Chateau Magdelaine 1982-2010

After a postponement, we finally put this together. It proved even better than expected, and I think many of those there, who had come just to support the charity, were dazzled by some of the wines.

Having championed them for so long, I felt a little like a proud father showing off his children. You will notice that there are no 100 point wines in this review and the range for correct wines is 93-98 points. That makes sense. These are wines from a superb terroir, beautifully made, and a throwback to the traditional wines of Saint Emilion. But they do take their place behind the two powerhouses of Saint Emilion, Ausone and Cheval Blanc. Ultimately the terroir is always going to win through; Magdelaine’s was very, very close but not quite there.

The question came up at the lunch why Magdelaine was so relatively inexpensive. John Gilman, who was leading the tasting, felt it was mostly due to how long Magdelaine took to come around. They are not easy wines off the bat; and it seems to take twenty years minimum to reach early maturity. They also are not great en primeur wines, and their initial lack of sexiness added nothing to their market appeal.

But the mature Magdelaines are marvelous, terroir driven, artisanal wines of great character and honesty, honest perhaps to a fault. As I, and others have said, the traditional wines of Saint Emilion are disappearing fast from the market, and I fear as climate change takes hold, we may be the last generation to really experience them.

Back to the tasting, which was done over a long lunch, and arranged in four flights, three bottles to each flight.

Flight 1
2010, 2009 and 2005.

The 2010 was far better than expected in this fairly hot, atypical Right Bank vintage. Alcohol was relatively high, but it was nicely integrated, and although the wine was of course way too young, it was so balanced that it was almost approachable. 95+

At first, I thought the 2009 might have problems, but it blew off some early funk. Rich, roasted fruit, a touch of violets, but not enough acidity to carry the wine, and it seemed a little ponderous. Not sure if this was a perfect bottle 90?

The 2005 was the most backward of all wines, with everything there but being held in reserve. I kept my glass for a couple of flights, and it began to blossom, but this is still a Magdelaine that needs ten to fifteen years. When it does finally mature, I suspect it will be one of the greats. My third place wine. 96+

A blind wine that turned out to be 2006. An off bottle, mature almost old. Nowhere close to a bottle I had in the last year. NS.

Flight 2
2001, 2000 and 1998

2001 is an overlooked vintage, but a good one. Although a little outclassed in this flight, it showed well, impeccably balanced, fine fruit, and a good finish. 93

2000 is a much more flashy Bordeaux year, and the wine had a little bit of that flash to it. The fruit was a little bluer, the palate quite powerful and there was a fair amount of leather and spice notes. Good finish. 94

1998 I love this wine, and it was my second best wine as well as the group’s. You may have seen young French’s note from a few days ago. My note is equally ecstatic; it is a remarkable wine from a remarkable vintage. 97

Flight 3
1996, 1995 and 1990

1996; Back to earth; the first wine in the least impressive flight. After a strange nose initially, which did blow off, it showed better over time but still seemed awkward and bitty. Rescued by a decent finish, it was still in the bottom tier. 89

1995
Iron fist in an iron glove. A bit of a brute. Took well over an hour to open, and when it did, it proved a very muscular version of Magdelaine. Some good fruit, but I question whether or not it will outlast the tannins. 92?

1990
I really liked the 1990. A fully formed young Magdelaine, quite rich, but the bright fruit and acidity, the beginning of some interesting tertiary notes made this quite memorable. I am pretty sure we will see a quite different take from Greg Kahn.
94

Flight 4 1989,1985 and 1982

1989 seemed less evolved than the 1990. Delicious, an extremely balanced easygoing wine. Pretty red fruit and essence of roses. Fine finish. 94

1985 Rare, because apparently somebody from the heavy metal group, Iron Maiden took a liking to it, buying much of the year’s production and serving it as his house wine. The man had good taste; the 1985 was the wine of the day both for me and also for the group. A really profound Magdelaine, incredible intensity, a floral and fruit perfume, leather and licorice. In a great place, unlikely to get better, but also not going anywhere soon. 98

1982 Magdelaine was an anomaly. By now I thought I got the estate pegged, beautiful fruit, florals and spice, but this one did not follow the pattern. There was a minerality to it, a more creamy texture, a little burst of flavor in mid palate. A riveting wine certainly, the group placed it third behind the 1985 and 1998. 96

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Jesus Cristo what an awesome tasting, sorry I was not able to make this, Mark. Your notes, and your passion for this Chateau, are just awesome.

