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An introductory Madeira tasting: 1971 Terrantez back to 1880 Malvasia

January 12, 2018 2 comments

This past weekend I hosted a Madeira tasting in answer to requests I have received from my friends.  With a sizeable selection of wines made available to me by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., I settled in on what I consider an introductory tasting.  Over the course of 10 bottles I presented such wines as a recent Historic Series blend, a 19th century Bual solera, Bastardo, Tinta Negra, young Terrantez, and Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres.

I deployed all of my matching stems, some 72 of them, so we tasted the Madeira in two flights of five.  The extra dozen stems were required for Champagne, of course.  Each flight was largely designed to move from drier and more acidic to richer with the ending wine of each flight being old.  The two oldest bottles were decanted five days prior to the tasting then rebottled after one day in the decanter.  The other bottles received similar treatment one to two days ahead of time.

One guest surprised the group with a bottle of 1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira which was inserted into the first flight so we could compare it against the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira.  Thus you will find eleven tasting notes below.

The wines all showed very well with enough variety to encourage comparison.  It is definitely one of the most satisfying tasting I have been to as of late.  Given the loud volume of everyone towards the end of the tasting coupled with their individual comments, they agreed to!  For each flight I presented a short history of the wines which was well received.  I was excited for this tasting to occur, not just to experience the aromas and flavors, but to convey the individual stories of the wines.  Please find these wine histories appear below.  They are far more important than my tasting notes and ratings.

The histories are largely compiled from correspondence with Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and  Ricardo Freitas, Vinhos Barbeito, as well as the private publications of Mannie Berk Terrantez: The Transcendental Terrantez Tasting (2012) and Bastardo & Mostcatel – The Tasting (2017).  I also relied on the books Noel Cossart’s Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) and Alex Liddell’s Madeira (1998).  Of course some bits are of my own research.  The map reproduced above comes from Isole Canarie from Vincenzo Coronelli published in 1697 and available at the David Rumsey Map Collection site.

Flight #1

NV Rare Wine Company, Historic Series Library Company Madeira
Released in 2015 to honor the Library Company of Philadelphia which is the oldest successful library in America, having been founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Henry Hill was a successful Madeira merchant who lived in Philadelphia and also knew Benjamin Franklin. As a partner in the firm Hill, Lamar, & Bisset, he sold Madeira to wealthy Americans including financier Robert Morris, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll and John Hancock, and George Washington. Many of the business letters sent to Henry Hill reside at the Library Company. Bottled 2015.  The honied nose is followed by luscious, honied flavors of fig.  There are both tea and tobacco notes in the end.  This is fully mature now with just a vein of structure apparent in the finish followed by a bit of bracing acidity.  A fine value with flavors clearly evocative of old bottles of Madeira.  ***(*).

1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Pereira D’Oliveira was founded in 1850 as a producer of wines. It operated as a partidista until the mid-1970s when it began to market wines under its own name. Over the years D’Oliveira has acquired other firms thus expanding its stock of old wines. This particular wine was acquired in barrel when D’Oliveira purchased the Adegas do Terreão collection in 2002. Terreão was founded in 1949 by Vasco Loja who also operated as a partidista supplying the major wine companies particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. D’Oliveira keeps their wines in barrel until they are bottled for sale on an annual basis.   This means that different bottlings come from different barrels having seen wood for different durations. Bottled 2017.  A highly aromatic and articulate nose of citrus and tobacco, profound and of unique complexity.  The dense, explosive start has very fine acidity which soon builds to rapier sharpness.  Overall, this is a lighter weight, saline wine with an expansive, lighter finish, and pervasive pungent aftertaste. ****(*).

1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Shipped by David Turner Air Cargo.  Imported by Vineyard Road Inc.  From old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2012.  There is a low-lying, dark nose.  The rounded start transitions to a berry core by the middle.  There is acidity present but it does not finish with much acidic strength.  I found more weight throughout the palate given impression of length but ultimately it is not as exciting nor complex as the 1928.  ***.

NV Henriques & Henriques, Inauguration Wine Madeira
From the back label, “To inaugurate Henriques & Henriques’ new winery in 1994, winemaker Luis Pereira searched the firm’s stocks of old wine to find something truly extraordinary. The wine he chose had been vinified and blended in the 1950s by his mentor Peter Cossart—the father of John Cossart. Though the wine’s origins were uncertain, Pereira believed it to have the character of a great verdelho or bual. It was a wine uniquely worthy of commemorating this important event. Pereira produced 800 bottles which were given to dignitaries attending the inauguration. This left a small amount to age in cask. In October, 2006, 144 bottles were drawn out, and then in April, 2008, the final 168 bottles were drawn out, each time for The Rare Wine Co.” This is the 2006 bottling of which it is numbered 66 of 144.  The nose is robust with mature hints and caramel.  Further investigation reveals articulate and sweet aromas of brown sugar, Christmas spices, and tobacco.  This is a zippy wine with piercing acidity soon coming out then building to the piercing finish.  There are good, sweet and weighty flavors that drape over the tongue with a ripe, orange flavors core, and mineral finish.  This ia very powerful wine with a long, textured aftertaste.  ****(*).

1971 D’Oliveira, Terrantez Madeira
Terrantez, long regarded as the finest variety in Madeira, was largely wiped out of existence with the phylloxera of the 1870s.  Being low-yielding and difficult to grow, it was not replanted.  In 1921 it was considered “extinct or almost extinct.”  The situation had hardly improved by 2004 as there was less than one hectare of vines in existence.  This scarce wine was acquired in barrel when the Adegas do Terreão collection was purchased in 2002. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2017.  A complex nose of fruit, marmalade, and sweet aromas.  In the mouth is a controlled start, vibrant middle, and sweet kick at the end.  The mouth feel reminds me of marshmallow combining sweetness and airy weight into one sensation.  This is a gentle, young wine of elegant strength and seamless integration.  ****.

