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Posts Tagged ‘Charmes-Chambertin’

A Smorgasbord of Wines!

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2003 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin, Charmes-Chambertin
Wow. This is just a great bottle of aged Burg. Tannins have all but disappeared leaving a rich palate of sweet and ripe dark fruits without any of the heat of the vintage. Secondary nuances include some earth, mushroom decay and some umami that makes this wine something special.  From a producer better known for his whites, this is a lovely Grand Cru. DB.

NV Jean Velut, Champagne Blanc de Blancs
I liked it more as a wine than a Champagne. Very small, almost imperceptible bead – just a fine delicate fizz.  Golden yellow. Citrus. Bright.  Nice mineral cut.  A lot of acid to balance out the richness. DB.

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2000 Lamborghini (La Fiorita), Campoleone Umbria IGT
A great mature Italian.  Very distinctive in that the blend (half Sangiovese/half Merlot) really packs a punch in terms of richness and depth.  Beautiful floral nose.  Some ripe red fruit  and blueberry when first sipped, turning toward older leather and spice on the mid-palate.  A big wine with a long finish.   Still youthful but developed. DB.

Incredible bottles of old Burgundy

September 5, 2015 Leave a comment

When Lou and I decided to tuck into some old red Burgundy we stood up multiple bottles fully expecting a few to be undrinkable.  We started with a single bottle of white as we snacked on cheese and charcuterie.  The 1988 Louis Jadot, Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles Grand Cru was interesting enough with its apple-orchard oxidized profile but it ultimately left me wanting to try the red wines.

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Each of us had selected a few, somewhat random bottles which we had stood up for a few days. We pulled the bottles from Lou’s cellar into the tasting room.  I first removed the cork on the most ullaged bottle from the pair of 1961 Domaine Amiot, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru.   A quick taste revealed this bottle was in great shape, fruity on the nose and in the mouth, with plenty of life.  I honestly expected it to be dead.  Lou poured us the 1979 Robert Sarrau, Chambolle-Musigny.  Incredibly, this did not just seem young compared to the 1961, it was young compared to its 36 years of age!  Next up came a strong example of the 1983 Bernard Amiot, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes.  I was floored.  How could these three bottles of wine all taste so good?  Lou was pretty excited too.  With no need to open up any backup bottles we sat down to further enjoy our wine.

The 1961 Amiot reminded me of the 1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe.  Still possessing fruit, this old Burgundy continues to live, not by tannins and acidity but through a compact vein of power.  This is then, a great example of traditional Burgundian winemaking from the post World War II era.  The years immediately after the end of the war saw the return to transportation within France followed by increased international exports.  Ronald Avery of the 18th century wine merchants Avery’s of Bristol noted in 1961 that stocks of Burgundy were not very plentiful except for “old-fashioned wine merchants”.[1]  In fact he felt that “sales of wine labelled Burgundy must amount to at least three or four times the legal output so great is the demand.”

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Demand in America for quality Burgundy was increasing as well.  Coupled with the reduced yields of the 1961 vintage and the view that this was the best vintage since 1929, The New York Times stated “The 1961 Burgundy vintage will be the most expensive ever.”[2]

The traditional way of making Burgundy, dubbed methode ancienne, involved keeping stems on the fruit and a long fermentation period.[3]  This meant it could take four years before the wine was bottled and around eight years before it could be drunk.  To meet the continually increasing demand for wine a new style of winemaking quickly took hold in Burgundy.  This methode nouvelle involved nearly complete de-stemming of the fruit followed by leaving the must on the skins for a much shorter period.  This resulted in softer, lighter bodied wines with less tannins that became drinkable in a shorter period of time.  The side-effect was that the wines did not last as long.