I’ve had a lot of Magdelaine over the past several years, and have been on a buying frenzy to preserve this icon of St Em classicism. Your notes are so spot on. I’ve had over the last two years several bottles of the 82, 85, 90, 98 and 05, and a lot of the 2000, and these are definitely major standouts for this Chateau. I’ve tried alot of other years as well, but those are the big winners, plus 1970. The 1995 has promise but dang still needs time. I also love the 2011, the last vintage. Shows what great terroir and winemaking can do in an allegedly inferior year. I even bought a 3L of the 2011 recently, wtf!?!

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A few minor diffeences from Mark (while I thought the 2009 was bottom tier, I thought it actually had decent acids), but in same ballpark on most wines:

My friend Mark put together a spectacular tasting of the beloved but now gone Chateau Magdelaine at X20 on Yonkers waterfront Sunday. Everything was to benefit Ukraine Aid International, which provides water systems, medical supplies, and other humanitarian aid in both Eastern and Western Ukraine.

Marshall Mayer from UAI made a powerful presentation before we got down to the wines.
There were passed coconut shrimp and maki before we sat down, then I had a truffle/scallion risotto, short rib ravioli with broccoli rabe, and then we shared some 40 oz porterhouses. The steak and broccoli rabe were the highlights for me. Well, the wine was the highlight! John Gilman discussed the terroir, the history, and led the discussion about each flight.

2010 Ch. Magdelaine
Lots of tannic structure, but fresh, with balanced oak and sweet black cherry fruit.Despite the tannin I find quite drinkable. B+ (A-/A potential)

2009 Ch. Magdelaine
Ripe approaching roasted, but good underlying acidity. I actually have several magnums of this,I think may turn out well (like the ‘90) but who knows? B (?)

2005 Ch. Magdelaine
A beauty in the making. Quite tight now, but lovely balance, grip, and oh so long. B+ (A)

2001 Ch. Magdelaine
Lovely and perfumed, the most ready wine so far but with long future.Black plum with minty herbs, quite long. B+/A-

2000 Ch. Magdelaine
Soft and lush, delicious if stylistically not my favorite, though I think very popular in the room. B/B+ (?)

1998 Ch. Magdelaine
Young but complete and complex, lush dark fruits with incipient notes of coffee, smoke, and spice. My WOTL, A-/A (A)

Greg had brought a blind, which I totally whiffed on. Clearly Merlot, soft and herby, I was thinking a minor Pomerol, reminded me of 1999 Gazin. Oops, it was 2006 Ch Magdelaine. B/B-

1996 Ch. Magdelaine
Some question as to being corked, but I didn’t get any TCA. I did find it maybe the least charming Magdelaine of the lunch, somewhat hard and thin though there were some attractive notes of tobacco and cigarbox. B- (?)

1995 Ch. Magdelaine
Structured, a bit burly, yet still with that Magedelaine charm.B+/B (B+)

1990 Ch. Magdelaine
Ripe black plum and cherry, gamebird, smoke, rich and ripe without being roasted, I really liked! A-/B+

1989 Ch. Magdelaine
I think in group discussions this suffered from being in company of ‘82 and ‘85, but really an outstanding wine in its own right. Similar flavor profile to the ‘90 but in a more chiseled profile, lovely grip and structure, no hurry. A-/B+ (A-/A)

1985 Ch. Magdelaine
Elegant, refined, ready,though I am sure it will cruise for decades. I believe this won in group voting. Lovely. A-

1982 Ch. Magdelaine
An old favorite, lovely as(almost) always. Rich and expressive, excellent length. Black cherry, espresso, sandalwood. A-

Really an amazing lineup, what an elegant and distinctive estate.