1845 Cossart Gordon, Bual Solera Madeira
The 1845 Bual became a solera in 1875 in response to the shortage of wine following the Phylloxera epidemic. It eventually became the first Cossart centenary wine marking the anniversary of the founding of Cossart Gordon in 1745. After Cossart, Gordon joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1953, the soleras in wood were moved to stores at Rua Sao Francisco and no longer topped off. There were many bottlings of this solera both in Madeira, with red and black text, and in England. This bottling is by Evans Marshall & Co. who became Cossart’s agents in London in 1956. Bottled after 1956.  A very mature nose still with some bottle stink.  The sweet start soon focuses on flavors of sweet black tea with wood notes in the middle, and flavors of sweet cinnamon and baking spices in the textured finish.  This is the most advanced wine of all with a mellow nature and slight separation of acidity and residual sugar.  It becomes  vinous in the aftertaste with a hint of acidity.  ***.

Flight #2

NV Unknown, Padre Madeira [da Silva Collection] 
The oldest known dated bottles of Madeira once belonged to Braheem Abdo Kassab who famously initialed his wax seals with BAK.  This Padre wine was in bottle for a long time, discovered in the laundry room of the home of a Kassab relative on the island. This is believed to be all Tinta Negra from the early 20th century.  Approximately three dozen bottles were aired in demijohn for a few months then rebottled. Bottled 2016.  The pungent, sweeter nose steps out of the glass with aromas reminding me of old Madeira.  There is a round, weighty, vinous start with ripe orange citrus flavors, good acidity, and grip.  The middle is assertive and the finish powerful with hints of dense fruit, I suspect this wine needs further time for integration.  ***.

NV Barbeito, Bastardo 50-year-old Avo Mario Madeira
Barbeito was founded in 1946 which is today run by third-generation, Ricardo Diogo Vasconcelos de Freitas. Bastardo was completely extinct in Madeira until 2004 when Ricardo convinced a farmer to plant it.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of vines.  This wine is an homage to Ricardo’s grandfather and is a blend of Bastardo wines Ricardo made in 2007 and 2009.  These are the first two successful harvests for there was bad weather in 2008.  At the time, there was no living memory on how to make the wine so Ricardo set out on his own.  He mixed these wines with some old Bastardo in demijohn that belonged to the Favilla family and 36 bottles of old Tinta Negra from 1950 that was bottled in 1997.  The 50 year old category was only introduced in 2015.  Bottled 2017 of which it is #326 of 550.  A sweet and floral nose is similarly followed by a sweet, gentle start.  Of good flavor, it mixes herbs and cedar box in an easy to drink manner.  The balance is impeccable making it compelling to drink.  ****.

1929 D’Oliveira, Tinta Negra Medium Sweet Madeira
Dated bottles of Madeira from the late 1920s through early 1930s are scarce.  The effects of the Great Depression was felt on an international scale and locally it wreaked havoc on Madeira.  The Portuguese Minister of Finance sought to mitigate the effects on Portugal by centralizing the importation and milling of grain in January 1931. The price of bread and other common goods quickly rose as a result. A few months later a revolt on the island of Madeira took place with control of the island temporarily seized from the government.  The spread of the European financial crisis coupled with the political instability on Madeira impacted the banks on Madeira the same year of the revolt.  By the end of the year banks suspended all payments and in the course of restructuring the banking system in 1932, many private banks failed.  This is the period when the influence of the partidista rose.  These merchants purchased wine at vintage then sold it off to shippers as they needed it.  It is likely that during these financially difficult times much Madeira was sold off for ready money rather than kept around as single vintage lots tying up capital.  This wine is from old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2016.  With ripe aromas this wine offers attractive aromas of age which I look for in older bottles.  There is a weighty, round, dense start with good body and juicy acidity.  The flavors are more mature with moderately sweet bakings spices, strong acidity, and some brown sugar in the finish.  The strength of the acidity builts into the finish leaving a piercing citric edge.  ****.

1986 Barbeito, Malvasia Faja dos Padres Madeira
Malvasia encompasses several different grapes with Malvasia Candida the most sought after. It is a difficult grape to grow and prefers particular locations. One of these locations is Faja dos Padres which was originally cultivated by the Jesuits centuries ago. Located on the south side of the Island it lies at the bottom of a 900 foot cliff which, until recently, was only accessible by boat. For centuries, this site was considered as producing the best Malvasia Candida wines. The Malvasia Candida was nearly wiped out by phylloxera in the 1870s.  When the site was sold in 1919 it was believed that no Malvasia Candida vines existed. But in 1940 a single Malvasia Candida vine was found surviving at Faja dos Padres. It was cloned then planted at Torre. In 1979 the same vine was cloned again then planted at Faja dos Padres. An additional vineyard of 0.4 ha was eventually established. This is the first commercial bottling of Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres since 1921. It was raised in 800 liter casks aged by the canteiro method. Bottled 2012 of which it is #172 of 654.  The nose is young and fruit with complexity from wet tobacco.  The wines is young and rounded with clearly defined sweet black tea flavors.  There is a delicacy to the wine that makes it stand apart, with delicate berry fruit and a fresh finish.  With impeccable balance this wine highlights the flavors of Malvasia.  ****.

1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira
Founded in 1870, CVM was eventually associated with Justino Henriques. The company was closed in 1984 and much of the stock was sold off. This bottle bears a paper Junta Nacional do Vinho seal underneath the wicker capsule. The JNV seal would have been applied between 1937 and 1979.  The nose is slightly pungent with sweet, yellow citrus.  There is a gravelly start of brown sugar, wood box, and flavors of age.  The wine is completely balanced with no hard edges.  Backed by residual sugar this is dense and even racy in the finish with a hint of spiciness to perk up the long, gentle, sweet aftertaste.  ****.

Two particularly fine wines from 2017

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

For my favorite wines of 2017 I chose two bottles that are of particularly fine flavor.  The first wine stood out during the Madeira at Liberty Hall tasting held by Mannie Berk on April 23, 2017.  It is the second time I have tasted an excellent Acciaioly Madeira.  The Acciaioly history is oft repeated being an old Florentine family having descended from the Dukes of Burgundy.  When they arrived at Madeira during the early 16th century they are said to have introduced the Malvasia vine to the island.  Accordingly to Mannie Berk, when the last Acciaioly passed away in 1979, his wines were divided into two lots.  The second lot went to his sons who consigned them to Christie’s in London.  Some 135 lots of Accaiaioly Madeira were auctioned off in 1989 including more than 14 dozen bottles of the 1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho one of which we tasted.  It was an exciting wine during the tasting and when I was able to enjoy a small glass from the leftovers I felt it was a wine I could have drunk all night long.

