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Vacqueyras white and red

Lou, David Aaron, Jenn, and I gathered in our kitchen for a blind tasting.  As it was my turn to host I opened six bottles from Vacqueyras believing all would enjoy them.  I find this region produces riper and less tannic wine than Gigondas yet is still capable of a touch of age.  It is moderate age that I hoped to explore.

We kicked things off with Lou’s bottle of 2006 Pierre Andre, Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Blanchots.  The attractive interplay between fruit, yeast, and stones coupled with near-maturity meant it drank well and was finished off before I could revisit the bottle.  The second wine tasted, being the first bottle of Vacqueyras, is also a white wine.  The 2013 Sang de Cailloux, Un Sang Blanc, Vacqueyras Blanc is a tropical, complex wine with a luxurious mouth feel.  Phil still stocks this wine at MacArthur Beverages so if you have yet to try Vacqueyras blanc then you owe it to try a bottle with your friends.  Also available is the first red wine we tasted 2012 Domaine le Clos des Cazaux, Cuvee des Templiers, Vacqueyras.  This is a mature, affordable Vacqueyras which transitioned us from white to red.

The 2006, 2005, and 2003 trio of Domaine de la Charbonniere remained true to the vintage.  The 2006 is a balanced almost elegant wine.  The 2005 is more aromatic and offers additional complexity from garrigue and wood box elements.  The 2003 is the most powerful, borders on rugged and leans towards plum flavors.  All of these wines drank well over two nights but the 2006 and 2005 are my favorite.  Right now they offer a good mix of maturity and fruit.

Finally, the 2000 Domaine de la Garrigue, Vacqueyras is completely mature.  The fruit is fading, instead replaced by deep ethereal flavors of garrigue and earth.  It is still satisfying but is starting to dry up.

2006 Pierre Andre, Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Blanchots
Imported by William Harrison Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  It is a fresh, light yellow straw color.  The nose mixes fruit and yeast while the mouth brings round, white fruit with a good level of weight and stones.  Tasty.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

2013 Sang de Cailloux, Un Sang Blanc, Vacqueyras Blanc – $50
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 20% Clairette, 20% Grenache Blanc, 15% Bourboulenc, 15% Roussanne, 15% Marsanne, and 15% Viognier sourced from young vines.  It was fermented and raised in oak.  There are complex, sweet tropical aromas.  In the mouth is a round flavorful version of the nose. This racy wine is still young with nearly crisp acidity and a seductive rich mouth feel that borders on melted fat.  The white, exotics fruits move through the richness leaving the impression of a brighter finish.  **** Now – 2022.

2012 Domaine le Clos des Cazaux, Cuvee des Templiers, Vacqueyras – $18
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache sourced from vines at least 30-50 years of age. The fruit was completely destemmed then aged in both stainless steel tanks followed by enamel coated concrete tanks. Alcohol 14%.  The subtle nose is mature with dark aromas.  In the mouth are dark berries that mix with a mineral and black middle.  This morphs in to a black graphite finish.  The tannins are largely resolved and coupled with a certain sense of relaxation, I suspect this is drinking at its peak.  *** Now.

2006 Domaine de la Charbonniere, Vacqueyras
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre  with Cinsault.  Alcohol 14.5%. There is a good dose of garrigue thrown in the mix.  The wine is juicy in a way but the fine structure dries and tightens by the finish leaving the impression of backbone.  With air more fruit becomes apparent balancing the structure against the bright, red and black dense core.  The balance becomes notable as does a certain elegance.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

2005 Domaine de la Charbonniere, Vacqueyras
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre  with Cinsault.  Alcohol 15%.  The dark nose made complex by floral incense is more intense than the 2006 vintage.  At first dark fruit mixes with wood box notes carried by lively acidity into the dry finish.  With extended air there is absolutely no decline to the black fruit, garrigue, and slight spiciness.  The black cherry fruit is dance and balanced.  ***(*) Now – 2022.

2003 Domaine de la Charbonniere, Vacqueyras
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah that was aged for 6-8 months in big oak tanks.  Alcohol 15%.  There are rounded, drying flavors due to structure from the start with mature flavors in the middle, and a slightly green/fresh finish that leaves tannins on the gums.  With air the structure, tang, and grip at the end is noticeably more rugged than the 2005 vintage.  This vintage is about plum flavors and power rather than balance.  A bit of black fruit and polished wood are left in the aftertaste.   ***  Now – 2020.

