Bel Air Marquis d'Aligre 1995 and 1996

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.


Awesome notes. Funny, I’ve not experienced variability with BAMA. And funny enough, I’m at 'Bama this weekend. Not the Bama you are talking about, but a pretty cool 'Bama Dixieland Delight, nonetheless. Sadly this is beer Mecca, not wine.

You should adopt this as your signature:

a wine which one should prescribe as the antidote to the vulgarity of our times.

Love it. I already have mine!

PS. I just ordered more '95 . . . .

Cheers Robert - I think you’ve been lucky so far. For instance, although I loved the 01, I can see now that the bottle was slightly flawed, because the freshness was not the same as the 95, 96 and 00. I went through a whole series of bottles of 85, 86, 89 and 90 which were duff, hence the fact I dropped it until this year, but having experienced this level of greatness, it’s impossible not to want some more, as you know. So yes, the risk is worth it.

Let’s face it, there are many other great wines in Margaux, but only one true Margaux: this one.

P.S. I couldn’t help thinking about this in the midst of a line-up of 120 wines. If William Kelley or Neal Martin was the taster, it would fare well, but anyone else simply wouldn’t notice it.
You’re right about the signature!

1995 is certainly one of the more variable vintages of Bel Air Marquis, but I’m glad you got a good bottle! I have one left and might open it tonight in honor of your post.

Might be seeing Neal for dinner next week, in which case I will open an '82.

The 1970 is being offered at my local caviste for 120 EUR, I think I have to do some haggling.

Fingers crossed for your 95, William! I’d be fascinated to read about the 82. Good luck with the haggling, because sadly I think that’s the right price for the 70 - my source is selling it at 130€.
Bel Air Marquis’ pricing is odd anyway: 30€ for the 95, 96, 98 and 99 - which is cheap. But 32€ for the 11 and 12, which is not cheap at all!!

In case you’re interested, this is a link to Laurent Gibet’s thread, which reports in French on two verticals from 2010 and 2013 :

A 96 earlier this year was unduly advanced, it had the profile as if it had already been open for 3 days. The inconsistency is a common feature, and therefore I’m not a buyer.

I ordered more 95s and 96s as a result of this thread. I love BAMA, and not just because my son goes to ‘Bama and they are destined to win yet another National Championship.

These can be mercurial wines with the evanescent “catch me if you can” moment as they weave in and out of approachability. They also need long decants. Reminder to self: They need long decants.

I popped a ‘96 last night. One I had already owned. It was well rested, happy to see me. But it was not really ready to show me love. Seemed very advanced for a ‘96, already into the tertiary flavors and aromas. Somewhat thin, flat. I followed it for a couple hours, along with another wine, and then put the remaining half in the fridge. Today the wine has had a fruit metamorphosis. The tertiary flavors are still there, but now rounded out by more elegant, deeper (with restraint) fruit. Love how this wine can run the color spectrum on fruit. It also added some weight with all that air.

Great call, Julian! These are intellectual, artisanal wines for the predisposed.

Great note, Robert, you’ve caught the essence of the wine perfectly - and thanks - because if I got back into BAMA, it was after reading one of your posts at the start of the year. I wouldn’t want all wine to be like this, because of the annoying unpredictability, but when it’s good, it’s absolutely stupendous, so in spite of the risk, it’s irresistible. Also, there’s the feeling that this is one of those brief moments in time, which if you miss, you’ll never be able to retrieve, because the owner will not go on forever. Nobody else makes wine like this anymore.

Like rich earth floating in a glass of crushed, liquified red fruits. So fresh, so soil to glass transfer. So much soul.

This 1996 I just popped is fantastic. My best showing yet from this vintage. I may be killing the bottle, this Monday.

I mean really, how often do you pick up wild red raspberry in a Bordeaux?

(94 pts.)

Great stuff, Robert, glad you had another good one. It’s true that BAMA gives something no other Bordeaux I have tasted can give. Cheers!

Drank a bottle of the 1955 a couple of weeks ago, which is now the best Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre I’ve had. Reminiscent of a more precise, focussed and concentrated version of the 1982 - not two vintages I generally find myself comparing, but the fruit tones of the '55 were almost identical to those of the '82, in character as well as youthfulness. Appreciably superior, too, to the 1955 Margaux, at least the bottles I have had.

Where on earth did you find that?! Lucky you! The only 1955 I have ever had from Margaux was a d’Issan, back in 1982, which was to blame for getting me onto the slippery slope of wine-loving.

David Rayer, who writes / edits Mosel Fine Wines (a publication well worth reading), brought it to dinner chez moi in Beaune! He is a big fan of the estate.

1955 is one of my favorite Bordeaux vintages, and was pivotal for getting me into wine too, though the culprit was '55 La Mission in my case.

The quintessential Wine Berserkers thread (for me at least): I miss it the first time…it gets bumped/updated and I read. I’m fascinated about a Bordeaux I’ve never tried, or even heard of (great notes btw)…I go onto WineSearcherPro and realize it is nearly impossible to find (with a couple exceptions at retailers I’ve never used and who probably won’t ship to IL)…or I could move to Europe.

Magdelaine was the same way, though I did pick up some ‘82’s and a ‘75 on Winebid.

Thanks guys. [head-bang.gif] [berserker.gif]

Now if I can just track down that ‘55…

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If you handn’t missed it, you could have found it! I reloaded. :wink:

It’ll show up eventually I’m sure. I can’t believe I’d never even heard of the stuff (at least that I can remember). Is there any other Bordeaux that is at least somewhat comparable in style? I think the part that intrigued me most is the idea of it being the most pure expression of Margaux terroir if I read that opinion correctly.

William, you have some classy friends! I struggle to imagine knowing someone who would casually pop by for dinner with a 1955 Bel Air Marquis!!

Mark, I don’t know where you live, but I remember someone saying that Chambers Street sold the wines, so I looked and sure enough…

I forgot - Mark, you asked if there were other wines comparable in style. Well, I heard from a reliable source about another wine, produced in a similar style by someone just like J-P Boyer. It’s called Domaine de Jaugaret, in St.Julien. It’s tiny - 2.5 acres, so probably produces 250 cases or so per year. I was only allowed to buy 2 bottles of the 2015. Sometimes it’s sold as a St.Julien, sometimes as a Vin de France.

This is an old NYT article about the domain:

It’s certainly available in the US

I’m not sure who is enabling whom, here, but I just ordered more BAMA. One cannot have enough BAMA.


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