Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

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Sarah Kirschbaum
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Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#1 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

A week or so ago, I had the unique opportunity to taste two fascinating examples of old Vouvray side by side: the 1959 Prince Poniatowski Clos Baudoin and the 1959 Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux. Not often do you get to drink even one bottle of 60+ year old wine on a Monday afternoon, let alone two! We’d been waiting for the perfect time to do this comparison, when particular friends for whom these wines would be meaningful were gathered in the same place. The stars aligned finally, and Mother Nature provided us a gorgeous afternoon on which to slowly savor and enjoy these wonderful, weird, compelling bottles under near perfect conditions.

A little background: more than 20 years ago, my husband took a trip through the Loire Valley with his then wife and his brother, and visited Prince Phillipe Poniatowski. After a marathon tasting and tour, “The Prince” pulled out a bottle from a dusty bin with only 3 bottles left in it and handed the bottle to Jonathan. Though there was no vintage tag affixed, the bin said all he needed to know: 1959. Given that this visit was so long ago, and there were only 3 bottles in the bin at that time, it is quite possible that this bottle was the last one left in the world.

Both wines were stood upright several days in advance, and decanted at cellar temp about an hour and a half before serving. Phillipe had cautioned Jonathan to give the Clos Baudoin a serious decant at a cool temperature, and he was without a doubt exactly right, even 20 years down the line. Both wines changed drastically from the moment of being opened. The Huet poured almost colorless at first, barely yellow-tinged, but within the hour darkened to an orange/amber hue much more in line with expectations. The “Pony,” as Jonathan kept calling it, also changed color, going from amber to an almost electric orange – the color of Tang, in my words, though our younger guests had no idea what that is.

On the nose, once a little funk had cleared out, classic aromas of lanolin, quince and apricot unfurled from both glasses. The Clos Boudoin came off just a bit older and richer, though it carried more the funky edge than the Huet, which was a little mute at first, and never quite reached the same aromatic heights.

On the palate, both had achieved a state of seeming imperviousness, frozen in time, with great equilibrium and balance. Both had somewhat faded fruit, a bit dried, but not dried out, and that clear lanolin, quince, apricot signature I associate with aged chenin blanc. I often use a particular metaphor to describe what I perceive in the texture of some old burgundies – I call it the feeling of being wrapped in a slightly dusty, sun-warmed velvet drape. In the Clos Baudoin, I found something similar, but a little less than perfectly pleasant. To take the metaphor a little too far, perhaps, it was as if I had wrapped myself up in that drape, and then licked it. The Huet was more texturally pure, and aromatically took on hints of third-pass jasmine tea – not in your face, just hovering at the edge of your senses.

Both wines held up over more than an hour of sipping and swirling. In the end, the honors went to the Clos Baudoin. You would expect the extra gear and depth to go to the Huet, which is really the “better” wine, but in this case it wasn’t born out. It was still pretty monolithic – “no Z axis”. The Clos Baudoin was eating air, getting better and better and growing.

Given what we know about the two producers, and the history of these two bottles, I think it’s fair to say that the Clos Baudoin was a superb, nearly perfect example of what it was. The Huet, while almost certainly the better wine, was a less than perfect example. What a fascinating comparison, after more than 60 years.

For a snack as we sipped, Jonathan served some homemade chicharrones (fat trim from mangalista pork, rendered way down until crispy), which paired fantastically well.

Last edited by Sarah Kirschbaum on October 14th, 2021, 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#2 Post by Victor Hong »

The Prince dumped his library for nothing, before selling to Chidaine. I fortunately grabbed several cases of 1990 bottlings, for about $12 per bottle. All drunken by now.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#3 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

I’m not a Chenin fan, but the sweet styles with age can be transportive. Then there is just the age factor. Thoughts like “Kennedy wasn’t president yet” spring to mind. It’s more than just wine at that point. Time capsules.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#4 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

D@vid Bu3ker wrote: October 14th, 2021, 3:59 pm I’m not a Chenin fan, but the sweet styles with age can be transportive. Then there is just the age factor. Thoughts like “Kennedy wasn’t president yet” spring to mind. It’s more than just wine at that point. Time capsules.
Thanks, David, and totally agree, except that I do like chenin in general. Neither of these wines would rank in my top of all times, but they were fascinating and compelling and the personal connection made it very special.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#5 Post by B. Davies »

Love Chenin, great post.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#6 Post by Dave McIsaac »

Really enjoyed your notes - well done!

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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#7 Post by Jayson Cohen »

Great post!

I wonder whether Huet would have been better on the second or third day the way you described its evolution. No guarantee and there certainly is bottle variation. As a point of reference, on Sunday we had the ‘59 Le Haut Lieu Demi-Sec—after a couple hour decant. And it still drank much better two days later as I was able to take a 2.5-3 oz sample home with me that I drank Tuesday.

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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#8 Post by Jeremy Holmes »

Nice.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#9 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

Jayson Cohen wrote: October 14th, 2021, 4:42 pm Great post!

I wonder whether Huet would have been better on the second or third day the way you described its evolution. No guarantee and there certainly is bottle variation. As a point of reference, on Sunday we had the ‘59 Le Haut Lieu Demi-Sec—after a couple hour decant. And it still drank much better two days later as I was able to take a 2.5-3 oz sample home with me that I drank Tuesday.
Maybe, who can say for sure? But it's not the way I like to drink wine. A bottle is opened to be consumed, for better or worse, and the magic is in the moment, even if it might not be the most perfect of all moments. Day 2 or 3 wine doesn't exist for us, unless something unusual happens, and I have no interest, generally, in exploring it, any more than you are interested in house wine.
Last edited by Sarah Kirschbaum on October 19th, 2021, 7:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#10 Post by alan weinberg »

Z axis. Love that. Going to use it.

Super super note. 59 is wife’s birth year. Don’t think I have those . . .

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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#11 Post by Mike Evans »

Jayson Cohen wrote: October 14th, 2021, 4:42 pm Great post!

I wonder whether Huet would have been better on the second or third day the way you described its evolution. No guarantee and there certainly is bottle variation. As a point of reference, on Sunday we had the ‘59 Le Haut Lieu Demi-Sec—after a couple hour decant. And it still drank much better two days later as I was able to take a 2.5-3 oz sample home with me that I drank Tuesday.
A few months ago, the remnants of a magnum of 1959 Clos du Bourg Demi-Sec were lovely a couple of days later as well.

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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#12 Post by Arv R »

Mangalista fat is worth saving, like bacon fat, for use later on too! Great notes
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#13 Post by RyanC »

Phenomenal post.

Incidentally I just bought a bottle of this ‘59 Huet. Just the notion of opening something with decades and decades of history is thrilling. The fact that it might be really good is better still.
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Re: Two 1959 Vouvrays on a Monday Afternoon

#14 Post by Michael Malinoski »

Fun and informative read, thank you very much. A friend of mine has made a point the past few years of buying wines from '59 and sharing them with a few of us, I'll have to add some Chenins to our list of targets based on your evocative write-up.
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