OK, here they are the full notes now from our recent 1990 Dinner, ( I had to take the afternoon off from work to get this done!!). All the wines were served blind, but we all knew what they were, except the Champagnes, which was a choice of 2 out of 4. The reds were decanted and served about an hour and a half after opening, and we kept them for a good while whilst the discussions ensued over dinner. Must say it was nice to see so many of the same year wines, and they generally showed very well on their 20th birthdays…
And for those that don’t know my scoring style, I tend to be a reasonably tough scorer, so take that how you will…
Two 1990 Champagnes as a Starter:
Very fresh, looked younger (but not better) than a bottle I had over Christmas, which seems richer and more complex. Quite fine and refined, but this bottle seemed to have perhaps a touch too much sweetness on the palate to merit a higher score on this night. Still, a very nice start. This opened out after a while and looked better and better as more time passed.
Ok, I don’t exactly love the Krug style, and I’ll be the first to admit this (heresy, I know, sorry to everyone who loves it though, and I do have a fair bit in my cellar, so I’m happy to share!!). I just always seem to find that oxidative note not to my personal preference, hence for me, it would be Salon over Krug as a style (or Chevalier vs Montrachet as I often think of it). A fresh bottle also, very young looking even, as both of these had come from a very good cellar. The slight oxidative note as I mentioned, but the problem here seemed to be more that the oak seemed to sit a bit on top of the fruit. In need of more time, no doubt, to fully integrate. Again, it got better as it opened up more through the night.
We might have been a touch harsh on these as a bracket, but I think we were all eager to get on to the main event…
1990 White Burgundy Intermission:
1990 DRC Montrachet:
Initially we didn’t know the year, but as guesses started, were told it was 1990 as well. Might have been interesting to have guessed this one blind and see where it went… Bright appearance, and of a glowing mid gold and green color. Wow, powerful, big, and rich but in no way over the top. The absolute epitome of “power without weight”. Big rich fruit, super complex and mouth filling, with a touch of spice, some honey and richer botrytis notes, this could really only be DRC Montrachet, and so it was. This was the oldest DRC Montrachet I have yet had, and looked in pretty good shape for a twenty year old white. This is where the discussion became interesting, with some feeling the wine was a few years past its best, and others feeling it still had a way to go before it peaked. I could see both sides of the argument here in this wine, so kept some to look at after about four more hours. Must say in the end it seemed a touch dried out on the finish, with a slight bitter note, so perhaps those in the former camp were right about it being slightly past its best in terms of peaking. Will no doubt hold though for many years yet, I guess it just depends the flavor profile of how you like to drink your whites, not something we get to worry about too much now days…
Now on to the main event of the evening, with some surprises and a few disappointments for all.
I have got to say that this night the whole table was in general agreement on most wines, even if we didn’t get them all right as to what they were.
The Main Event 1990 Red Burgundy Flight: (in order, left to right)
1990 Rousseau Chambertin:
This was the lightest of the wines, and the only one that showed age in both the colour and the bouquet. Some spice and iron, with some underbrush and earth, a developed soft palate now in to the mature phase of it’s life. Will live, but has probably peaked now. A few serious Rousseau devotees felt that his 1990’s were not up to the level of what they should have been and that this bottle was an accurate representation. Going by how this showed, I would have to say that I would agree with this. The groups unanimous last placed wine.
1990 DRC Echezeaux:
Yeah, I love this wine, and whilst this was one of the better bottles of this, was generally outclassed on the night by the majority of the other wines. Another wine that was lighter in color than the other wines, and I would say that it is probably pretty much at it’s peak now. Pretty, sweet fruit, and a really lovely drink, but again, against some tough competition tonight. I liked it a bit more than others, initially thinking this was RSV, but then I have always loved this wine. The groups 5th placed wine, I had it as 4th.
1990 DRC Grands Echezeaux:
A great wine. Powerful and structured, with deep fruit but also lovely balance. This wine danced, and the flavors came in waves, changing and evolving with every mouthful right from the start. Very complex, and still quite youthful, this may well be the longest lived wine here. Again quite rich and ripe, but not over the top at all. I initially wrote GE down (as I bought the GE and think it is always under rated), but it just seemed too good to not be La Tache, which was the majority decision in the end. I have always rated GE, and in blind tastings of DRC over recent years, it usually ends up in the top 3 wines just about every time. This is a wine of serious quality and obvious longevity, and thinking of all this I probably should have stuck with my initial impression of GE. The groups 2nd placed wine, with a few placing this 1st, and I also had it as 2nd.