1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho
Shipped by Reid Wines.  Imported by Vieux Vins.  A proper nose that is pungent with herbs. In the mouth this is sweet with grip, lovely balance and presence. The wine builds in flavor through the middle as marmalade flavors come out which linger through the aftertaste leaving sweet notes in the mouth. The acidity weaves in and out. Top-notch. ****(*)

For my second bottle, I naturally include an old red wine, this time from Italy of which I have tried to drink from with more attention this year.  The vine in Piedmont dates back to the Roman times.  The great Alto-Piemonte producer Antonio Vallana pays tribute to this history with their Campi Raudii label.  It is in Northern Piedmont that the Romans suffered one of their greatest military losses in 105 BC to invading Germanic tribes.  Nearly 100,000 Roman troops perished.  Four years later, in 101 BC, Consul Caius Marius defeated these tribes at Campi Raudii.  This decisive battle ensured peace in the region and accordingl to legend, allowed the cultivation of vineyards.

The decades of the 1950s and 1960s are held to be the best for Vallana.  The Wasserman’s attribute some of this to the inclusion of Aglianico from Basilicata.  They also hold that the Campi Raudii and Traversagna are the best wines.  Mannie Berk shares this same view which is why we drank a bottle together at a small table in an Indian restaurant.  It was no less than the 1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale which he had imported and laid down long ago based on the green strip label.  Double-decanted to separate off the sediment it was at its glorious, nearly perfect peak when we sat down.  The few old bottles of Vallana that I have tried bear remarkable body and a certain sweaty, sweet concentration.  All the elements came to bear in our bottle and no doubt inspired a blur of conversation.

1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  A light to medium bricking garnet color.  The nose is deep with sweet fruits and damp soil.  The sweet, concentrated flavors are immediately complex.  Notes of old leather mix in the racy and flavorful wine that swirls through the mouth.  Animale like earthiness exists through the aftertaste where it picks up a touch of attractive pungency and sweatiness.  It wraps up with fresh acidity. ***** Now but will last.

Panos’ epic tasting of 16 vintages of Chateau Montrose: 2012 – 1970

December 12, 2017 Leave a comment

On January 24, 2017, Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles) hosted another epic Bordeaux tasting featuring the wines of Chateau Montrose.  Hervé Berland, CEO, graciously donated 15 vintages of wine with three guests donating the 1989 vintage thus presenting us with an array of 16 different wines spanning from 2012 back to 1970. The tasting itself was held at Ripple, home of many fabulous wine dinners, which closed its doors this year.

I hold Chateau Montrose in high regard having tasted the old-school vintages 1959, 1964, and 1966 several times as well as the legendary, contemporary vintages of 1990 and 2010 at The Heart’s Delight lunch with the Ambassador of France, Gérard Araud and Herve Berland of Chateau Montrose.

This is unequivocally one of my favorite tastings that Panos has organized over the five years I have been attending.  The quality level is very high in general with the 1990, 2003, 2005, 2009, and 2010 vintages particularly outstanding.  My glass of 2000 was not up to par and the 1989’s variable due to provenance otherwise I am sure they would be outstanding as well.  These are all balanced wines full of flavor and depth, rather than massive tannic structure, which allows them to develop at a slow pace.  Even the 1976 provided ample, if not surprising pleasure.  I left the evening very impressed.

The wines were tasted in flights:
2012 + 2008 + 1995
2010 + 2009 + 2003
2005 + 1990 + 1989 + 1976
2000 + 1986 + 1985
1998 + 1982 + 1970

I have presented my tasting notes in reverse chronological order.  Please find them below.

2012 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There is a subtle, dark nose with notes of soil and sweet confection. There is an immediate presence of acidity in the mouth with dense and polished flavors of red and black fruit. There is a bright mineral underpinning which develops into graphite. All of this is surrounded by a hint of fat.  ****

2010 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
A vintage with the most Merlot. A racy, lively nose. There is black, lively fruit in the mouth this is certainly a bit wine yet it is balanced. The lovely ripe structure supports black fruit, cassis, and notes of new oak. It is lipsticky with flavors that cling to the mouth through the long aftertaste. Nice wine. ****(*)

2009 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Those nose is mute but this is a sexy wine in the mouth. There are dark, focused flavors of red fruit. It is a racy, inky wine which really packs in the flavor. There is a strong structure of very fine-grained tannins yet the richness of the fruit largely covers it up. ****(*)

2008 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
The nose is more lifted with cassis, flowers, and meat. A redder wine with more apparently structure and fine extract for texture rather than the density of 2012. The power hints the back of the throat with concentrated blue fruit yet remains balanced throughout. My favorite of 2012 and 1995.****

2005 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are some deep, meaty aromas but the nose is generally subdued. The mouth meets a ripe, gentle entry of red fruit, ripe oranges, and citric structure. It is lipsticky with vintage perfume, a fresh finish and long aftertaste. It does not have the weight of other vintages but is well done for future development. ****(*)

2003 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are aromas of tobacco smoke. This is a balanced wine with the flavors of focused ripe and slightly sweet fruit packed in. The flavor builds intensity with hints of maturity. This is a savory wine with subtle weight yet significant, satisfying depth. ****(*)

2000 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
This remained very closed with hard flavors, and polished wood.  Clearly not right.  😦  Not Rated.

