Monday, November 9, 2009

A Taste of Bordeaux A La Wine Woot

This past Saturday I went to an amazing Bordeaux Wine tasting at a friend’s house. He has been a part of Wine Woot for a while and the members are really into their vino. I need to step my game up whenever I go to an event despite my years of imbibing experience and certifications from WSET and ASA.

Some folks tell me that there is a world of wine beyond Bordeaux. Burghounds for example, will pontificate until they are blue in the face and Burgundy in the teeth about their celestial delights: Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and of course the untouchables La Tâche, Richbourg and Romanée-Conti.

Give me Latour, Haut-Brion, Margaux, and some of those splendid satellites in Lalande-de-Pomerol and I am happier than a fly on a plate of black truffles. But this kind of partisanship is like Republicans and Democrats or Labors and Tories trying to sit down and have an unbiased discussion about their political leanings.

I digress.

The lineup included a 1976 Haut-Bages-Liberal, a 1983 Cos D’Estournel, a1986 Talbot, a 2000 Château Olivier, a 2000 La Lagune, and a 2006 Prieuré-Lichine. So there was a nice spectrum of vintages and producers in this mini Bordeaux tasting. There were also a couple of Sauternes to accompany pralines, dark chocolate, and espresso-covered almonds.

The ’86 Talbot showed the best. Château Talbot is the second farthest inland of the St. Julien Growths so there is less sea breeze for this property than the Léovilles or Ducru-Beaucaillou. I was immediately taken by the earthy aroma, the whiff of clay, the full mouthfeel and the weight of the wine. I drank it wishing for lamb shank. Steal frites in the very least. I have always been happy quaffing this amiable Fourth Growth, but this was the first time I hailed it a champ amongst a panoply.

Haut-Bages-Liberal is due north of Pichon Longueville and Château Latour and it and bears a Paulliac character of black currants. And as Oz Clarke would note, “There’s a hint of unbridled fruit on the palate.” Though this was the oldest wine we tried for the evening it showed more life than the ’83 Cos D’Estournel. It was my first time I had the Fifth Growth, but I found it well-integrated, mature, yet exuding supple and complex secondary and tertiary flavors. There was darker fruit up front that gave way to a hint of herbal on the finish.

I had to smile to myself realizing as I did after a while that the 1976 vintage was none other than the one chosen by Steven Spurrier and the famous Paris Wine Tasting in which the Americans finally topped the French growers.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the Cos D’Estournel which is usually, hands down, one of my favorite wines. The 1983 however is from a so-so vintage one year after the legendary ’82 vintage. Having met the man behind the estate before, Bruno Prats, I have always had an infinity for the Super Second as it is often referred to. I even have an autographed bottle of the 2000 vintage. Nevertheless, Cos D’Estournel is perhaps the greatest wine from St. Estephe and for years has been billed a Super Second, meaning that although it is a Second growth it is as close as you can get to the elite 5 First growths.

The fruit was somewhat reticent and the scent was reserved, not nearly as earthy as other vintages. In all fairness, there was a bit of trouble opening the bottle and a wee bit of cork plopped in. I made a note too about the wine’s provenance. A pleasant and unexpected scent and taste of green olive found its way onto my tongue. Very feminine.

The Olivier and The La Lagune were both agreeable, but was it not for the labeled bottles and their classic 2000 vintage I would have kept going back for more Haut-Bages-Liberal, mainly because I was amused that the supposedly inferior vintage had made its impression on me.

The 2006 Prieuré-Lichine showed well, but was still a bit young. Fresh blackcurrant and cassis, and a little cola followed onto the middle palate and I swirled the fabulous Fourth Growth. I am very excited to see what other tricks the right bank specialist Stéphane Derenoncourt can bring to this left bank property.


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  2. Thanks for the feedback. I am planning on making wine commentary a more common theme in my future blog postings.