Cyril Ray wrote that wines produced by the methode ancienne had “greater body and staying power.”  While this certainly helps explain our lovely bottle of 1961 Domaine Amiot, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru what of the bottle of 1979 Robert Sarrau, Chambolle-Musigny?  The demand for Burgundy in America continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s.  This caused so much back pressure in Burgundy that prices rose 300 percent during the 1970s.  Frank J. Prial wrote in The New York Times during 1974 that many Americans had finally become “appalled by short life of some of the finest Burgundies”.[4]  While the 1959s were excellent and still improving, newer vintages beginning with 1961 had “peaked and declined”.  Joseph Drouhin remarked to the Circle of Wine Writers, that he thought “many of us will be going back to the old way.”

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I cannot determine whether the negociant Robert Sarrau returned to the methode ancienne or never abandoned it.  What is clear is that the 1960s saw the introduction of temperature controlled fermentation, enamel and glass lined tanks, and stainless steel vats.  According to H. W. Yoxall there was a developing view that common wines were appropriate for methode nouvelle or quick fermentation and storage in the latest vats.  Quality Burgundy should be raised in wood.

The wines were not just excellent, they were exciting.  They were not just old, they were lively with fruit.  When I returned home with my share of the leftovers, Jenn and I decided to see the 1961 Domaine Amiot, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru and 1979 Robert Sarrau, Chambolle-Musigny to the end.  After all, one could not risk the wine deteriorating over night!  The 1961 Amiot continued at its glacial pace of development, somewhat impervious to air.  It is true that the finish was a bit short but I did not mind, the wine transported me back in time.  The 1979 Robert Sarrau continued to develop, taking on a creamy almost buttery quality.  Jenn was thrilled and I could see how this wine should be double-decanted.  It was more complete than the 1961 and on emotion alone, I would score it even higher.

There was another wine in our trio of reds, the 1983 Bernard Amiot, Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1er Cru.  It was a completely different wine beyond the apparent youth.  Both on the nose and in the mouth were earthy, old-school animale flavors that existed in a lighter, more delicate wine but there was ripeness and the impression of plentiful flavor.  It is also a wine that should absolutely be cellared for further development.

I went to bed that night with bittersweet thoughts.  This was (and still remains) the best experience this year of drinking older wines with Lou.  Old bottles of Bordeaux and Rhone from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s are still available at a reasonable price.  These old Burgundies are more difficult to find with prices beyond what I can afford.  After we exhaust this small tranche of Old Burgundy, I fear it might be many years before I can drink such vintages again.

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1988 Louis Jadot, Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles Grand Cru
Imported by Kobrand.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There was a light amber-apricot color that matched the decently aromatic nose of apple orchards and some perfume.  In the mouth, the fresh, salivating acidity existed with some structure that came out by the finish.  The flavors became puckering with a touch of weight in the finish.  Ultimately, the physical aspects of the wine were more appealing than the flavor itself.  ** Now but will last.

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1961 Domaine Amiot, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Shipped by F. Hasenklever.  Imported by Great Lakes Wine Company.  Alcohol 12%.  This was the darkest wine of the lot with rather mature fruit on the nose.  In the mouth, there was a burst of blue fruit then black and red fruit flavors.  There was a short finish in terms of intensity but the flavors persisted throughout the long aftertaste.  With air a mature, ripe hint of fruit developed with tart acidity throughout.  The finish eventually took on spices and wood box flavors.  **** Now but will clearly last.

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1979 Robert Sarrau, Chambolle-Musigny
Imported by Sarrau Wines USA Inc.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose revealed fruit accented by toasted and roasted nuts.  In the mouth were youthful flavors of purple and red fruit that were subtle compared to the sure and rich finish.  With extended air, the wine took on some salty flavors as well as a smooth, not quite buttery, finish.  **** Now-2020.

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1983 Bernard Amiot, Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1er Cru
Shipped by Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchants.  Imported by Select Vineyards.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose revealed ample leather aromas and other animale notes.  There earthy flavor was pervasive through the finish where some juicy, cherry and strawberry fruit mixed with acidity.  Overall the wine was lighter in nature with an old-school perfume, and drying structure.  It took on attractive, delicate ripe fruit flavors followed by a tart and strong middle, ultimately leaving the impression of ample flavor.  ***(*) Now-2025.

