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Dump bin surprises from the 1970s


A small selection of wines recently hit the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.  These bottles are the remnants of a collection accumulated by a person that is leaving Washington, DC.  They were stored in a wine fridge which gave some assurance.  In general the wines are in strong condition with very good labels, corrosion free capsules, and high fills.  The wines themselves are all French from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  It is a strange lot featuring from decent to off vintages, both negociants and major producers, and several different regions.  My first action was tasting the two worst looking bottles.

The 1978 Jean-Pierre Brotte, Cotes-du-Ventoux is from a negociant once known for their Chateauneuf du Pape.  The company operated under the Brotte and Pere Anselme names.  The later name you might recall from my night at Bern’s Steak House.  This particular wine was produced before the company made a transition towards domaine named wines.  The bottle had slight signs of old seepage, yet the color and fill were good.  The 1978 vintage in the Southern Rhone is a great one so given the price this seemed like a good test of the cellar.  It was dry under the capsule, the cork was very easy to pull out, yet it was still solid.  The wine inside was quite lively!

The second test bottle came from Bordeaux.  David Peppercorn writes in Bordeaux (1991) that Chateau de Camensac would have been a very strong contender for the least known of the classified growth.  The estate was purchased by the Forner family in 1965.  They also owned Larose-Trintaudon, a frequent wine of my youth, and Marques de Caceras in Rioja.  The family put considerable effort into improving the vineyards and winery, they even hired Emile Peynaud.  Peppercorn writes that he liked the 1973 and 1975.  There are no Cellartracker notes for the 1973 vintage but there are favorable and contemporary notes for the 1975.  This must have been the peak of the estate because Stephen Brook writes in Bordeaux (2006) that numerous vintages from 1975 and onwards are disappointing.  The 1973 vintage had “quite good” weather but not the best vineyard work resulting in wines that could have been better.  Perhaps then the good weather, initial efforts at the Chateau, and Peynaud’s guidance resulted in a trifecta causing the 1973 Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc to be a decent wine.

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The mid-shoulder fill did not bode well for this bottle but the cork was solid and so was the wine.  I knew nothing of the 1973 vintage in Bordeaux so I honestly expected the wine to be undrinkable.  Once described as “delicate and velvety” there is, instead, a substance to the red fruit, complexity from leather notes, and a sweaty/savory middle.  There is an appropriate amount of green pepper notes too.  In comparing the two wines, the 1978 Jean-Pierre Brotte, Cotes-du-Ventoux is nervy from acidity and the 1973 Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc is a mature, savory claret.  Pleased by the results I next took a group of wines to serve blind to Lou and David.  Stay tuned!

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1978 Jean-Pierre Brotte, Cotes-du-Ventoux – $6
Imported by Chrissa Import.  Alcohol 12%.  For about two hours there were clean red, acidity driven fruit flavors.  The wine is tangy and still has ripe, citric pith tannins.  The minerally red fruit is bright, perhaps a little thin due to age, but some strawberry flavors come through.  *(*) Now.

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1973 Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc – $4
Imported by Robert Haas Selects.  This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Merlot.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  There are aromas of green pepper, red fruit, and eventually leather.  In the mouth there is surprising depth to the red fruit supported by fresh acidity.  The surprise continues with a sweaty, savory mouth filling middle.  The tannins are largely resolved but the structure does come out by the finish.  It finishes with both leather and earth flavors.  After a few hours it takes on a greenhouse characteristic.  ** Now.

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