It was an ‘arrghhh’ moment. I rarely get to Bern’s, but we had dinner scheduled for four. One guy had the flu, one got called out of town. The other guy was driving. So much for getting a bunch of interesting things off of the list.
We did a whole lot better than ‘make-do’. My friend started with a glass of Collet Champagne, which he thought was just fine. I had a glass of Delamotte ‘Le Mesnil’, a bottling I had not had before. This was a beauty, with a level of refinement I had never experienced before from this improving producer.
Due to the consumer shortage, there was a firework, not fireworks. Wine Director Eric Renaud did himself proud. I ordered a 1979 Jaboulet-Vercherre Beaune Clos de l’Ecu. I am hazy on the history and details, but I believe the firm went bankrupt in the 90s after a long period of poor management. Shortly before that I had visited and enjoyed an older vintage of this, possibly even the ’79, and I have had half a dozen vintages of this outstanding Monopole vineyard. Eric came back, reporting that he had sold out, but offered a 1985 J-V Chambolle. I demurred, as the Clos de l’Ecu had special meaning to me.
I asked Eric about some of the older Burgs on the list; they had some ’61s and ‘64s in 375ml at reasonable prices. He told me that these were very hit and miss. By now he understood what I was looking for and I asked for a suggestion. He stood over my shoulder, ran a finger down the list and stopped at a wine I never would have picked. A 1970 Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey. He told me with excitement that he had sold one the night before and it had been gorgeous, and that there were two left in the cellar.
OK, IMO Corton is about as long-lived as any wine from Burgundy, but
a) I don’t think of Louis Latour for long ageability, and
b) 1970 was a good but relatively light-weight year, and
c) It’s 48 freaking years old!
But Eric is charged up and I say ‘bring it on’.
Pale ruby color, but with no orange or browning. Black cherry, red plum and sous-bois aromas are layered over just a touch of something autumnal. The palate is tender, tannins fully resolved but with enough acidity left to provide balance and lift. The flavors are both savory and very intricate, with some white spice notes under the fresh, tender fruit, the cherries to the fore and a note of black raspberry at the end. I was struck by how strongly the palate skewed towards black fruit despite the age and pale color. This was a sensational bottle, as Eric had predicted. Rated 96.5. Obviously ready to drink. Insanely priced at $120.60.
I live in Maine because I like the climate and Florida is far from my favorite state, but I have family and business here… and Bern’s.