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Favorites from Vacqueyras

While I enjoy the rugged nature of Gigondas, it is to Vacqueyras that I look for fruity delight.  For this post we tasted through several current offerings from the power packed duo of vintages: 2015 and 2016.  Priced between $22 and $30 these wines offer excellent quality and personality.  In general, I prefer the 2016 vintage, the wines have denser fruit and excellent acidity, which makes them more exciting to drink.  They also have the stuffing for age.  The 2015 have deep flavor but are less fruity with a dry and structured nature.  I suspect that they will last a long time but the peak drinking window will be shorter.

The 2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras is a modern styled, best buy.  It needs a few hours of air before the satisfying, deep note of flavor comes out.  You really must buy both the 2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras for drinking now and laying down.  Both of these are savory wines with the Bouissiere offering up kirsch and the Sang des Cailloux mixed berries.  The Bouissiere is a bit more exciting to drink right now but the Sang des Cailloux will unfurl with age.  The 2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras and 2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras are good too.  They are certainly more structured and I hope in an awkward state.  The Sang des Cailloux has an incredible, deep earthy flavor that I have come to love from this domaine.  Yet the wine holds back, preventing ultimate pleasure.

These wines can age well too.  This year alone I have probably drunk five bottles of 2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras.  It is perfectly mature, balanced, yet in no decline.  It is a fine example of what aged Vacqueyras brings.  All of these wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine les Amouriers, Signature, Vacqueyras – $22 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by DS Trading Co. Inc. This wine is a blend of 56% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, and 3% Cinsault. Alcohol 15%.  Clean and modern with somewhat robust fruit flavors.  With air an attractive, low-lying deep bass note of flavor is revealed.  Blue fruited at first, it is largely offers black fruit through the finish.  No earth notes to speak of but some herbs instead.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $27 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 51% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 16% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark and grapey in color.  Fresh, lifted grapey aromas.  In the mouth this is a savory, weighty wine with a dense vein of grapey fruit.  With air it offers pure kirsch flavor and complicated perfume.  With mid-weight fruit, very fine and slightly spicy structure, this wine will develop over the short term then last for some time further.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine la Bouissiere, Vacqueyras – $30
Imported by Dionysos. This wine is a blend of 42% Grenache, 50% Syrah, and 8% Mourvedre which is fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks.  It is then aged in a mixture of cement tank, barrels, and demi-muids.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Dark aromas of damp soil.  Drier in flavor, matched by herbs, with tense acidity.  The flavors are focused through the long, spicy finish where tangy pithe from the fine structure comes out.  *** Now – 2030.

2016 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras – $30 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Savory and saline flavors of mixed berries.  The flavors are rounded, somewhat dense and creamy in the middle with a bit of juicy acidity in the end.  Cherries mix with a little wood note before fine structure coats the gums.  ***(*) Now – 2035.

2015 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras – $32 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  Familial nose of berries with a touch of earth.  Dry flavors follow with cherry carried by watering acidity into a finish of strawberry candy and kirsch.  It is of good, deep flavor yet restrained in the palate preventing that next level of enjoyment.  Tangy in the finish it sports a fine structure that might outlast the fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2000 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras –
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre & Cinsault which is fermented in cement tank then aged in foudre.  Alcohol 13.8%. Balanced, mouth filling flavors of blue fruit, minerals, and garrigue which are matched by supportive acidity.  Some earthy depth too.  It is fully mature with resolved structure but nowhere near decline.  **** Now but will last.

An Honest Pair from Domaine de Fontsainte

September 29, 2019 Leave a comment

This pair of recent offerings from Domaine de Fontsainte exhibit distinct personalities at low prices. That is no easy feat.  The 2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres  is mostly Carignan sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is a wine to drink now and though generous in flavor, it has supportive acidity, and a good dose of provencal herbs.  The 2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres is crisp with an interesting blend of brown sugar and mineral, black fruit.  I like the flavor and the acidity profile.  It should be even better this winter.  If you can only purchase on bottle then I would just grab the one which sounds more like your style.  I bought these two bottles at MacArthur Beverages.