1990 Henri Jayer Cros Parantoux:
OK, here we go. This wine was magic from the first sniff. I went straight to Jayer, (as most of us also seem to do). Beautiful, pure fragrant nose. On the palate, unbelievably complex, a very dark wine and also quite ripe, with lovely sweet dark fruit, yet possessing amazing balance and a seamless, long velvety finish. Another deep but weightless sort of wine, with just so much going on, and scarily enough will definitely improve even more. This is the reason I rate Jayer’s wines so highly, as this (impossibly!!) made nearly everything else along side of it irrelevant. A candidate really as a wine just "too good to score”. The best wine I have had in the last year or so. This was still singing at the end of the night, although the waiter took the glass with my last mouthful while I was distracted…The groups 1st placed wine, I had it as 1st also by a fair margin.
1990 DRC La Tache:
Given that this is usually a 99pt wine, this was expected to be one of the highlights of the night. The bottle was in good condition, however it just wasn’t what we were expecting, and all were surprised when it was revealed. The wine was quite shy, but still deep and dark, with dark fruit and some stems, but none of that hoisin, spiciness and soy we were expecting of this particular La Tache. The flavor was somewhat mysteriously hidden, and I have to admit, I initially wrote La Tache, but it seemed to retreat into itself as the night wore on, and it never really seemed to open out. I liked it more than the others, but generally there was a feeling of disappointment with this wine. Those that have had it multiple times before thought it wasn’t quite right, and there was some discussion about variation in bottles between different shippers/shipments of this wine. Certainly not a 99pt wine, but in the context of the wines this night, still a decent wine, representative bottle or not. The groups 6th placed wine, I was the dissenter placing it 3rd. I think the general feel here from the group was that it might have been the GE, and I think that is where we all went.
1990 DRC Richebourg:
Big, powerful wine, which initially seemed (to me) to have a touch of VA. Definately the Richebourg, and so it was. Power, structure, deep slightly high toned fruit black fruit that was solid right through. Another long lived wine here, one that will rival the GE for longevity, or maybe even pass it. Not really all that accessible today, and a wine that really needs 10 more years (this also was a pristine bottle, so that makes a difference for a wine of this age. This will I think be a great wine with more time, although within the typical DRC Richebourg style. The groups unanimous 4th placed wine.
1990 DRC Romanee Saint Vivant:
This wine didn’t really do it for me, it was a touch brown, (think like brown sugar) on the palate. The wine seemed slightly rustic and what I would term blocky, with fairly big bold red and dark fruit, ripe again but with a slightly disjointed finish. Still, a quite deep and dense wine. I tossed up between the Echezeaux and the RSV on this one, but it had too much weight for Echezeaux, and the RSV it was. Still some upside to this wine here, but I don’t think this will ever be great. Better than the last bottle of this I had, but still not a great wine, although others like it more than me, so there you go. I must say that DRC’s RSV really has come on in recent years, to the point where this is probably now my favorite wine of theirs, especially to have young. The groups 3rd placed wine, I had it on the night as 6th.
I must admit that over the last few years, I have been drinking much more Vintage Port than stickies, so my preference is really now heavily in that area. A such, my reasonably large stock of Sauternes has sat untouched for at least 18 months, whilst the Ports tend to get a really good going over…so please excuse any perceived bias on these wines as being my own, as they were both good…
A Sticky Ending:
We knew these were two high pointed (98-100 Parker wines, for what that worth, and had a choice of 2 makers and vintages). Nice mid age Yquem, with a medium amber gold color. Some sweet apricots and tropical notes with a touch of toffee, and a rich but not over the top finish. Thick but without being too heavy. Nice, and went well with the desert that included some fabulous home made honeycomb ice cream. Good, but not exciting.
Much lighter in color, and obviously younger and fresher. Some talk of perhaps a very slight cork taint stripping some of the fruit of this wine. A considerable more acid spine than the first Yquem, and still young and evolving, but just a fraction hollow in the mouth compared to the ’75 (or so my somewhat muddled notes seem to say). Some honey, tropical fruit, banana and coconut, but a touch confectionery for mine, but again not really too overdone. OK, but not great at the end of the day, and some discussion occurred with the consensus that the 1990 was the weakest of the trio from ’88-’90, (for what that’s worth).
Overall I thought the ‘90’s were much better than I thought they would be, having often heard stories before of over roasted big fruit wines, etc…Having only ever had half a dozen different wines before from 1990 to compare them to, I must say I was more than pleasantly surprised. Some at the table who perhaps thought this was “one of the vintages of the century as many others also believe” were perhaps a little less optimistic about them than me.
In fact, I really feel that most of these wines are still very much on the up. I am not sure how true this is for many other 1990 Burgundies, but I intend now to seek out a few more and add them to what I have already and see for myself.
The wines we had in general still have a fair bit of development left, (some with much more time left), and generally seem like they will all hold for a good while yet. Taken in isolation, I think anyone of these wines would have looked better, but in such a lineup (and next to the Jayer), a few perhaps suffered a bit, but a lineup like this really is necessary to establish the wines, which is why we do this.
For me, a great and memorable night, and I wish I might be lucky enough to try the Jayer CP again in 10 years time…