors of dried herbs and fruit, the later from a tart cherry core.  The fine interplay between the dry flavors, old wood tannins, and very good acidity, left fresh impressions in the mouth.  ***(*) Now – 2026.

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The snow days continue

January 26, 2016 1 comment

I took it easy today after spending the previous two days shoveling and sledding on more than two feet of snow.  With schools closed for the fourth day tomorrow I expect to return to posting by tomorrow evening.  In the meantime I am immersing myself in the 17th century history of English medicine and of course, drinking wine.

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Categories: Image

A tasting of Chateau Cos D’Estournel from 2012 back to 1982

January 25, 2016 Leave a comment

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On Monday January 18, Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles) gathered together a group of DC wine lovers for his annual Bordeaux dinner.  As in previous years he invited a guest from the Chateaux and had a vertical representation of multiple vintages.  Also, like in previous years, he did an impeccable job of working with the restaurant staff in preparing the wines to show their best.  His care, attention and expertise always make for an excellent evening! The dinner was at Ripple, where Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley prepared a very good five-course meal that paired well the wines. The wine service was flawless. The guest of honor was Aymeric de Gironde, Director General of Chateau  Cos D’Estournel, the famous St. Estephe Second Growth. The diverse crowd made for excellent conversation and everyone enjoyed a lineup of wonderful wines.

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As we prepared for the dinner itself we sipped Michel Reybier Champagne.  This is a grower’s champagne purchased in recent years by Cos d’Estournel. The property consists of 40 hectares of premier and grand cru vineyards sites. The wine is made in a big style, with evident oak aging and low dosage.  Tart green apple, yeast and toasty notes are present in this well balanced, well made Champagne.

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The wines were served in five flights.

First Flight: 2008, 2006, 2004.

These wines all showed well.  While they were all big wines, the cool vintages provided them a nice sense of balance. Spice and white pepper notes were evident on many of the wines throughout the evening. The wines were paired with a lamb heart tartare with pickled mustard seed.  I liked the vinegar acidity in the dish and thought it was a nice foil for the tannins of the wines.  Others thought the acidity was too overpowering.

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2008 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Spice or fruitcake notes were at the forefront.  This leads to a big wine with hard tannins and a finish with a lush, glycerin mouthfeel.  Very good structure and my favorite of the flight. ****(*)

2006 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Aymeric commented that this was “undrinkable” for many years and is just starting to come around. The nose is actually slightly more open than the 08.  Blackberry, white pepper and wood notes lead to some smoky notes and very drying tannins.  There is a nice energy to this wine but it’s hard to understand right now. ***(*)

2004 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : The spice notes are again very prominent.  The nose is more evolved and clearly the most approachable of the three vintages at present. The tannins are still hard and there was a slightly unbalanced heat at the end.***

Second Flight:  2005, 2003, 2002.

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Glazed sweetbreads and radicchio provided a nice richness/bitterness balance that echoed the wines.

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2005 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Aymeric called this a “wine (for) forever.”  This was my favorite of the flight and a very great wine. The wine was rich with excellent integration of the oak.  Currants and a subtle spice lead to a wine that has gotten slightly softer in the mouth.  Perfect balance. ****(*)

2003 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : I expected more evidence of the heat of the vintage but was surprised by how balanced the wine was.  Exotic spices were obvious. Some coffee notes were present but balanced by a lively acidity.   This wine is actually quite approachable now. Some of the other tables notes mint and menthol notes in their bottle.  This was not evident in ours but may suggest some (not unexpected)  bottle variation. ***(*)

2002 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Dark fruits and licorice are interesting but some hot alcohol is distracting on the nose. The wine is well done for the vintage but lacks some complexity in my mind. ***

Third Flight: 2000, 1996, 1995.

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Potato gnocchi with a wild boar ragu was hearty and complex and again balanced the wines well. All these wines showed very well with the 2000 my favorite of the flight.

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2000 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe (from magnum): A very exotic nose with Indian spices, herbal, forest floor and leather notes. Rich in the mouth with a firm structure. ****(*)

1996 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Some initial funk that blew off. Concentrated currants and perfume that leads to an herbal note.  A bit softer in the mouth with a long finish. ****

1995 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Aymeric called this the “year of the experiment.”  The wine was aged entirely in new oak.  Some hints of maturity were noticeable at first with some hints of iodine. There was an off putting hardness at the end that made me wonder if the fruit would dry up before the wine fully comes together. ***(*)

Fourth Flight: 1989, 1985, 1982.

Seared duck breast with foie gras grits.

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1989 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : My WOTN (though the 2005 was close).  Secondary notes on the nose.  Cassis, concentrated figs, bell pepper. Rich in the mouth with a smoky note at the end.  Very long finish.  Beautiful. *****

1985 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe :  Some mustiness on the nose. Asian spices.  Harder and leaner in the mouth. Good but the weakest wine of the flight. ***

1982 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : While a very good wine it failed to live up to its reputation and not at the level I remember from when it was young.  Figs, herbs, some iodine.  The nose came across as younger than it was in the mouth.  Still some tannin and some bitter medicinal herbs at the end. ****

Fifth Flight: 2012, 2010, 2009.

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Aged Gouda with date jam.

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2012 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Very dark.  Black pepper, perfume.  Very fresh and balanced structure. I liked this a lot. ***(*)

2010 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Very structured, fresh.  Deep cassis fruit. Cigar box. Hard but lots of potential. ****(*)

2009 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Spice up front, very lush fruit.  Hard tannins, heat at the end.  More California in structure than Bordeaux.  It’s very well made but I think not the wine that the 2010 is. ****

“Many fantastical experiments”: Hot-wine and sex on ice in 1608

January 22, 2016 Leave a comment

Snowzilla has started falling outside of my house.  While we wait for some 18-26 inches of snow to fall over the next 36 hours, here is a winter-time account from London from 400 years ago.