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[1] Avery, Ronald. Burgundy years. The Guardian (1959-2003); Nov 21, 1961; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer. pg. 15

[2] ’61 BURGUNDY TOPS IN COST AND TASTE: May Be Best of the Century, Experts Say — and Pay
By ROBERT ALDEN Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 22, 1961; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. 21

[3] Adopted by the British press by the late 1960s.  See Bottles for stockings. Ray, Cyril. The Observer (1901- 2003); Dec 10, 1967; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Guardian and The Observer. pg. 29 and H. W. Yozall’s book The Wines of Burgundy (1978).

[4] Burgundy Maker Predicts A Return to ‘the Old Ways’: WINE TALK The … By FRANK J. PRIAL. New York Times (1923-Current file); Sep 14, 1974; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times. pg. 14

The Majesty of Malvasia Dinner: Tasting vintages from 1926 through 2002

June 29, 2015 1 comment

It took quite some time for the 20 bottles of Madeira to be equally poured into some 400 wine glasses.  With each pour the room became incrementally more aromatic until everyone was collectively talking about the beautiful aromas.  The doors to our private room were even shut at one point so as to infuse all of us.  During this waiting period I was able to meet the other attendees.  While there were mostly new introductions, there were a few people I had read about passionate Madeira lovers whose names are synonymous with old Madeira.

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The day’s festivities did not end with the Malvasia tasting.  Dinner was to be held after the tasting in the private room next to ours.  We were all asked to bring a bottle or two.  What had not already been shipped was being collected then staged in the dining room.  Several others took a peek at the other wines and returned excited.  Curious as to what could be exciting compared to 20 bottles of very old Madeira, I entered the dining room.  There on two spot lit tables stood bottles and magnums encompassing old vintages of European wine.

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It was a cache of vinous treasure.  I was rather stunned to see magnums of Burgundy such as 1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes.  The brace of 1950s Staatsweingut bottles brought pleasure but the bottles of 1929 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, 1928 Frederico Paternina, Gran Reserva Rioja, and 1926 Chateau Latour Haut Brion stopped me cold.  How incredible that there was a trio of red wine from the 1920s!  And I should also mention a 1933 Moulin Touchais Anjou Blanc.

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After spending approximately six hours tasting and discussing Madeira, I was both tired and hungry.  As we all moved to the dining room the mostly magnums of Champagne were broached to be accompanied by platter after platter of appetizers. There were such bottles as 1985 Lanson Brut, 1990 Pol Roger Brut, 1996 Philipponnat “Clos des Goisses” Brut, 1999 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blancs de Blanc, 2002 Les Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, and a vintage of Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs that escaped me.  It was not a time to take notes but rather to recharge, fortify, and chat with others that I did not sit next to during the tasting.

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Suitably recovered I sat down to dinner between Ricardo Freitas of Barbeito Madeira and Mannie Berk.  We were at one gigantic table which fortunately still allowed us to speak with those across the table.  After the sommeliers had performed any requested service, each bottle they were placed on the table in front of each owner for the first taste.  This was handled in the order of Champagne, white wine, red wine, and dessert wine.  The number of bottles opened must have been staggering for the next several hours a new wine came by every three to five minutes.  Indeed, at the end of the dinner there were nearly four dozen bottles and magnums arrayed out for the staff to finish.

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This quantity of top-notch wine might seem obscene but it worked for me.  Through everyone’s generosity I knew this would be another unique tasting so I did my best to capture it.  True, I had trouble keeping up with all of the wine, even with just writing the coarsest of notes, while eating dinner and talking away.  I managed to accumulate some five wine glasses which I used to triage what I was going to concentrate on.  For example, I tasted but did not note 1996 Louis Jadot Griots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1990 Domaine Paul Pernot Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1989 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles, 1973 Berberana Rioja Reserva, and 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  No doubt there were other wines I could not even get to.