2000 Domaine de la Garrigue, Vacqueyras
Imported by European Cellars.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This most mature in color and on the nose.  In the mouth intensity of the fruit is replaced by deep ethereal flavors of garrigue and earth.  There is still a dry and powdered structure supporting the firm, red cherry notes.  *** Now but will last.

Plenty of fruit in the 2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul

The 2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape is made primarily from Grenache sourced from vines dating back to 1926.  These old vines make quite a strong wine.  In begins with enticing aromas of smoky incense.  In the mouth there is plenty of flavor and strength without the wine coming across as huge for the weight and acidity is balanced.  However, I am a touch distracted by the level of ripeness of the fruit combined with the dried fruit flavor.  Overall a good wine but not one I would purchase again.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Pierre Usseglio, Cuvee de mon Aieul, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah sourced from 80+ year old vines.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose mixes rather ripe fruit aromas with smoky incense.  In the mouth is a clear start of blue and red fruit then garrigue in the middle as the strength of the wine builds.  It is a little juicy now with appropriate weight and acidity.  The flavors are still primary, blending grapey notes with seriously ripe fruit flavors with a dried fruit undertone.  *** Now – 2027.

Fully mature 1982 Bodegas Beronia, Rioja Reserva

Bodegas Beronia was founded in 1973.  My particular bottle of  1982 Bodegas Beronia, Rioja Reserva was vintaged the same year González Byass bought the winery.  The estate is famous for their barrels made from American oak staves and French oak heads.  The fruit for this wine was sourced entirely from Rioja Alta, a higher altitude region that produces brighter and lighter wines.  The nose on this wine reflects its  age with mature notes that remains aromatic for hours.  In the mouth you get a sense or origin for this is a fully mature, bright wine with texture from the remaining structure.  I recommend drinking it now but it should hold its current state for years to come. Given the release price for the current vintage, this vintage only costs an extra $1 per year of age.  It is available at The Rare Wine Co.

1982 Bodegas Beronia, Rioja Reserva – $50
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  It is a clear, light garnet color.  There are good aromas of modestly sweet fruit, vanilla, and a sweaty note.  In the mouth this is fully mature with a very fine texture from the structure.  It is a gentle wine with moderate body, watering acidity, and a generally bright and slightly tart profile.  It remains aromatic.    *** Now but will last.

For drinking now, the 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage

February 19, 2017 Leave a comment

The 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage is at a state where it drinks perfectly.  There are mature wine flavors, spices, and wood box delivered with a seductive round mouth feel.  The structure is fully resolved with enough acidity to leave a fresh impression.  In short, there is no reason to hold onto this Late Bottled Vintage any longer.  You may pull the cork and start drinking to satisfaction but if you give it a bit of air, it will improve a notch.

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1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage Port
Imported by Robert Hass Selections.  Alcohol 20%.  There is an ample volume of round, berry fruit with quite a lot of body present from the very beginning.  It is in a fully integrated state with vintage wine flavor, christmas spices, wood box, and some ripe brown sugar flavor.  Perhaps there is a softness to the round quality but the wine is still very fresh.  With air the sweet cream and Christmas spice is carried with a glycerin mouthfeel.  The rounded structure is fully resolved.  **** Now but will last.

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1977 Quarles Harris, Vintage Port

November 7, 2016 Leave a comment

The leaves are falling and so are the temperatures.  This is perfect weather for a glass of Port at the end of an evening.  With an eye to drink beyond our typical 10 year old tawny favorites I started the season off with a bottle of 1977 Quarles Harris, Vintage Port.  Quarles Harris is a very old Port house dating back to 1680.  Under this name the wines have been available in America since at least the 1840s.  Nearly 100 years ago it was bought by the Symingtons and now represents inexpensive vintage Port.

I have not drunk a bottle of Quarles  Harris since my Bristol days but I had no fear about trying one from the stellar 1977 vintage.  This bottle peaked on the second night proving that at the right price this berry flavored, textured Port is a pleasing alternative to a young tawny.

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1977 Quarles Harris, Vintage Port
Imported by French Regional Wine Shippers of London.  Tobacco on the nose.  In the mouth is a round start with candied fruit before the drier middle.  It responds well to air.  The berry start develops integrated grainy textured fruit with a sweetness that clings to the mouth.  It is spiced in the finish along with some wood notes before the simpler aftertaste.  *** Now will certainly last but not improve.