2016 Domaine de Fontsainte, Reserva la Demoiselle, Corbieres – $17 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Mourvedre.  The Carignan vines were planted in 1904 and the fruit alone undergoes carbonic maceration. The wine is then aged in a mixture of cement tank and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Effusive and approachable from the very first glass.  It is blue fruited at first then turns towards tart raspberry and blackberry in flavor.  It is a tangy wine with some supportive structure but is largely a wine that is ready to drink.  It is dense in the middle with lemon/citric acidity, and solid finish. It evokes the south with its provencal herbs.  *** Now – 2020.

2018 Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 60% Carignan, 30% Grenache Noir, and 10% Syrah aged in French oak barrels.  Again, the Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 14%.  There is a core of brown-sugared, ripe, black fruit which leans towards a mineral, blacker fruited finish.  There is good freshness from the watering acidity.  It takes on hints of cream and stone.  Though a crisp wine it should improve over the short-term.  **(*) Now – 2023.

Must-Try Gigondas from Domaine Palon

September 23, 2019 Leave a comment

Domaine Palon is a small estate with vineyards in Gigondas and Vacqueyras.  The family has produced wine since the 1930s but only began to bottle under their own label in 2003.  The two bottles featured in this post are my first experience with their Gigondas.  I will admit to being surprised when I took my first sip of the 2015 Domaine Palon, Gigondas.  Gigondas can be a bit of a beast when young, yet the 2015 vintage is drinking very well with the cool, rugged nature of the appellation.  It is deep in flavor and already complex with earth and stones.  The 2015 Vacqueyras is very good too so perhaps this should not be surprising.  The 2018 Domaine Palon, Gigondas is a different wine.  It revels in clean, fresh fruit with texture on the palate and crunchy acidity.  It requires several hours to open up.  The elevage appears to have changed so I suspect this will be a different sort of wine in three years as compared to the 2015.  Grab the one which is more appealing to your palate! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Domaine Palon, Gigondas – $27
Imported by Misa Imports.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Aromas of spiced cherries and Kirsch.  In the mouth it immediately strikes a deep note with earthy blue minerals and very good maturing flavors from the start.  It is slightly spicy from the fine structure but it develops, showing Kirsch, spices, and cool fruit in the stone finish.  Dense yet beginning to mature, this is a wine to drink over the next decade.  **** Now – 2029.

2018 Domaine Palon, Gigondas – $25 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by Misa Imports.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre of which 1/3 was aged for 6 months in foudre.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The grapey, concentrated fruit benefits from a few hours of air.  The wine reveals ripe textured tannins, creamy blue fruit, weighty flavor and deep black fruit.  There is a pebbly finish with crunchy acidity.  The wine is all in balance with a cool, fresh tilt.  Flavors of red and blue fruit oscillate with minerals into the finish.  ***(*) 2021-2031.

The Mouth-Filling 2018 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone

September 19, 2019 Leave a comment

Saint Cosme is the negociant label distinct from Château de Saint Cosme.  Do not hesitate to try the 2018 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone  for the quality of the fruit purchased from Vinsobres and Villafranchian is excellent.  The wine is somewhat unique as it is pure Syrah fermented with indigenous yeasts then raised in cement vats.  This is a wine to drink young in its grapey state but it absolutely requires several hours of air to show best.  An outstanding value for $13 at MacArthur Beverages.

2018 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone – $13 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by by Winebow.  This wine is 100% Syrah fermented and aged in cement vat.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Young, rounded berry fruit on the nose.  This is a grapey, rather young berry-fruited wine highlighted by juicy acidity.  With several hours of air, your impression will change as it reveals some serious concentration.  The fruit fills the mouth with a spicy, savory hint before the graphite and fat infused finish.  *** Now – 2021.