I must first state that the most revelatory bottle, though not the “best” per se, was the 1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau.  It never even occurred to me that old German Spatburgunder or Pinot Noir could drink so well.  This bottle was still perfumed on the nose and though the residual sugar and short finish were indicating age, it was a pure pleasure to drink.  There must be a few others onto this wine for the 1935 vintage fetched over $2500 at the spring auction held at Kloster Eberbach.  As for young wines, the 1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru was stunningly complex with a killer nose and all the components for long aging.  I can see what all the fuss is about.  At the more mature side of Burgundy, the 1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche showed great from magnum.  Even Berry Bros & Rudd notes on their website that this wine “was superb, still remarkably youthful” when drunk in 2009.  If I had to pick one Italian wine it was, again in magnum, the 1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà.  The nose alone left one satisfied!  There were many other lovely bottles of wine so I encourage you to step through my brief notes.  Thanks again to Mannie and Roy for organizing the dinner as well as to everyone else who pulled from their cellars and excitedly shared their precious bottles.

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1953 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Rauenthaler Wulfen Riesling Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
There was a great nose followed by flavors that were not too sweet but of ripe fruit.  The wine still had some richness with a spicy, soft finish.  In great shape.

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2002 Domaine Patrick Javillier, Meursault Les Tillets Cuvée Spéciale
This had apple-like flavors with a more austere finish.

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1996 Domaine Roulot, Meursault Les Luchets
This tasted young with great acidity that was lively on the tongue.  The flavors had controlled ripeness with both chalk and smoke notes and a citrus pithe finish.  Nice.

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1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
The nose was very aromatic with red fruit.  In the mouth were racy, black fruit flavors, the whole wine was à point.

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1982 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo Bussia Soprana
This was young with dry, firm and linear flavors.  I noted it needs a few more decades of age.

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1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà
There was a beautiful nose followed by lovely, dry fruit, and a tart, linear finish.  With air the fruit became more prominent and the nose, stunning.

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1995 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco
There was a rather perfumed nose followed by concentrated flavors of bramble and dry, young fruit.  The wine turned black with drying, grippy tannins that left a very youthful impression.

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1958 Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva
After decanting this revealed a good Riscal nose.  There were mushroom flavors in this wine that was still very much alive.  It had dusty, black fruit, dry flavors, and still had structures.  If faulted it was a touch hollow.

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1964 Bodegas Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Reserva
The nose was slightly medicinal but seemed to clean up.  Compared to the Riscal this bottle had riper, polished fruit that was still supported by structure.  There was more power in the finish with a better sense of completeness.

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1928 Frederico Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
There was tart, red structured fruit that was brighter and youthful in a sense.  But with air it started to fade.

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1979 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
This was classic with bell pepper notes, black fruit, grippy tannins, and a fresh personality.

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1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche
The nose bore mature aromas that mixed with campfire notes.  In the mouth the wine was straight up beautiful with youthful grip to the fruit and noticeable structure.

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1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes
The beautiful nose set up the wine with its structure that supported ethereal flavors, turkey stuffing notes…simply put, a lovely wine to drink.

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1979 Dupont-Tisserandot, Charmes-Chambertin
The nose was of roast earth and mushroom.  In the mouth earthy red fruit, acidity, grip, structure, that made for a lovely, overall experience.

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1995 Joseph Roty, Cuvee de “tres vieilles vignes”, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
There were beautiful flavors of deep orange and red fruit that was clearly the youngest tasted thus far.  It took on some lovely cranberry red fruit and showed a lot of potential.

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1979 Mugneret-Gouachon, Echezaux
The nose was stink with tart fruit and eventually cleaned up a bit.  The flavors followed in the mouth but not so much.  Still had some body.

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1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
This wine was surprisingly lively with old perfume, some sweetness, and fruit.  The finish was a bit sharp and short with noticeable residual sugar.  Still, an old wine that was a treat to drink.

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1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru
Wow, there was a killer, young nose of lipstick and perfume.  In the mouth there was incredible complexity despite this young wine having tart, cranberry, red, and black fruit that was structured.  This left an impression.

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1966 Graham, Vintage Port (bottled by Justerini & Brooks)
Beautiful.  This bottle left me wanting for more.