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Mature wines from California and Bordeaux

September 22, 2016 2 comments

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Lou and I gathered last night to taste through five different bottles of mature Bordeaux and California wine.  Three of the wines turned out to be of interest.  The 1974 Louis Martini, California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon falls into that category of mature, yet very stable, classic California profile.  It still has fruit, body, and some supporting structure.  It will not knock you over but it is a good drink from a great vintage.  The 1980 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley moves into the modern spectrum.  This is also from a strong vintage which is reflected in the dark color and youthful robustness.  If the Martini is mature, old-style Cali then the Beaulieu is clean, robust, and modern.  Well-stored bottles will drink well for many years.  The final bottle we opened turned out, as I hoped, to be the best.  The first indicator of the potential for our bottle of 1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol was the long, legibly branded, clean cork.  After tasting the wine I soon became fixated on the texture and the flavor.  This round and weighty wine is infused with fat yet balanced by lively acidity.  The mouthfeel is gorgeous.  If you move beyond texture there is ripe fruit to be relished too.  Lou likened this wine to old Burgundy which Robert Parker echoed years ago with a specific Chambolle-Musigny descriptor.  It is a beautiful wine of which I made sure none of my share was left over by the time I went to bed.

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1974 Louis Martini, California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 12.2%.  Very top-shoulder, bottom neck fill.  There is a sweet cedar/old wood nose that still retains that vintage Cali signature.  The slightly round, red fruit has some body and modest grip.  The middle is almost minty fresh followed by a slightly short finish.  This gentle wine mixed old-style flavor with vintage perfume and modest aftertaste.  The nose fades a bit with air but remains surprisingly stable in the mouth.  *** Now but will last.

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1980 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%. Bottom-neck fill.  This has a relatively deep garnet color.  In the mouth are clean fruit, spices, and weighty citrus.  The fruit becomes sweeter in the finish.  This is a youthful, robust wine with good acidity, and ripe structure.  A good, clean wine.  *** Now – 2021.

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1970 Chateau La Gay, Pomerol
Mid-shoulder fill.  This is a simpler wine with tangy red fruit, livey acidity, and citric tannins on the gum.  The finish is dry and mineral, leaving tannins on the gums.  Definitely mature but still sports an ethereal sweet red and citric fruit in the aftertaste.  Unfortunately, this is marred by a musky, dirty note.  The cork smells musky too.  Robert Parker writes that until 1982, the ancient barrels used to store the wine shared space with chickens and ducks.  Hmmm.  * Now.

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1978 Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateau & Estates Wine Company. Top-shoulder fill. It turns out the cork was floating in the wine.  Lou took one sip, spit it out then dumped the bottle.  Not Rated.

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1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol
Shipped by Beylot & Co.  Imported by Majestic Wine and Spirits Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Very top shoulder fill.  This is a round and weighty wine with subtle, dense hints of glycerin.  The sweet and coating flavors quickly show good mineral structure.  What is glycerin turns to be seductive fat which does not slow the wine down for there is lively acidity.  It is quite lifted in the end.  **** Now.

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A Rare Chateau de Beaucastel Vertical from 1964 to 2001

August 3, 2016 2 comments

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When the end of Prohibition in America was in sight, the “potent” and “celebrated” wines of Chateauneuf du Pape were mentioned as amongst the “Legendary Potions” that the Europeans were waiting to ship to our shores.  Once the purchase of wines was legal The New York Times published a thorough description of international wines that Americans should drink.  It was, in short, a refresher to the world of wine.  From the Rhone were recommended Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, and Chateauneuf du Pape.

Chateauneuf du Pape soon became an American favorite.  It was always listed for sale typically along with Pouilly Fuisse, at reasonable prices from the 1940s into the 1970s.  These were frequently negociant wines but the occasional estate bottled selection like Mont-Redon was available at a premium price.  In the 1950s a new style of early-drinking Chateauneuf du Pape was developed largely relying on carbonic maceration.  This dip in quality was soon met with a rise in price.

The American wine boom of the early 1970s led to the massive price escalation of the 1971 and 1972 Bordeaux vintages.  These price increases far exceeded the effects of the revaluation of international currencies from the fixed Bretton Woods system to a free-floating system.  This caused most European wines to increase in price some 10% to 20%.  In 1973, however, the favored Chateauneuf du Pape doubled in price in a matter of months.