Besides the wines served, there were some great wines auctioned off (‘98 Magdelaine in magnum, a La La, a Massandra “port”, and a LMHB. The goal of the benefit was to pay for a water filtration plant in Ukraine that could serve 30,000 people a day, almost doubled the goal. https://ukraineaidinternational.org/
Bravo to Mark for his generosity and work, Ebru for an excellent job as sommelier,all who contributed and bid to make this a rousing success.

Grade disclaimer: I’m a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C drinkable. Anything below C means I wouldn’t drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.

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What a tremendous occasion, line-up and set of notes! I’m sure you’ve convinced anyone not yet in the know about the quality of Magdelaine.

Bravo!

I was considering opening both a 1995 Magdelaine and a 1996 Montrose for my birthday. Does this make any sense?

Having had both, I would suggest a four hour decant.

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Thank you Mark and Dale for writing up your notes. I’m hopelessly behind on a lot of mine, including for dinners I’ve set up. And thank you mark for setting up the dinner - lovely to see you and Dale (and co).

I’m generally in alignment on your notes, though I thought the 82 was the best wine for its exuberant nose, even if it wasn’t quite representative of Magdelaine. The 98 was also wonderful.

You are right that I was much less kind to the 1990 which I didn’t enjoy at all. Like the 2009 I thought it was unpleasant with dried out tannins - too much heat and acidity and no fruit. I was also disappointed by my 2006 blind; there are no great wines, as the maxim goes, but this was no great bottle - be from a lovely vintage. As it is supposedly ex-Chateau, not a great sign for the rest of the bottles.

Great event, one of my favorite wines.

I own a fairly sizable stash of Magdelaine from 95-09, but none of these seem fully ready, at least compared to their older brethren from 90-older.

If one wants to wait until the peak drinking window arrives, how much longer do the 98 and 00 need?

Hi Mark, thanks for posting this. I have a few of these vintages and appreciate the insight on how they are progressing.

Your review of the 2010 is more positive than Tom Reddick’s note from a few years ago. I am curious if there was a general consensus around the table about the upside potential of the 2010 ?

Both you Dale seemed to really like it. I have a six pack and plan on waiting another 10+ years on it

cheers Brodie

Ya that one picqued my curiosity as well. I skipped all 2010 right banks except VCC and Trotanoy. May have to see this out.

Dale was, I think, at the Tom Reddick tasting, so perhaps can compare.

I have had the wine a couple of times; one en primeur where it showed little, and then when I did a Magdelaine tasting in 2014, and wrote it up for World of Fine Wines. Looking through the back issue, I gave it one of my highest scores, 19 out of 20. They score in the old fashioned British way.

The 2010s on the Right Bank of Bordeaux are hellaciously alcoholic. Troplong Mondot scales in at 16.2%, and even Canon, at the time made by traditionalist, John Kolassa, was well over 15%. So I approached this with some suspicion, and was delighted by how well it showed, and the fact that the alcohol was not obtrusive.

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I thought it might be of interest that this Magdelaine tasting held in October 2022 was a benefit for Ukraine Aid International, and we were able to raise some money, enough to help purchase this water truck for Ukraine. Thanks to continuous Russian bombing, the need for clean water has been desperate, and the truck has been a lifeline for a year.

We are planning another Magdelaine tasting in the late Spring. Please let me know if you have any interest. The charity itself is extraordinary, small and very hands on, run by my friend Marshall Mayer. A total labor of love and the money all goes straight to Ukraine.

And here is the photo of the truck.

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