John Chamberlain was the author of a series of letters which detail both the news and his daily life during the first quarter of the 17th century.  He often spent time in London where on January 8, 1608, he visited the frozen Thames river.  The Thames had frozen several times in the 16th century but it was not until the 17th century that frost fairs were held in celebration.  The first recorded fair was that of 1608.

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The Great Frost. Anonymous 1608. Wikimedia.

The Thames had been freezing in fits for a month at that point.  When John Chamberlain set foot on ice the solid part was located between Lambeth and the ferry at Westminster.[1]  Indeed he writes, “Above Westminster the Thames is quite frozen over and the Archbishop came from Lambeth on Twelfthday over the ice to the Court.”[2]  There are written accounts of people dancing, bowling, and even of booths and tents which were set up.  From these locations people sold beer, wine, fruit, and there was even a barber.

John Chamberlain visited the ice two days before the deepest freeze when most booths were set up.  However, there was already activity of which he was enthralled, “Many fantastical experiments are daily put in practice, as certain youths burnt a gallon of wine upon the ice and made all the passengers partakers.”  There is a recipe for burnt wine in John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum (1640).  In essence, you set sugar on fire which burns into the wine then roast it by the fire.[3]

We are fortunate in that the anonymous text The Great Frost (1608) was published describing this frost fair.  It also contains an illustration of the fair.  In the foreground is a merchant man wearing an apron who has a tent, two casks, and three pitchers.  A gentleman with a hat is admiring what appears to be a glass of wine.  The merchant is filling one pitcher up from a cask, another pitcher sits on the ice, and the third sits in a container of fire.  This last pitcher could be an example of the burnt wine.

Not all activities involved eating, drinking, shopping, or games.  At least one couple was a bit naughty.  John Chamberlain concludes “But the best [experiment] is of an honest woman (they say) that had a great longing to have her husband get her with child upon the Thames.”  Perhaps the burnt wine loosened their inhibitions!


[1] Andrews, William. Famous Frosts and Frost Fairs in Great Britain. 1887. URL: https://archive.org/details/famousfrostsand00andrgoog
[2] Thomson, Elizabeth. The Chamberlain Letters. 1966. Letter #99 dated January 8, 1608.
[3] Parkinson, John. Theatrum Botanicum (1640). URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=EF9fAAAAcAAJ&pg=PR4#v=onepage&q&f=false

The savory 1988 Chateau Meyney

January 21, 2016 Leave a comment

In the recent past the 1988 Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe would have been one of the oldest wines in my basement.  As such, I carefully saved this final bottle.  Last tasted seven years ago I found it oscillated between shut-down and open states. Today it is a fully open wine which is comforting on the nose and rather savory in the mouth.  I suspect you can drink this with full enjoyment over the next five years or so.  This wine was purchased many years ago at MacArthur Beverages.

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1988 Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Chateau & Estate Wines.  This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 12.5%.  There are comforting, scented aromas of leather and roast earth.  This savory wine has mature, dark fruit and polished wood that matches the juicy acidity.  There is still freshness as well ripe, dry texture but the wine remains at its peak with a touch of earth and vintage perfume.  *** Now – 2021.

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Three Austrian wines from the back corner

January 21, 2016 1 comment

The Austrian red wine section is located in the bottom, back right corner of MacArthur Beverages.  There I found the 2011 Netzl, Carnuntum Cuvee which is still on the shelves since I first tasted it two years ago.  Though a shame this wine has not yet sold out, it was a boon for me.  I found the wine has improved with bottle age, readily offering dark fruit, a touch of herbaceousness, and stones.  Moving from a blend to a single variety is the 2012 Paul Achs, Zweigelt, Burgenland.  The musky nose engages followed by tart and puckering flavors. Finally, the 2013 Gernot Heinrich, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland offers the roundest and most fruit driven flavors of all three.  Though attractive now you might be tempted to cellar it for another year.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Netzl, Carnuntum Cuvee – $15
Imported by KW Selection.  This wine is a blend of 40% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufrankisch, and 20% Merlot.Alcohol 13.5%. Though smelling of dark fruit the nose remains fresh and scented.  In the mouth the ripe, puckering flavors exhibit some density.  The wine remains fresh with integrated acidity throughout.  The dark, ripe, black fruit mixes with a greenhouse note before the herbs, sage, and dry stone mixed finish.  *** Now – 2018.

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2012 Paul Achs, Zweigelt, Burgenland – $19
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Zweigelt which was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for seven months in large, French oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  A hint of butter makes way to musky, wafting aromas with hints of pencil.  In the mouth the bright black and red fruit is slightly tart and puckering.  With air it shows vintage perfume and a lipsticky greenhouse vein before a little ripeness comes out in the finish.  ** Now – 2017.

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2013 Gernot Heinrich, Blaufrankisch, Burgenland – $22
Imported by Winebow.  The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts in both oak vats and stainless steel tanks followed by 13 months of aging in large French and Austrian oak casks.Alcohol 12.5%.  The rounder flavors of blue and black fruit does not have the herbaceousness of other wines.  There is a touch of oak to the weighty flavors along with integrated, salivating acidity.  This good, youthful wine might even evolve over the short-term due to fine and ripe tannins.  *** Now – 2018.

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