The popularity of Chateauneuf du Pape plummeted due to price and by 1981 The New York Times called it “France’s Forgotten Red”.  Over the next year wines from such traditional estates as Chateau de Beaucastel and Chateau Mont-Redon were once again available  at reasonable prices.  These offerings began with the recently released and outstanding 1978 vintage.  A few older vintages were available too.

Lost amongst the turmoil of price escalation and carbonic maceration is discussion of the vintage of 1964.  This vintage is considered excellent but yields were significantly reduced by a summertime hailstorm.   Throughout this post-war period, Chateau de Beaucastel is consistently described as a traditional Chateauneuf du Pape estate fashioning wines meant to age.  Curiously enough, it is the first vintage in which Jacques Perrin employed his vinification a chaud technique where he heated the grapes.

John Livingstone-Learmonth considered the 1964 Beaucastel “a supreme wine”.   It was recently served as the oldest wine at a tasting of thirteen vintages of Beaucastel.

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The Beaucastel tasting was organized by Darryl Priest and stocked with wines from a total of ten attendees.  Darryl felt that lamb would be an ideal accompaniment to old Beaucastel.  It was from a single lamb that six out of seven courses were created for us by Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley at Ripple in Washington, DC.  Here is the menu:

*
lamb tenderloin tartare, sicilian pistachio, za’atar cracker
**
glazed lamb rib, corn pudding, crispy squash blossom
***
lamb loin carpaccio, baby heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, smoked labneh
****
lamb neck ragu, roasted potato gnocchi, fillet beans, harissa, parmesan
*****
rack of lamb, roasted leg, charred eggplant, oven roasted tomatoes
******
slow roasted lamb shoulder, merguez sausage, braised rainbow chard
*******
lemon verbena panna cotta, raspberry coulis, apricots, sable

After starting with a very drinkable NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose we launched into the Beaucastel.  We drank the wines from oldest to youngest.  The two bottles of Hommage were decanted and the old bottles were simply popped and poured.  We largely rotated who started off pouring the wines so no one person would be stuck with the dregs.

Though a few bottles were shamefully off, such as 1978 and 1989, there were many excellent wines. My favorites list includes 1964, 1979, 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage.  For this post I will just comment on the oldest vintages as they are the least known.

The biggest surprise of the night was the 1964 Beaucastel. Due to the high prices of Chateauneuf du Pape in the 1970s, less was imported and sold in America.  This in part contributes to the difficulty of finding older vintages here.  This particular bottle came from a parcel that Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Company, purchased several years ago from a European cellar.

The bottle, label and capsule were in pristine condition and so was the cork when I extracted it.  A quick sniff revealed good fruit on the nose and a remarkable amount of fruitiness in the mouth.  Incredibly, the wine opened up with air and continued to drink well for nearly four hours.  David Bloch was reminded of a bottle of 1964 J. Mommessin, Clos de Tart that he, Lou, and I drank this summer.  They both taste of a similar period and style.  If you review older articles about Chateauneuf du Pape it was at times equated as a less expensive Burgundy.  In fact there are a handful of advertisements in England and America where Chateauneuf du Pape is listed under the heading Burgundy!    Everyone at the table commented on this wine.  Though no consensus was formed, there was discussion of the 1981, 1990, and 1995 Hommage as being favorites of the night.  I will add one observation.  The bottle of 1964 was the first one finished off including the very last dregs.

This was my second time tasting the 1976 vintage this summer.  Both from bottles Darryl sourced. This evening the 1976 was less advanced but it is still a solid wine at best.  The 1979 vintage proved very interesting.  It is an acidity driven vintage, bright and not ripe like the 1964.  I kept returning to my glass to be consistently surprised at how youthful it stayed.  Bill is spot on with his comment that it is on the same glacial pace of development as the 1964.  In contrast the 1981 vintage is a beautiful, elegant, and gently ripe wine that is drinking very well right now.  Please find my tasting notes below.

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NV Billecart-Salmon, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by T. Edward Wines.  Alcohol 12%.  There is a good, fruity start followed by the presence of a yeast bit but the fine, ripe fruit soon takes over.  This is a generous wine with balanced bubbles, and even some grip in the finish.  I would not be surprised if some wine saw oak for there is a sense of old wood.  Drinking great right now.  ***(*) Now.

