We drank these over two evenings, starting with the 95. I’ve enjoyed both vintages in the past, but recent notes on CT have been variable, to say the least, so I was not over-confident. I had bad experiences myself with BAMA in the past, so I knew about its unreliability. Well, I was lucky.
First, the 1995:
The initial aromas, of fresh raspberry and dark cherry, along with the dark colour, showed me that I had a good bottle. After a while, notes of tobacco and blackcurrant joined in, before an attack of lithe, sprite blackcurrant and cherry, with a hint of caramel, moving into creamy blackberry. But the killer was the finish - just when it seemed that the wine was edging into a subtle but persistent Margaux finish, an extraordinary rush of what to me tasted like crushed wild strawberry appeared, lasting a good 60 seconds. Literally jaw-dropping stuff.
I opened this a bit late, but I didn’t decant initially. Then I tried an experiment - I decanted half the bottle. The result was unequivocal: the wine in the decanter fared less well, with more caramel and less fruit. Leaving the wine in the glass obviously produced the same effect.
Well, we had other plans, but after drinking BAMA, it’s hard to go back to “normal” wines, so we kept some back to compare with the 96 last night:
Initially, more tannic and less fresh, so this time I did decant. The aromas were quite similar, with a little leather and honey added. The attack was more like slightly jammified wild raspberry, although the blackcurrant was just behind, with more volume than the 95 in the middle section and a totally different finish: this time, it was creamy blackberry, building slowly and subtly but lingering just as long as the 95’s.
Comparing the two side by side favoured the 95 - that crushed wild strawberry was irresistible. But the two were equally good. The elegance, the perfect balance, the persistent fruit, without artifact or excessive concentration. It seems uncouth to actually score them, but I would say 93 for the 96 and 94 for the 95.
This is Bordeaux as it used to be, Margaux as it should be. Looking in the archive, I came across a vertical posted by Laurent Gibet in French, back in 2013, in which he described BAMA as:
“Un vin que l’on devrait prescrire comme antidote à la vulgarité de notre temps.” - a wine which one should prescribe as the antidote to the vulgarity of our times.
I think that’s an excellent summary.
The only problem with Bel Air Marquis is the inconsistency. This is not an iPhone wine, produced in vast quantities with matchless precision and a glass case, this is an artisan’s wine, so some bottles are better than others. Personally, I don’t care: I’m going to buy more of them, partly because I know that it’s only a question of time before they disappear for good, partly because even if 50% are flawed, the experience we had over the last two evenings is worth the risk.