TN: 1986 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou (France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien)

  • 1986 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (6/13/2009)
    The fill was into the neck and the cork was sound. Opened about 5 hours prior to dinner; no decant, just re-inserted the cork. A murky purple-ruby core, turning to garnet at the rim. Rather shy on the nose – a bit disappointing, actually – reluctantly revealing hints of pencil shavings, dark fruits and crushed rose petal. More impressive on the palate, with fine concentration of fruit, good acidity, classic structure, but some slightly drying and astringent tannins on the finish. Went very well with the Prime dry-aged NY Strip Steaks; this is a wine that positively needs food. It did improve over the course of the evening, and eventually hit its stride about 8 hours after pulling the cork, so it shoud age for many years to come. (90 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

I had some of this on the 17th February 2009 (decanted for around 4 hours said the bottle’s owner). My notes from that night on the '86 Ducru Beaucaillou are as follows:

In all honesty, I am no big fan of this famous 1855 Classified 2nd Growth from St-Julien. I’ve tried several of their vintages and liked them well enough, but find them too expensive in relation to the enjoyment I derive from them. For St-Julien, I prefer the wines of Léoville las Cases, Léoville Poyferré and Gruaud Larose.

In any event, the flavors of this wine were nicely and comfortingly St-Julien. Suave, smooth and harmonious cassis, blackcurrant, suggestion of charcoal, tar, slight licorice, nuance of cigar box. The body, however, was sorely lacking, thin, virtually emaciated. The flavors were there and quite nice, but they just washed away with virtually no finish. Good for quaffing, I suppose, but not at the price Ducru Beaucaillou normally commands. That said, I am thankful to be able to have tried this wine as I wouldn’t have bought it myself.

The '89 seems to be getting a bit tired as well, but is still enjoyable. I had it, among others, over lunch on the 10th March 2009. My notes on the '89 Ducru Beaucaillou are as follows:

I’ve stated before that I’m no big fan of the wines of this château, considering that in those of its bretheren 2nd Growth St-Juliens I find more contemplation and depth (Léoville las Cases) and more over-all pleasure at a lower price range (Léoville Poyferré and Gruaud Larose). That said, I readily recognize the marked harmony, silkiness, quiet dark-gravelly depth of Ducru Beaucaillou’s terroir-driven wines.

This wine had a reticent bouquet, grudgingly giving up slight whiffs of Spanish cedar, dark fruit and tobacco leaf. In the mouth, however, it was much more expressive. Typical Ducru Beaucaillou on a silky, medium body, with somber dark fruit infused with dark minerals, gravel, light touches of tar, tobacco and hint of spice box. Very reserved and proper, if a bit faded. Despite a barely medium finish that ended a bit abruptly, the admirable harmony and depth in its flavors made for quite a pleasurable drink.

Had 82 out of Mag about a month ago, and the wine had lots of structure, full color and plenty of fruit and secondary character. Showed lots of life in front of it too. This was at a shiva, so sorry for the lack of more detailed notes.

Side note, we also had a 94 La Mission, WOW! Stunning stuff, and can probably had for very little.

The '94 La Mission Haut Brion is, indeed, a very good wine. Had it with goose leg confit on 12 April 2008:

I sniffed deeply in the decanter and in glass: mildly truffled, touches of dried herbs and sweet cedar to its dark cherry/raspberry-laced cassis and dark fruit. Before I could hazard a guess, he showed me the bottle. That was when I decided on a crispy goose leg confit for my main course. In the mouth, the wine had an elegantly lithe, silken medium-body that mirrored its nose with subtle “tarry” undertones and perfect acidity which lent it precise balance. The finish had adequate length.

I thought it was elegant, the fruit was clean, pure and honest, not over-ripe/sweet/pruney or obvious like many these days. I know it sounds trite, but this was truly classic Bordeaux - properly reserved, yet not at all stingy with its charms. Along with Angelus, this is one of the best '94s from Bordeaux I have ever had.

Less than a month later (9th May 2008), I revisited the '94 Haut Brion at a blind wine dinner after around 3 years. It was likewise superb:

Wine # 1 – For me, unquestionably the best bouquet of all right off the bat: A seductive, exquisitely perfumed mix that to mind called sweet cherry and raspberry liqueur infused with sweet Spanish cedar. There were mild truffle notes at first which faded to the background after several minutes; otherwise, the bouquet held well over the evening’s span. In the mouth, it was on the slightly heavier side of medium, its cassis base delicately laced with kirsch, sweet tobacco notes, dark spice and traces of dried thyme. Incredible balance.

By bouquet alone, without having even tasted any of the wines, this and Wine # 4 were, to me, the two contenders for best wine. Several passes didn’t change things. I eventually ranked this the best wine of the night.

Wine # 1 turned out to be the Stockbroker’s 1994 Château Haut Brion.

NB: In that blind tasting, my own ranking was as follows:

1st Place – Wine # 1, 1994 Château Haut Brion;
2nd Place – Wine # 4, 1961 Château Pichon Lalande;
3rd Place – Wine # 3, 1982 Château Gruaud Larose; and,
4th Place – Wine # 2, 1996 Château Montrose.

The group’s ranking was :

1st Place – Wine # 1, 1982 Château Gruaud Larose;
2nd Place – Wine # 4, 1994 Château Haut Brion;
3rd Place – Wine # 3, 1961 Château Pichon Lalande; and,
4th Place – Wine # 2, 1996 Château Montrose.

I agree that I have usually been a bit let down with older vintages of Ducru-Beaucaillou. The best bottle I have ever tasted was the 1970 out of Magnum a few months ago. A group of us did the private dining thing at Per Se, and I brought this from my cellar, so that might have influenced my perception of the wine – no way it was going be a dud after paying that incredible corkage fee! My tasting note for that wine:

From magnum; the fill was well into the neck, and decanted by the sommelier about 30 minutes prior to service. A beautiful ruby-red core, with a hint of amber at the edge. A lovely bouquet, with a “classic” mature Bordeaux character, offering up scents of ripe dark fruits, cedar, a hint of tobacco, and forrest floor. Medium-bodied on the palate, nice fruit, a generous character, and a well delineated finish. A bit more “charm” than most of the '70 Bordeaux that I have tasted – from my experience, only the Mouton is superior in that regard – but clearly at its peak, even from a pristine magnum. A heavenly match with both the “Jambonnette of Quail” and “Tenderloin of Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal”. 94 Points