1998 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are greenhouse infused flavors in this short wine. **

1995 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are deep berry aromas of wet soil and meat. With watering acidity this is lighter on the tongue yet still expansive in the mouth. It has a dry, linear style that leaves fine, dry structure on the gums. There is good mature flavor, some herbaceousness and ample acidity and structure to keep it alive. ****

1990 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
The incredible nose is very aromatic with citrus, flowers, greenhouse aromas, and leather. There are ripe red fruit flavors, vintage perfume, and sweet earthy depth. This is tense wine that drives you to return to the glass. Hard cherry aromas mix with animale funk.  *****

1989 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Donated by a guest.  This is still youthful with a tighter nose and more muted expression compared to the 1990. There are fresh flavors in the mouth, a tea note, cola tannins, and stand up acidity. ****

1986 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Slightly dusty with vegetal aromas. In the mouth it is a hard wine with vintage perfume and spearmint. Perhaps a bit similar to 1985 in flavor. ***

1985 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe en magnum
It is a very mature nose. The saline, cool blue fruit is simple and weighty yet the round aspect is satisfying.  ***(*)

1982 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe en magnum
I think my pour is from the mediocre magnum.  This has subtle depth on the nose, reminiscent of the 1990. In the mouth it has a touch more fruit but shows flat and metallic with some earth. ***

1976 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
A gentle wine but in great shape. There are more greenhouse infused flavors than the other vintages. It is still firm with watering acidity and structure that frames everything. The aftertaste is perfumed. ***(*)

1970 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There are firm flavors of red and black fruit with some rough yet enjoyable texture in the finish. The tannic structure is prominent, like a cats tongue. Short finish but satisfying up to it. ***

An epic Panos Bordeaux tasting: 16 vintages of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2016 – 1975

November 3, 2017 Leave a comment

 

On October 18, 2017, Panos Kakaviatos (wine-chronicles) hosted a tasting of 16 vintages of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande from 2016 to 1975.  This tasting is the latest in a series of definitive events that Panos arranges for Washington, DC wine lovers.  Not only were all of the bottles direct from the chateau but Nicolas Glumineau, the director of Ch. Pichon Lalande, was guest of honor for our dinner.

Nicolas Glumineau, Director of Chateau Pichon Lalande.

The tasting took place at Taberna del Alarbardero with the help of sommelier Maria Ortiz.  The bottles were flown in by Mark Wessels of MacArthur Beverages except for the 2002 pair which were graciously donated by Randy McFarlane.  The evening took place in the large red private dining room where we first mingled with many different bottles of Champagne from Prevost, Pierre Peters, Cedric Bouchard, Pol Roger, and others.

The main tasting and dinner were seated.  Of all the vintages, I was particularly excited by the 1996, 2010, and 2014.  To me these three vintages stood out for their precision, balance, and purity of expression.  Of the older vintages the 1980s and 1970s drank well with the 1982 as the most complete experience.  I would also point out the 1978 vintage as an attractive, older style of wine.

Now I spent quite a bit of time talking, so think of my notes as general impressions.  They are presented in the order they were served.

FIRST COURSE
Lomo De Caballa Sobre Arroz Meloso De Pimientos Morrones
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010-2009-2005-2003

2010 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The scented nose soon offers floral and licorice-like aromas, eventually closing up. In the mouth is a tart start, close-grip at first with evident structure. There is a vein of black fruit and violets that moves through the wine. It is ultimately young and grapey at the core. Drier in the end with very fine structure and a good aftertaste. It has the balance to age. ****(*)

2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
It is assertive from the start with black fruit, structure and grip. There is less fruit compared to structure that emerges in the middle. I prefer the 2010. ***(*)

2005 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
It is similar to the 2010 with a young, lifted core of flavor. It is lighter in flavor yet mouth filling with grip and strength in the good, tart finish. ***(*)

2003 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is a rounded start of berry flavors, soon taking on powerful dark, red fruit. A fine, lifted aftertaste. **(*)

SECOND COURSE
Magret De Pato Con Toques De Naranja Con Pastel De Butternut Squash
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2002-2000-1996-1995

2002 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
This is better than expected with surprising fine texture. The dry black flavors are even racy in the middle. Drinking well right now. ***

2000 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The nose offers lifted, greenhouse aromas but with a more mature profile. The mouth follows the nose with maturing fruit, a pleasing level of green pepper, and very fine grip. Elegant. ****

1996 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Markedly different with fine, clean fruit aromas. Tangy red fruit greets the palate. It remains a core of focused fruit, very pure and controlled. The ripe, textured structure is still present for development yet it is resolving. Additional notes of greenhouse and pencil shavings add some complexity. ****

1995 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Greenness and lightness on the nose. Ample texture in the mouth with almost chewy, dense black fruit. This is broader throughout but a very fine, drying structure supports the flavor. A bit of a smoke hint in the end. ***

THIRD COURSE
Kobe Beef Con Patatas, Zanahorias Y Chalotas Al Estilo Hasselback
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1989-1985-1982-1978-1975

1989 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is a fine focus and certain tang to the flavors which have a very fine texture. The wine is moved by watering acidity through a drier, lighter middle into a linear finish. Quite enjoyable. Less fruit weight than other vintages. ****

1985 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
A touch of plum combine with more advanced flavors that become tart towards the finish. An earthy aftertaste. A second bottle showed young with floral flavors and grip. So at best ****

1982 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Cooler in profile with red fruit, graphite, and a citric grip that lean towards elegant. The wine grows with air developing attractive earth and maturity. ****(*)

1978 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Greener, drier, and lighter with graphite and again that familiar texture. Has hints of being from an older period of winemaking. There is a green streak followed by cedar and old wood in the finish. It is chunkier than the 1975 yet still retains tension. ***(*)

1975 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The wine still has grip. The watering acidity brings forward more red fruit and a citric structure that coats the gums. The core of fruit mixes with notes of old leather, greenhouse, and mature flavors. Drinking well. ***

CHEESE PLATE (CHEESES)
Puig Pedros (Vaca), Retorta Pascuales (Oveja), Manchego (1 Ano)
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2014-2016-2016

2014 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
There is fine, grapey depth coupled with both weight and density. Clearly balanced. Pencil shavings and floral perfume already add to the complexity. ****(*)

2015 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Intense, grapey flavors are a bit rough with some heat. There are assert baking spices and some perfume.  Just bottled.

2016 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Grapey blueberry fruit with fine texture and lip smacking tannins. Baking spices and spicy tannins.  Strong potential.  Barrel Sample.

DESSERT
Flan De Pistacho Sobre Flan De Caramelo Y Helado De Vanilla Beans
Sauternes

1997 Chateau Climens, Barsac
Very dark. Flawed.

2003 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes
A nose of grassy petrol then concentrated grapey flavors delivered in a grippy, textured manner.  A good combination of fruit, weight, and mouth feel.  ***(*)

2005 Chateau Climens, Barsac
There is lovely flavor, mouth filling, yet fresh and light with gentle ripeness.  ****

 

Legendary Rioja: CVNE Viña Real and Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva from 1976-1964

October 23, 2017 1 comment

Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), founded in 1879, is one of the oldest Rioja producers. For nearly one century CVNE has produced the top brands of Viña Real and Imperial. Over this period the wines developed the reputation as consistent  both in high-quality and long-life with the particular decades of the 1940s through the 1970s considered the classic age. This month a small group of us explored the tail end of this age by tasting five vintages of both Viña Real and Imperial Gran Reservas from 1976 back to 1964.