Another Lovely 2017 Pasquiers, CdRV Plan de Dieu

September 19, 2019 Leave a comment

MacArthur Beverages continues to import large quantities of wine from Domaine des Pasquiers.  That is good for me as I continue to drink bottle after bottle of 2017 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu.  The poor soils of Plan de Dieu make for concentrated wines strong in personality.  This particular wine is desirous because it can be drunk in its youthful, tannic age or cellared a few more years for additional complexity.

2017 Domaine des Pasquiers, Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu – $15 at MacArthur Beverages
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This is a blend of mostly Grenache with Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvedre.  Alcohol 14%.  Grapey aromas of Kirsch and strawberry.  This is a young, smooth, grapey wine with a black fruited middle.  A good saline touch and very mineral streak add personality.  With air it picks up a little fat and some baking spices.  Cool in nature, there is supportive structure which slowly builds in the mouth.  A strong value which is distinct in flavor.  Drink now or over the next several years.  *** Now – 2024.

Four Good Values From Bordeaux

September 18, 2019 Leave a comment

This quartet of red Bordeaux was recommended by Phil at MacArthur Beverages.  Priced between $13 and $20 these bottles represent good value for current consumption and a short-slumber in the cellar.  For near-term drinking grab the 2014 Chateau Dubourg, Saint Emilion and the 2016 Chateau Francs Magnus, Bordeaux Superieur.  These Merlot dominated blends each have their owner personality, dried herbs with the Dubourg and intense stones with the Francs Magnus.  For drinking over the next decade, after a few more years in the cellar, grab the 2016 Chateau Senejac, Haut-Medoc and the 2014 Chateau du Taillan, Haut-Medoc.  These show a bit more backbone from the Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Senejac is cool, balanced, and spiced whereas du Taillan takes on some earthiness.

2014 Chateau Dubourg, Saint Emilion – $17
Imported by MacArthur Beverages.  This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Round and creamy with a blue fruited start then a vein of minerals with black fruit.  The low-lying, supple tannin provide subtle support.  The wine wraps-up with a very black, stone laden finish.  Intense in character with a bit of bitterness. **(*) Now – 2014.

2016 Chateau Francs Magnus, Bordeaux Superieur – $13
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 14%.  This reflects a good, youthful state.  The mixture of red and blue fruit is a little tart with flavors of dried herbs, and dry wood box carried by juicy acidity.  This vein of acidity carries into the tart, and citric finish.  With air notes of rosemary come out as does a coating of fat.  Strong value.  *** Now – 2013.

2016 Chateau Senejac, Haut-Medoc – $20
Imported by MacArthur Beverages.  This wine is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A spiced nose of black berries.  Young with focused flavors of black fruit and exotic spice.  There is a mineral touch with some perfume in the finish.  The spiced tannins take a grip on the gums.  The overall cool tilt to the flavors makes for a fresh wine with supportive acidity and good length.  Will develop and last.  *** Now – 2029.

2014 Chateau du Taillan, Haut-Medoc – $19
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Round and black fruited this has a focused core of fruit.  It takes on some earth before the mineral finish.  This is a mouth filling wine with more structure for development.  It leaves a drying sensation on the gums along with a licorice hint. It should develop for another year or two.  *** Now – 2026.

A Solid Northern Rhone Value: 2018 Faury, Syrah

September 17, 2019 Leave a comment

The 2018 Lionel Faury, Syrah, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes balances both freshness and ripe fruit in the unmistakably Northern Rhone fashion.  It is a wine which is cool and elegant at first then you notice the expected floral notes followed by the desired, surprising suggestion of fat.  It could stand half a year in the cellar.  You may find this fine value at MacArthur Beverages.