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1964 Domaine de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Though light in color there are plenty of aromas and flavors.  It begins with earthy, garrigue infused aromas that open with air to reveal sweaty, red strawberry fruit.  In the mouth the flavors quickly fill with ample flavor and incredible amounts, for its age, of red fruit.  This wine is very much alive with brighter red fruit towards the finish and lively acidity throughout.  It ends with an ethereal, mineral finish. This bottle drank great over four hours.  Clearly this is a wine from a different era. ****(*) Now but will last.

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1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Darker than the 1964.  The nose sports more stink and barnyard but does reveal a floral and herbal freshness.  The flavors are controlled with an acidity driven start and short finish.  There is a fair amount of barnyard character here but it is not off putting.  Less advanced than the bottle tasted last month but it leaves a similar impression.  ** Now.

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1978 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is rugged, smells older and past-prime, eventually of blood.  The palate confirms this is not in the best shape for it is compact and short in flavor.  The acidity and aftertaste are there but this bottle is old and not a good representative.  Not Rated.

1979 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The lively color is promising and fulfilled by the sweaty aromas of leather and smoke.  This is an acidity driven wine with red fruit, structure, and surprising youth.  It is well-balanced with gentle earthiness and watering acidity.  This old-school wine will never be as generous as the 1964 but it will certainly drink well just as long.  **** Now – 2031.

1981 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The beautiful and fine nose balances earthy and olive aromas.  In the mouth the fruit, earth, and acidity are well balanced.  This wine has levity with elegant, ripe fruit and a gentle, ripe sweetness that lingers in the mouth.  **** Now – 2021.

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1983 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A very different wine with aromas of flowers and candy.  With some rough and hard flavors, plenty of acidity, and a tangy finish it is time to drink up.  ***(*) Now.

1985 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Lactic nose.  Not right.  Not Rated.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There is some VA on the nose which the palate confirms as a slightly underperforming bottle.  There is however plenty of ripe, strawberry fruit, and strength.  Not Rated.

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1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There is a great nose which conveys tension and complexity with fresh aromas of garrigue, fruit, saddle leather, and stink.  In the mouth, this wine has youthful grip, lovely balance, a firm finish, and an inky aftertaste.  There is plenty of flavor in the end.  ****(*) Now – 2035.

1998 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  There are pure flavors of clean, assertive fruit driven by acidity.  It shows the grip and tang of the vintage.  This is a strong wine with old-school flavors of Kirsch.  A good wine. **** Now – 2036.

2001 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  This is so young with clean flavors of strawberry and cherry fruit.  It is still in early development as it oscillates between flavors of fruit then garrigue and cedar.  Good acidity.  ***(*) 2021-2036.

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1994 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is subtle with mature, earthy aromas.  The softer and gentle entry brings dark, sweeter fruit and garrigue in the finish.  A fine wine that could use a longer finish, suggesting it is time to drink up.  **** Now.

1995 Chateau de Beaucastel, Hommage a Jacques Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Those nose offers animale aromas with bits of berries and Kirsch poking through.  In the mouth the concentrated, powerful flavors of ripe fruit cling to the mouth leaving extract in the aftertaste.  The flavors are also accented by animale notes.  The power is driven by acidity leaving fine, drying tannins.  **** Now – 2030.

The dessert wines were led off by the 1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes.  This is a vintage that Phil Bernstein recently tasted at Baumard, where it is still available, so he imported a small quantity.  It is lovely stuff!  It is complex from decades of age but it is also very lively.  There is even a curious red berry fruit flavor.  The combination of residual sugar and acidity will see this wine through for decades to come. The 1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes is drinking great right now.  I love Sauternes and this bottle did not disappoint.  The 1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray reminds me of an apple orchard but it was too subtle and short in the finish to warrant much excitement.

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1973 Domaine des Baumard,  Quarts de Chaumes
The nose was stinky at first with cheese and some tuna.  This is a tight and vigorous white wine with flavors of apricots, apple spice, and creme brulee.  It is a little thick with noticeable residual sugar.  It is quite complex and offers surprising red berry fruit in the middle.  There is plenty of acidity that will see this wine through many years to come.  **** Now – 2036+.

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1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The attractive amber color is followed by a robust nose.  The tangy fruit is matched by well-balanced residual sugar and acidity.  It soon becomes clear there is great sweetness here from ample residual sugar.  Drinks well right now.  ***(*) Now-2020.

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1989 Huet, Moelleux Le Mont Premiere Trie, Vouvray
The subtle nose is followed by apple and fallen orchard fruit making it the most vinous of the dessert wines.  It is perhaps, a little subtle and short to warrant future aging.  *** Now.