CVNE is a unique estate in that there are only five winemakers over the course of its long history. For the vintages we tasted our focus begins with the third head winemaker Ezequiel Garcia (1930 – 2017).  He was born in Anguciana, a small town near Haro, and worked at CVNE from 1958 through 1973.

The 1920 harvest arrives at CVNE. Image provided by CVNE.

Imperial was first produced in the 1920s. It is always bottled in a Bordeaux shaped bottle and is named after the Imperial pint bottles it was once sold in. This wine is traditionally a majority of Tempranillo with a bit of Graciano, Mazuelo, and Viura largely from the Rioja Alta. The Viña Real brand name was registered in 1940 but it existed previously under different variations. The name stems from the Camino Real or Royal Road next to which many of the vineyards lie. It is bottled in the iconic Burgundy shaped bottle containing Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo largely sourced from the Rioja Alavesa.

Ezequiel Garcia produced Imperial at the CVNE winery in Haro and Viña Real at the Viña Real winery in Elciego. For each brand there were different levels of quality. From top to bottom quality, Imperial was historically sold as Gran Reserva and Reserva with the Viña Real as Reserva Especial, Reserva, and 4 año. With the new wine regulations of the 1970s Viña Real wines were renamed Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza. The Imperial names did not change.

The Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva bottlings are meant to be the best quality wine possible, produced only in the best vintages using the best fruit. Such was the quality of the wines produced by Ezequiel Garcia during the 1960s and 1970s that the author and journalist Xavier Domingo nicknamed him “El Brujo” or the wizard.  It is these wines that I poured at the tasting.

A wine is only as good as the fruit that it is produced from so credit must be given to Jose Angel de Madrazo y Real de Asua, 4th generation of the founding brothers Eusebio and Raimundo Real de Asua. Jose Madrazo joined the CVNE Board of Directors in the mid-1960s soon becoming General Manager of Viña Real. CVNE sources fruit from vineyards they own but also from others under long-term contracts. One of Jose Madrazo’s responsibilities was to maintain these contracts and to seek out other grapes for all the quality levels at Viña Real. It is he who discovered the vineyards at Laserna. Such was the quality of the Laserna fruit that Ezequiel Garcia used it exclusively for the Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva. These vines at Laserna would eventually form the single-vineyard estate of Vinedos del Contino.

The Viña Real and Imperial wines were always meant to be different. They were made at different wineries with different blends sourced from different plots with different climates. During the 1940s through the 1970s, Viña Real always featured at least one-third Garnacha Tina with a typical blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, and 20% other varieties including Mazuelo. Imperial never included Garnacha Tinta and featured more Mazuela and even some Graciano.

Cement tanks at El Carmen winery inaugurated in 1940. Image provided by CVNE.

Viña Real was made at a small winery in Elciego built in the 1920s. Imperial was made at the El Carmen winery in Haro.  Inaugurated in 1940, it was the first winery with concrete tanks in Rioja. Epoxy-lined concrete tanks were also installed at Viña Real. The Viña Real winery was small so the wines were vinified there then underwent barrel aging at CVNE in Haro. In 1957, the year before Ezequiel Garcia began work at CVNE, the 1941 Imperial was still in barrel. Under Garcia, the duration the Gran Reserva spent in American oak was slowly reduced to at least six years by the 1970s.

1976 Imperial Gran Reserva aging in barrel. Image provided by CVNE.

In 1973, Ezequiel Garcia left CVNE for Bodegas Olarra. He vinified the wine from the 1973 harvest but the final blend was made by the fourth CVNE winemaker Basilio Izquierdo Torres. Torres, who studied in Bordeaux, worked at CVNE from 1974 through 2004. Thus the vintages we tasted may be classified as: 1976 (Torres), 1973(Garcia/Torres), 1970 (Garcia), 1966 (Garcia), and 1964 (Garcia).

It was also in 1973, that CVNE and others, purchased the Laserna vineyards and formed Vinedos del Contino. The first Contino harvest occurred in 1974 so all of the Contino fruit from the 1973 vintage was still destined for the Viña Real Gran Reserva. It took a while for the Contino facilities to be built up so a large proportion of the excellent Contino fruit continued to be used in the Viña Real Gran Reserva. Today, Viña Real continues to use fruit from the Laserna region including plots that literally border the Contino estate.

Bottling of the 1970 Imperial Gran Reserva. Image provided by CVNE.

Across all five of the vintages we tasted, the Viña Real Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva all demonstrate deep aromas, full-bodied flavor, and extra complexity from earth and animale notes. The Imperial are brighter, more structured with noticeable acidity and more control over the flavors.  All of the bottles have aged very well with a general increase in liveliness as the wines became older.

The pair from 1976 showed good, complex flavor yet came across as fully mature.  The pair from 1973 exhibit less complexity yet are fresh and lively in the mouth.  I personally would rather drink the 1976s for the flavor but many preferred the 1973s for their condition.  Both wines from the 1970 vintage demonstrated a significant increase in complexity and energy.  The 1970 Viña Real is deep, earthy, mouth filling, and ethereal with a level of energy that made me pause.  The 1970 Imperial leans towards a core of fruit propelled by acidity, leaving a texture in the mouth.  The 1966 pair are lighter in flavor.  The 1966 Viña Real offers up more flavor than the 1966 Imperial but both wines should be drunk up.

It is a remarkably testament to the greatness of the 1964 vintage and the capable hand of Ezequiel Garcia, that the wines from 1964 are the most energetic and long-lived of all we tasted.  That is no small feat considering the 1964 Imperial was served from two half-bottles!  The aromas are to dream of, the flavors are a bit closely played but the mouthfeel is oily and luxurious.  My favorite wine of the night is the 1964 Viña Real.  It is mouth filling with complexity yet never weighs down the palate.  The interplay of flavor, texture, and acidity are remarkable.