2018 Lionel Faury, Syrah, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes – $22
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 12%.  Slightly spiced flavors of black fruit gain subtle complexity from floral notes.  The wine is supported by just the right amount of ripe tannin and integrated acidity.  A fresh wine yet the ripeness contributes a layer of fat. It comes across as an early drinker but there is hesitation in the expression.  I suggest trying again in the depths of winter.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

A Blind Tasting of 2005 Bordeaux with a Rioja

September 16, 2019 Leave a comment

At the very end of the summer, I was a guest of Andy for the monthly wine tasting.  We first gathered around his kitchen to eat from huge wedges of cheese and drink from a bottle of 2017 Matanzas Creek Winery, Chardonnay, Alexander Valley.  It is quite good all around, there is a balanced quartet of yellow fruit, body, acidity, and wood influence. It is a wine I recommend drinking again.

The tasting itself consisted of eight wines served blind. They had been opened some four hours prior. We knew one bottle was corked which logically left us with 6 bottles on theme and 1 ringer. There was a Bordeaux flavor profile to most bottles but the lightness and herbaceous quality of the first two had my sights first set to Chile. Then came the third wine with its ripe fruit, weight, and minerality and I was no longer certain of the theme. It was clear, though, that the last wine was the ringer.

This assortment of 2005 Bordeaux from Pauillac, Saint-Estephe, and Saint-Julien varied in quality. I found the 2005 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien as my clear favorite and very satisfying to drink. It is coming into a fine mid-life which should last for a bit of time. I do not mind the herbaceous note I found in my next two favorites: the 2005 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien a good value which is very mineral and the 2005 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien. The latter is rounded, yet closely played and in need of several more years in the cellar.  The 2005 Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe under performed and did not exhibit to the potential of the label.  Sadly, the 2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac was completely undrinkable.  Finally, the 2005 CVNE, Imperial Rioja Reserva stood out for its young, red fruit.  I found it hard to judge coming after the other wines.

1 – 2005 Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, Saint Julien
Imported by Appellation Imports. Alcohol 13.5%. A dark cherry with garnet color. Aromatic with notes of cedar mixing in blue and red fruit. A good nose somewhat herbaceous. Bordeaux like in the mouth with round black fruit, a dry finish, and some fine structure in the end. Expertly made and closely played, it shows more ripe fruit and structure with air. Best given a few more years in the cellar.  ***(*) 2022-2032.

2 – 2005 Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal, Pauillac
Imported by Benchmark wines. Alcohol 13%. Very dark. More herbaceous on the nose with blue fruit. A touch more structure yet also more suppleness. Less intensity with watering acidity and more tannins on the gums. A short finish. It could use more time for the structure to resolve but this bottle might now have the fruit for it. *** Now – 2029.

3 – 2005 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateaux + Estates. Alcohol 13%. A more complex wine with ripe flavors, weight, and minerals. The primarily blue and black fruit has a green hint but it weighty with good length. A fresh structure throughout it is redder in the middle. My favorite. **** Now – 2034.

4 – 2005 Chateau D’Armailhac, Pauillac
Imported by North Lake Wines. Alcohol 13%. Some brett on the nose. Interesting, tart red fruit with a fine tannic finish that is quite grippy on the gums. Animale flavors in the finish.  *** Now – 2029.

5 – 2005 Cos D’Estournel, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Chateaux + Estates. Alcohol 13.5%. Less aromatic. More licorice-like in the flavor, a touch racy with large amounts of flavor. Dark in the finish. It just does not deliver the balanced goods.  A drinkable bottle but under-performing based on the reveal.  **(*) Now – 2029.

6 – 2005 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
Imported by Liquidlink. Alcohol 13%. Low-lying on the nose. The wine shows substance but also some herbaceous qualities. Blue and black flavored with a mineral vein. In fact, the mineral vein persisted throughout the tasting. ***(*) Now – 2029.

7 – 2005 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
Imported by Heritage Wine Cellars. Alcohol 13%. Corked!  Not Rated.

8 – 2005 CVNE, Imperial Rioja Reserva
Alcohol 13.5%. Sweet cranberry and strawberry fruits, unevolved with watering acidity. Sweet oak. Develops intensity with air.  Younger tasting than the other wines despite the completely integrated structure.  *** Now – 2024.

A brief history of the 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots

A Brief History

According to the Christie’s auction house, the wines of Dr. Albert Barolet have their origins in a business created by his father Mr. Arthur Barolet.[1]  Mr. Arthur Barolet would purchase wine in barrel for delivery to his cellar in Beaune.  Here the wine would undergo elevage, bottling, and maturation at which point it was privately sold to various customers.

Map of Pommard from Camille Rodier “Le Vin de Bourgogne” c.1920.

There appears to be but few records regarding the Barolet firm which might be the result of it dealing with mostly private clients.  The firm of Arthur Barolet et Fils was founded in 1830.  This date is found on a blank menu titled “Gargantua aux Hospices de Beaune” from 1906 as well as on company letterhead from the 1940s.[2] In the early 20th century, there are a few listings of the firm mostly with regards to the annual sales of wine at the Hospices de Beaune.

Service announcement for the death of Arthur Barolet, 18 November 1931. [3]

Arthur Barolet passed away in 1931 at the Hospices de Beaune. [3]  The business was taken over by Dr. Albert Barolet who placed a few advertisements for the sale of barrels over the next few years.  The public side of the company appears to leave few traces after this point.

Advertisement by Dr. Albert Barolet during 1934. [4]

Upon Dr. Albert Barolet’s death in 1969, the wines were left to his two sisters who in turn sold the wine off to the Swiss firm Henri de Villamont.  That fall, Harry Waugh, wine director at Harvey’s of Bristol, visited the Barolet mansion.  Here he found tens of thousands of binned bottles with vintages dating back to 1911.  The youngest vintages, such as 1959, were still in wood.

The Villamont firm agreed to a major auction with Christie’s in order to determine the market pricing.  The bottles were unlabeled so new labels had to be created.  The Dr. Barolet wines continued to be sold after the first Christie’s auction in 1969.  According to Michael Broadbent’s notes, there was at least a second tranche released which had been recorked by de Villamont.

Local Sales of Dr. Barolet Wines

Dr. Barolet Wines offered at MacArthur Liquors’ Grand Opening, May 7, 1972. [5]

The wines were also available in the Washington, DC area beginning in 1972.  The pricing at MacArthur Liquors puts them in the range of the then recently released wines of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.  In reviewing two distinct periods of advertisements by Woodley Discount Wines & Spirits, also of Washington, DC, we can see that the prices nearly doubled between 1972 and 1979.

  • 1928 Dr. Barolet, Pommard-Rugiens – $26.95 in 1972
  • 1928 Dr. Barolet, Pommard-Rugiens – $69.95 in 1979
  • 1929 Dr. Barolet, Beaune – $17.95 in 1972
  • 1935 Dr. Barolet, Vosne Romanee Malconsorts – $49.95 in 1979
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Chambolle Musigny – $39.95  in 1979
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Gevrey Chambertin – $18.95 in 1972
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Grands Echezeaux – $18.95 in 1972
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Grands Echezeaux – $39.95 in 1979

The Bottle

The bottle of 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots features a tan label which is both torn and stained.  It appears to have been damp at some point resulting in an awkward positioning.

The back of the bottle features two gold foil stickers, one from the auction house and one from the importer.  This particular bottle was purchased at the 2006 Acker Merrall & Condit auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  The 1,700 lots which were sold brought in nearly $11 million.  As the bottle came from Kurniawan’s cellar it is immediatley suspect as a fake.  The importer strip label declares the contents as “3/4 QUART” which would date the label prior to the fall of 1976 when the metric system was adopted by liquor companies in America.  It also features a spelling mistake in the statement, “IMPORTED EXCUSIVELY FOR: VINTAGE CELLARS” which appears to reference a company that did not exist in the early 1970s.  The strip label itself is found over the embossed “75 cl” at the bottom of the glass wine bottle.

The metal capsule is clearly not from the 1920s nor is the cork.  The cork has some age to it and could possibly originate from 1969 or later when Henri de Villamont offered a tranche of recorked bottles.  There are no marks on the sides of the cork but the top does bear a circle with “F.S.” inside of it.