We are fortunate in that not one of our bottles was bad allowing the personality of Viña Real and Imperial to shine through all of the vintages tasted.  If you have yet to taste mature CVNE you must set your sights on the 1964 Viña Real Reserva Especial.  If that is too expensive, the 1970 Viña Real Gran Reserva is a relative bargain.  These two wines in particular should be tried by all lovers of mature red wine.

CVNE is still run by family members including Maria Urrita Ybarra, Director of Marketing, who answered many of my questions and provided the historic images used in this post. I must also thank Jesús Madrazo, son of Jose Madrazo, 5th generation of the founding brothers, and former Technical Director of Contino, who kindly replied to all of my emails as well.  Finally, I thank my friend Mannie Berk, founder of The Rare Wine Co., whose careful acquisition of these bottles enabled this tasting to take place.


Arrival Champagne

1984 Le Mesnil, Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A youthful yellow color with just a hint of gold. The wine greets with a good set of strong, yet finely textured bubbles. This is a surprisingly youthful with with yellow fruit, and a core of berries throughout. With extended air sweet spices come out. ***(*) Now – 2037.


The CVNE Wines

 

1976 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. The deep nose offers up dark, sweaty aromas. In the mouth the deep note is echoed in the soft entry. There is a bit of a sweet vein of fruit with some supporting structure in the end. This bottle is fully mature with good depth. With air the fine red fruit flavor takes on an old wood note. *** Now – 2020.

1976 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a coffee-like hint on the modest nose. In the mouth is a soft, seductive start then a bright note buoyed by the watering acidity. The flavors are more linear with dry black fruit, and a subtle wood note.  *** Now – 2022.

1973 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A fine, clean nose reveals familiar deep aromas, and sweet red scents. With air it takes on floral aromas. In the mouth are cherry fruits framed by a fine structure. It offers good grip and presence with a rounded body. The cherry note continues in the finish and into the ethereal aftertaste. *** Now – 2022.

1973 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a noticeably dark core to the color. The nose is less aromatic with hints of funk and pungency which eventually clean up. However, there is a brighter start with slightly sour flavors. The flavors are lighter weight, carried by watering acidity, and some grip in the finish. *** Now – 2022.

1970 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There are finely woven flavors of deep, sweet strawberry fruit. Complexity is gained through a subtle amount of earth and animale flavors. This is a beautiful wine, full of flavor, yet ethereally light through the long aftertaste. The energy of the wine makes you take notice as the wine will continue to drink well for a long time. ****(*) Now – 2027.

1970 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. Another lovely wine. The bright start takes on a gentle, sweet core of red and black fruits propelled by watering acidity. There are complex spices, animale flavors, and wood notes. This finely textured wine still has youthful grip.  **** Now – 2027.

1966 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. In a way there is sweeter fruit in this wine. Though it is lighter in flavor and body there is complexity from low-lying minerals and wood notes. It offers more fruit than the Imperial. It is in a good state of life given the lesser vintage. *** Now.

1966 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. I found this tart with watery flavor, less weight, and dry structure. ** Now.

1964 CVNE, Viña Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There are deep aromas of leather and earth. In the mouth the red fruit has youthful grip with a gorgeously fine interplay of fruit, earth, and animale notes. The wine becomes drier towards the finish. This is a beautifully focused wine with both fruit, acidity, and structure to continue its glacial evolution for years to come. If you enjoy that sweet concentration resulting from traditional winemaking and old age then look no further.  ****(*) Now – 2032.

1964 CVNE, Imperial, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. What a beautiful nose! Again this shows more focus and structure but the the vintages give the flavors extra strength and weight. Black fruited in general added mouthfeel comes out of nowhere from a luxurious oily bit. I wonder if it will open up even more? **** Now – 2027.


Dinner Wines

NV Krug, Grande Cuvée 164 eme Edition, Champagne Brut
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA.  Alcohol 12.5%. This already smells complex with a young aroma of apple. In the mouth this is a youthful wine with assertive bubbles then a very fine mousse. The yellow fruit and gentle baking spices are of good complexity and long duration. **** Now – 2037.

1996 Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, Rioja Reserva
Imported by Tempranillo Inc.  There is a pungent nose of berries and banana foster. It is a fresh and gentle wine in the mouth back by good weight. Despite the young age, it is drinking very well showing both mature flavors and a core of covert fruit. **** Now – 2022.

1985 Torres, Grand Sangre de Torro, Penedes
This wine is a blend of 70% Garnacha and 30% Carinena.  There is a bright red fruit in the complex start. It morphs from earthy, sweet fruit in the start to dry black fruit in the finish. A ripe Garnacha character comes out with air. This is not a wine for the ages rather a solid, mature wine to drink now. *** Now – 2020.

1973 Paternina, Conde de los Andes, Rioja Gran Reserva
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. A brilliant color! The tart red fruit on the nose smells of some age due to a roasted earth note. In the mouth are lighter flavors of cranberry and red fruits which are match by the acidity driven profile. This is a clean with, slightly short in the finish, yet the aftertaste still leaves texture on the gums. *** Now but will last.

1970 Bodegas Bilbainas, Vina Pomal, Rioja Crianza
A Chambers Street Wines selection imported by T. Elenteny. Tired on the nose and in the mouth. The rounded start brings rather advanced flavors and a short finish. *(*) Drink Up.

NV Emilio Lustau, Sherry Very Rare Oloroso Emperatriz Eugenia
Imported by Europvin USA.  This is enjoyable pungent on the nose with polished wood, fresh orange citrus notes, and some deep aromas.  Noticeably less complex in the mouth with a dry, linear, saline flavors of nuts and yellow citrus wrapped up by a warm finish.  *** Now – 2027+.


NV Barbeito, Terrantez Reserve Madeira
Imported by the Rare Wine Co. There is a sweet nose of brown sugar backed by the slightest pungency. In the mouth there is still, fine sweet fruit of good weight. The sweetness is expertly balanced by the acidity. It picks up a lovely foxiness in the finish. **** Now – whenever.