Detecting whether the wine in the bottle was blended by Rudy Kurniawan or is the real thing is a bit of a task.  It is a long-held belief that Dr. Barolet doctored his wines.  Back in 1990, the great collector Lloyd Flatt felt the wines had either see the addition of Port or Brandy.[6]  This is echoed in the opinion of John Tilson who was told Cognac was added to the barrels.

When I saw the mark on the cork, a particular phrase came to mind which is the exact same phrase that occured to my friend.  After I showed him my various pictures of the bottle, labels, and then the cork he quipped, “Fake Sh*t.”


[1] COLLECTION DU DOCTEUR BAROLET. Christie’s Fine and Rare Wines, Sale #1206, New York, 19 March 2003.

[2] “Gargantua aux Hospices de Beaune” published by Arthur Barolet et Fils. FR212316101__menus__M_III_01906. Bibliotheque municipale de Dijon.

[3] Le Progrès de la Côte-d’Or : journal politique. Dijon. 20 November 1931. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Droit, économie, politique, JO 88353 URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32844000t

[4] Le Progrès de la Côte-d’Or : journal politique. Dijon. 12 August 1934. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Droit, économie, politique, JO 88353. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32844000t

[5] Grand Opening advertisement for Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Liquors.  May 7, 1972.  The Sunday Star.

[6] Berger, Dan. “At New Orleans Tasting, Everyone Raised a Glass to Vintage Burgundies”. May 3, 1990.  The Los Angeles Times.

[7] Tilson, John. “THE SORDID STORY OF WINE MANIPULATION & WINE FRAUD COVERING OVER 40 YEARS OF TASTING OLD WINES”. The Underground Wineletter. URL: https://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2012/01/the-sordid-story-of-wine-manipulation-wine-fraud-covering-over-40-years-of-tasting-old-wines/

Mature Burgundy: Barolet, DRC, Giroud, Roumier, and more

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A group of us recently gathered to taste mature bottles of Burgundy.  Due to everyone’s generosity, several different flights were formed.  We began with a blind flight of three different Champagne from the 1996 vintage.  This was followed by the main focus on both the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti.  A very old bottle of Burgundy was then served.  A pair of Champagne Brut Rose was served while dinner was prepared.  After a slew of dinner wines, both young and old, dessert wines were deployed.  Several of the wines were off but due to everyone’s generosity, there was plenty to drink at a generally high level of pleasure.

1996 Champagne

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We kicked off the evening with a trio of Champagne from 1996.  The guest who generously brought these bottles poured them so we could taste them blind.  Of course I had no chance of guessing correctly, I have far too little experience with Champagne.  But I suspect with that experience these wines could have been identified blind.  The Gosset is mature and vinous, a wine to drink now. The Billecart-Salmon is elegant and lively, delivering its tart and chalky flavors with verve.  The Philipponnat is intense, rich and ripe, yet balanced by green apples and lemons.  I particularly enjoyed the last two.

Blind #1 – 1996 Gosset, Grand Millésime, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12%. A touch of stink eventually blows off. In the mouth are mature flavors followed by ripe fruit in the middle. Age has given it a vinous quality. Additional air reveals this is a wine to drink now.  *** Now.

Blind #2 – 1996 Billecart-Salmon, Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Elegant on the nose with a fine mousse and lively precise nature in the mouth. The flavors cut through the palate, supported by acidity. Quite enjoyable with attractive verve. It wraps up with tart citrus and a chalky finish. **** Now – 2029.

Blind #3 – 1996 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses, Champagne Brut
Alcohol 13%.  A touch more aged yellow in the glass. The most intense nose with an intense offering in the mouth. The bubbles explode upon drinking, leaving a short-lived mousse which is replaced by a green apple note. It moves on to rich and ripe flavors with a lovely lemon finish. **** Now – 2029.

1965 and 1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

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I was fortunate to purchase a small parcel of old wines including the following quartet of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The wines were originally purchased by a couple in the Washington, DC area who bought their wines from MacArthur Beverages. For decades these bottles were stored in the basement.  I am not sure what happened during those years, perhaps a basement flood, for the labels and fills varied.

These were not the best looking bottles but given the scarcity and generally insane pricing of these wines  I had to organize a tasting around them.  For I doubt I could ever again taste the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche in one sitting.  And what a pairing of vintages, the disastrous 1965 with the very good 1966.  But I had another reason for pairing the two vintages.

Neal Martin wrote in Fermented Grape Juice: Romanée-Conti 1953-2005 how Aubert de Villaine recently served the 1965 Romanée-Conti to a large group.  Michael Broadbent rates this soggy vintage zero stars yet the very late October picking resulted in a wine that Neal Martin found “mocks its vintage reputation and defies all expectations.”  One guest with deep Burgundy experience believes he had never before tasted any Burgundy from the 1965 vintage.

The wines were single-decanted then immediately poured.  With all four glasses in front of us it was obvious our bottle of 1965 Romanée-Conti was flawed as was the 1966 La Tâche.  The 1966 Romanée-Conti was suffering a bit but the 1965 La Tâche was in fine form.  Despite being less than ideal, the 1966 Romanée-Conti  initially offered a complex nose I had trouble describing.  The 1965 La Tâche was the star of this flight for me.  A lovely wine all around and complete shock given the vintage.  Compared to some of the other wines with similar age, this has quite a bit of substance.  I held on to my glass for a long time.

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1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 01281
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Very clean on the nose, revealing incense and perfume. Elegant yet with depth. This is a mid-weight wine which still sports some supporting tannins. With air it reveals a silky nature, infused with fat, and a baking spiced finish. **** Now but will last.

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1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 00578
Imported by Frederick Wildman. The stink on the nose is hard to get around. Shame as it is round and dense in the mouth with a mineral cut. The flavors have power but the nose reveals it is a flawed bottle that eventually falls apart. Not Rated.

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1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 03090
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Shame, the worst nose and gross in the mouth. Not Rated.

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1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 01221
Imported by Frederick Wildman. An exotic nose with perfumed aromas that I have difficulty describing. In the mouth it is supple and elegant with some spice. *** Now.

A Blind, Rather Old Bottle of Burgundy

After the DRC flight we were treated to a bottle of Burgundy served blind.  Two lines of inquiry developed as to the vintage and appellation.  Though one guest eventually narrowed in on Pommard, I do not possess that sort of experience so I focused in on vintage.  It was certainly older than 1964.  Based on a handful of bottles I have tasted from the 1940s and 1930s I decided it had to be older, perhaps 1920s or even 1910s.

The bottle was revealed to be 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots.  I was excited to guess the general age but more so to finally have tasted a Dr. Barolet wine.  The excitement level rose even more when we next learned that it was acquired at the 2006 Acker auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  I will write more about this particular bottle in a subsequent post but whether it be a real or fake bottle, it was very good.  Michael Broadbent writes that the 1928 Epenots and Rugiens were among the best of original bottles at the 1969 Christie’s auction.  At our tasting, it was one of the best bottles as well.

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1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots
Purchased at “THE Cellar”, Acker-Merrall & Condit, January 2006. The lightest and most mature brick color of all wines tasted this night. Clear in the glass. A fine, scented nose with ripe hints. It develops with air showing apple orchard and hints of red fruit. In the mouth it is red fruited, tart with some vein of very old wine flavor. There is a meaty note. Precision comes from the spine of acidity. It focuses with air.  **** Now but will last.

Champagne Refreshment

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A pair of Champagnes acted as a palate refresher while the preparation of the Coq au Vin was finished.  The Paul Bara, Special Club is on the sweet side for my preferences.  I can imagine serving it outside at a BBQ.  I prefer the Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne.