Back to the golden-age: A tasting of Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Chateauneuf-du-Pape from 1990-1961

September 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Paul Jaboulet Aîné, founded in 1834, remains a major negociant to this day.  The Hermitage “La Chapelle” needs no introduction as it is still a benchmark for Northern Rhone wines. Today we would not include the Chateauneuf du Pape “Les Cèdres” as amongst the best of the region but it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Only a handful of vineyard owners bottled their own wine during this period which allowed Paul Jaboulet Aîné to purchase wine from top vineyards, the names of which are highly coveted today.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné has original vineyard holdings in Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage.  John Livingstone-Learmonth explained to me how Northern Rhone merchants felt they should have Southern Rhone wines in their portfolio. These were marketed towards French restaurants and the export trade. Thus the Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Les Cèdres” is a brand name marketed in the US and Great Britain and “La Grappe des Papes” elsewhere.

John Livingstone Learmonth writes that this was the “benchmark house” when he started in the wine business in 1973.  Robert Parker echoes this sentiment rating the Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintages prior to 1970 with the top mark of five stars.  This past weekend a group of us gathered in my house to explore these golden years by tasting 11 vintages from 1990 back to 1961.

The four oldest vintages tasted 1970, 1966, 1964, and 1961 were produced by Louis Jaboulet, grandson of founder Paul Jaboulet. It is Louis Jaboulet who selected the wines that went into these vintages.  With his passing away in 2012 the background history of these great wines was lost.[1]  What we do know is very little and often repeated.  Robert Parker writes that the 1967 was produced from old-vine wine from Chateau La Nerthe.  He also writes that the older vintages were predominantly or entirely made from Grenache.

My overall impression is that in moving back in time, decade by decade, the wines become more interesting and exciting.  The 1990 and 1989 vintages are young in evolution but in different ways.  The former is integrated yet tight whereas the later offers rounder fruit but with tangy grip from age-worthy structure.  The first mature vintage is 1983 which attracted me with its sweaty, old-school aromas.  The 1982 requires a day for the nose to clean up at which point it is a mature, quieter wine. Both of these vintages should be drunk soon.  Youthful form returned in the 1981 vintage which is finely scented and flavored.  Out of magnum I would wait several more years before revisiting.

The excellent vintages of 1979, 1978, and 1970 made for a very satisfying flight.  These wines are mature but will drink in good form for several more years.  They all bear fruit backed by weight and a sweaty/animale note that I like.

We had an off bottle of 1964 thus our oldest decade was represented by 1966 and 1961.  For me the level of interest stepped up one more notch over the 1970s for the 1966 is downright exciting. The balance between red fruit, sweet concentration, levity, bottle age complexity, and life pulls you into your glass.  It should drink at this level for several more years.  If the 1966 is generous the 1961 is structured, controlled, and dry in nature.  It is made complex by leather and perfumed notes.

It is clear that Louis Jaboulet was able to source some fine wine for his vintages of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Not only do these wines highlight the quality level a top negociant could achieve but increase the notion of longevity of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

I must point out that this tasting would not have occurred without the willingness of Mannie Berk, founder of the Rare Wine Co., who generously opened up his inventory to me.  He imported all of these wines which included a combination of ex-domaine and private cellar acquisitions.

After the tasting we drank a few more wines.  One generous guest opened a bottle of 1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Hermitage, La Chapelle which required until the second night to show its glorious potential.  With dessert came the 1983 Graham’s, Vintage Port which I found to be completely mature.  It is all sweet fruit and spices.


Arrival Champagne

 

2000 Charles Heidsieck, Champagne Brut Millésimé
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  A light golden color.  The mousse tickles the tongue before the wine seamlessly transitions to a fresh, grippy presence.  The mouth feel matches the chalk flavor from which notes of apple orchard, some supple weight, and spiced chalk come out.  A fine glass.  **** Now – 2020.


Flight #1

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is tight at first but slowly reveals interesting aromas of sweet, sweaty leather, and garrrigue. In the mouth are fresh red fruit flavors around a fine vein of herbs and wood. The flavors are moved along by watering acidity. With air, this slowly evolving wine, shows complicated garrigue and wood notes. *** Now – 2027.

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 14%. Slightly maderized on the nose but with aromas of darker fruit and plums. In the mouth the flavors have good weight, eventually revealing cherries and sweet fruit. There is a bit of a tang and polished wood note. ** Now.

1989 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13.5%. This is every so slightly darker than the first trio. A tight nose at first but the palate has lovely grip from the structure which adds pleasing texture to the blue/red fruits and garrigue. Unlike the 1990, there is a very fine tannic structure and it is also more forward in flavor. It is easy to appreciate the rounder flavors, tangy grip, and sweet raspberry aftertaste. **** Now – 2027.


Flight #2

1983 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins. The nose is sweet and sweaty, certainly old-school. With air a freshness and tobacco aroma come out. Watering acidity brings forth a start of sweet and rounded flavors made more complex by incense. The wine is clearly mature. Though there is red fruit with some weight, though lighter than the 1989, the wine dries by the finish. There is also a touch of structure lurking about. ***(*) Now – 2022.

1982 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine, en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Quite aromatic with a hint of cheese and metal which eventually improves to be funky. In the mouth the wine oscillates in appeal. At best, the grippy structure and sweet red aftertaste appeal but there is more structure than fruit. ** Now.

1981 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine, en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13%.  This is a finely scented wine of dark aromas. In the mouth it is clearly in fine condition with red then blacker fruit, fresh acidity, and a finely textured and well-integrated tannic structure. With air raspberry flavors and firm red fruit come out. There is an ethereal quality to the fruit. **** Now – 2027.


Flight #3

1979 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  The lightest of the trio but with good brilliance. The berries and cherries on the nose are a touch firm with a hint of roast. In the mouth is also a slightly roasted note but the sweet, small berried fruit has weight and longevity in profile. It is a bit animale. ***(*) Now – 2020.

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Aromas of cherries, cranberries, and bright herbs eventually take on sweat, incense, and a green note. The flavors are rounder than the 1979 yet are light in weight, carried through by watering acidity. The entire wine is underpinned by structure and spiced tannins that are perfectly integrated. This wine eventually reveals itself to be long lived, lovely, and complete. **** Now – 2025.

1970 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  The darkest of the trio, slightly cloudy. Also the most robust of the trio with a closely played berry core with tangy flavors lefts on the sides of the mouth. With air the wine becomes brighter with red, rounded berry flavors, tartness, and a hint of cola. Good watering acidity. **** Now – 2022.


Flight #4

1966 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%. I just wanted to smell and taste this wine. There is a fine interplay between the red fruit, sweet concentration, and ethereal flavor. It is light in body yet flavorful with complexity from leather and animale flavors. Simply a point. ****(*) Now but will last.

1964 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.   This bottle is toast! Not Rated.

1961 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%. The nose offers up sweet fruits and leather then with air banana foster. In this mouth this is a dry wine, a characteristic which naturally matches the perfumed flavor. There is controlled ripeness and watering acidity. **** Now but will last.


Dinner Wines

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Hermitage, La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman.  The dark cherry and garnet color is still youthful. There are fine scented berries on the nose. In the mouth there is great purity with black and purple fruit, hints of leather all delivered with great focus. On the second night the wine is markedly improved with a savory profile to the dark fruit. Is is still youthful but the flavors takes on weight and a mineral dimension. It is also still structured but there is plenty of flavor for development as the long, mouth filling finish attests too. ***(**) Now – 2037.

1983 Graham’s, Vintage Port
Imported by Premium Port Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  This is finely scented with sweet fruit, spices, and wood box. The rounded, red fruited start is dusted with ripe, baking spices. The structure is largely resolved so there is a sense of balance because the wine is in a sweet spot.  *** Now – 2022.

[1]According to correspondence with Jean Luc Chapel, Prestige Account Manager, Paul Jaboulet Aîné on 27 September 2017.

Tasted blind: 1991 Ridge Monte Bello, 1986 Phelps Backus, and 1984 Duckhorn

February 9, 2017 1 comment

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Last night Lou and I gathered to blindly taste through several bottles of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.  For fun, we each unknowingly threw in an Australian blend of Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perhaps this is unfair given the stature of our main selections but it was for fun.  As we settled down to cheese, charcuterie, and cork removal we checked out a bottle of 2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray.  I do not have enough experience with Huet so I found the lifted, aromatically textured nose a delight.  It starts off in the fruit spectrum eventually to take on a honey character.  In the mouth this is a fresh, grippy wine with a nice balance of fruit supported by hints of yeast and oxidation.  Fine stuff!  I look forward to finishing my leftover glass tonight.

It was then on to the bagged red wines.  Guessing is fun when you are not pressured.  Wine #1 is firm at first though you can detect some maturity and herbaceousness.  It is the most structured wine out of all tasted and I, admittedly clueless, narrowed in to the 1979-1981 vintages.  For those who enjoy structured, rather than opulent wines the 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley will develop for years to come.  It eventually reveals a bit more of its bottle aged maturity.

Wine #2 showed signs of old seepage under the capsule but the fill was where the neck met the shoulder.  You could get a sense of this on the nose which leaned towards meat rather than fruit but in the mouth the flavor and delivery of the fruit flavor is gorgeous!  What luxury it is to drink glass after glass of 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is a sophisticated wine of ideal balance with youthful, complex fruit flavors that seek out every part of your mouth with wave after wave of flavor.  Also excellent is wine #4.  After some bottle stink blew off, this is highly aromatic of eucalyptus.  In the mouth an impressive amount of energy unfurls dark fruit, ripe structure, and wood box.  The 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley is perhaps more mature in flavor than the Ridge but the Phelps needs more time to open up.  It is fascinating pair to drink together.  No one spat these two wines!

Just a few final thoughts with regards to wines #3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, avoid, and #5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia.  Wakefield River Estates was founded in 1972 by Dr. Douglas Hewitson who planted just over 2,100 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the wheatbelt area of Balaklava.  The wines were made by the highly regarded James Irvine who still produces wine today.  James Irvine got his start at a young age having developed the Siegersdorf brand in 1959 as winemaker at Hardy’s.  As the Wakefield winery had no buildings the wine was made at Saltram, an historic Barossa Valley winery founded in 1859.  Wakefield River Estates was short-lived and curious enough, the label on the bottle tells the history including the demise indicating this bottle was imported in the mid 1980s.  It was in 1982 that all of the fruit was eaten by starlings and in 1983, due to severe drought conditions, there was a sparse crop.  The fruit was sold off and the winery ceased.  As for the vintage Decanter states the wines are of “richness and longevity” with the wines around Adelaide being “robust”.  So perhaps it was a bit unfair to include this wine with the Ridge and Phelps but the potential is there.

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2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray
Imported by Robert Chadderdon.  Alcohol 12%. It is the color of a light apple cider.  On the nose are finely textured, lifted aromas of dried apricots and apple cider.  With air the nose reveals honey aromas.  In the mouth this is a mildly weight wine with a vein of acidity and hint of yeast towards the finish.  It wraps up with a fresh and grippy finish.  Additional complexity is gained from a hint of oxidation. ***(*) Now – 2027.

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#1 – 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is less dark than #2 but of similar color.  The nose offers hints of maturity with the slightest hint of herbaceousness.  A lively start brings a little tang and firmness of flavor.  There is still structure in the end which contributes to the lasting sensation.  With air the wine begins to open up maturity becoming more evident.  It also develops a mineral note and a dusty, wood box flavor. ***(*) Now – 2022.

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#2 – 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.3%.  This garnet wine is still fairly opaque in the middle.  The nose is a bit meaty.  In the mouth this wine packs in the flavor with a plum hint at first, mineral middle, then a younger, fresh eucalyptus finish.  There is sophistication to the purple and black fruits There is still a very fine tannic structure and acidity throughout. Impeccably balanced and impressive. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia
Imported by FWE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is followed by candied and pruned flavors in the mouth.  The acidity stands separate from the core of simple fruit flavors.  Tastes like a cheap domestic port.  Poor.

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#4 – 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.3%.  Some bottle stink at first but that blows off to reveal a highly aromatic, eucalyptus nose.  In the mouth is dark flavor, more structure, and a touch of ruggedness in the finish.  But over the course of several hours this wine unfurls itself.  It adds both wood box and blood.  The energy is impressive as framed, ripe, inky fruit coats the mouth. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia
Imported by San Francisco Traders LTD.  This wine is a blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak puncheons.  Alcohol 12%.  A mature garnet color.  There is a ripe fruit start but the wine quickly turns soft only to end at the short finish.  Simply too old at this point.  Fair.

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