2012 Paul Bara, Special Club, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports. Alcohol 12%.  A burst of sweet fruits comes with the initially firm bubbles.  A creamy mousse persists along with the sweet fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2006 Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Aromatic.  Focused flavors and firm bubbles lead to dry, baking spices.  There is a vein of sharp acidity around which rounded, berry notes form until picking up a racy hint in the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

Dinner Wines

With dinner we moved on to several old and a few young Burgundies.  Some of the oldest Burgundies I have drunk comes from Maison Camille Giroud.  Founded in the 19th century, this negociant firm still believes in long barrel aging.  They hold back stock, releasing some wines decades after the vintage.  The 1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru and 1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes reflect perfect provenance.  Both wines sport some old-wine concentration but the 1949 is more tangy and elegant from age whereas the 1966 is completely different with its attractive baked cookie notes.  It was my second experience with the 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux and I still like it very much.  It is a hedonistic wine for drinking now.  In moving forward nearly two decades, the 1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny is certainly younger but still full of character.  I particularly liked the scented nose and understated complexity.  In contrast, the 2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets  is very young and tonight, in need of more age.

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1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru
Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  Round with sweet and sweaty flavors with a beautiful, old-wine concentration.  The finish is initially a little short and there is some heat but there is plenty to engage with.  The wine does flesh out with air, taking on tangy citrus, spices, and stones in the long, lifted, ethereal finish. **** Now.

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1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes
Imported by USa Wine Imports. Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  A deep mahogany color.  The array of spices on nose reminds me of Nurnberger Lebkuchen.  A round and sweet start brings on some old-school flavors carried by a structural vein.  Sandalwood. **** Now – 2024.

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1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Exotic perfume on the nose.  The cherry fruit flavors persist with good acidity.  This is a weighty, expansive wine with fat in the finish.  Hedonistic and drinking well right now.  **** Now.

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1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny
Alcohol 12.7%.  Nice with a strawberry scented nose.  An elegant wine with some gravelly density.  It balances youth with complexity leaving the impression of a lovely, characterful wine.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets
Very youthful, pure, almost candied with flavors of red grapefruit.  In the end, I think this wine needs more time.  *** 2022-2032.

Dessert Wine

With a chocolate tart we had a small grouping of dessert wines.  In order of age, the 1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles is perhaps the most concentrated wine I have drunk.  With notes of dried figs and baking spices, this unctuous wine has enough acidity to keep it balanced.  There is so much flavor packed in that you only need the tiniest of pours.  The 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen continues to deliver unctuous flavors with tea notes but this bottle showed a touch less acidity than before.  It is always a treat to taste these old bottles of Riesling.  Finally, the 1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva offered a good surprise.  The nose was pungent, evocative of Madeira, with dried fruit and spices, along with a touch of red fruit.  I had no idea what to expect so I was pleased.

1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles
Imported by Classical Wines.  Alcohol 17%.  Bottled in 2011.  Surely, the most concentrated wine I have tasted.  Incredibly dark and viscous enough to stain the glass brown.  Lifted aromas of dried figs and baking spices.  An acidity driven start followed by a knife-edge of acidity pierces through the unctuous and sweet flavors.  Fresh, wet baking spiced flavors coat and persist in the mouth for a long time.  One of the most concentrated wines I have ever dried, you only need a tiny pour.  **** Now until whenever!

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1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars. From the Don Stott Cellar.  A youthful yet aged golden yellow color.  Baking spices on the nose.  A sweet core with weighty flavors of apricot and tea.  A bit soft, plumped up with fat and perfume.  There is less obvious acidity but the tea and tannins keep the wine fresh.  *** Now.

1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 16%.  Wow, of course I like this wine for the pungent aromatics remind me a bit of Madeira.  There are flavors of sweet, spiced, dried fruit and plenty of texture around the fuller bodied wine.  There is enough acidity to be supportive.  The wine tastes of mature flavors with old leather and old-school notes in the finish.  Towards the end this viscous wine becomes more red-fruited.  ***(*) Now – 2039.

Wines That Were DOA

The following three bottles were bad!

  • NV (1970s) Simi, Burgundy, Sonoma
  • 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
  • 1985 Comte Armand, Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux