TN: A simple dinner with 1999s - Climens, Rieussec, Ducru, Barnaut

As I consider “1999” by Prince one of his better songs (nothing can beat anything on “Dirty Mind” though) and as I like the concept of “fin de siècle”, I took the occasion to invite some friends over for a dinner with some wines from the 1999 vintage. My guests brought some more bottles to complete the line-up. All wines were served blind and uncovered after each course.


The two champagnes were served as Apéritif with just some sesame crackers. They were crying for food though and I should have served them with a proper course. Opinions were divided over which Champagne was the better for the two. In the end, there was no clear favorite. The Bollinger is definitely the more elegant of the two, but the Barnaut has great expression and I loved the hints of oxidative in the nose.

  • 1999 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année - France, Champagne
    Rather light yellow, very fine perlage. In the nose, it’s classic with Brioche, lots of quince, some lemon juice, just a very, very subtle oaky note. Great balance and harmony. On the palate, it’s got good and lively perlage, it’s delicate and restrained with fine quince and lemon notes. The finish gets longer with more temperature. Very good champagne with great balance and structure in a noble and restrained style. (92 pts.)
  • 1999 Edmond Barnaut Champagne Brut Millésimé Grand Cru - France, Champagne, Bouzy, Champagne
    Medium yellow, very fine perlage. The nose starts off with strong oxidative notes of roasted hazelnuts, toffee and dried flowers. It adds some quince bread and fresh quince later. More expressive than elegant, but very attractive. On the palate, the perlage is very fine, the wine is extremely expressive with a great touch of oxidative notes, gripping acidity and lots going on. Long finish, too. Not no. 1 in elegance, but very high up as regards expression. (92 pts.)

Smoked Trout Mousse with Rheingau Riesling

As the first course, we had a mousse of smoked trout with cucumber salad, which was mildly marinated in some joghurt, lemon juice and dill. Breuer’s Nonneberg was corked unfortunately, which is a pity as I had just one bottle and was really curious to see how it is today. Therefore, it was a pair of two Schlossbergs, one by Breuer and one by Kesseler. Theresa Breuer had told me in advance that the late 90s Breuer wines are in a beautiful place right now and that the Kesseler should have a little more residual sugar. She should have been right. I very much preferred the Breuer Schlossberg as it was nice and linear with a very clear expression in the nose and in the mouth. The Kesseler was quite good too, but it was more on the opulent and rich side. Both went well with the smoked trout and a little less so with the cucumber salad.

  • 1999 Georg Breuer Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg Riesling - Germany, Rheingau
    Light yellow. In the nose, this is fantastic with lemon oil and zest, bee balm, but also notes of fine, just ripe apple. Hardly any signs of age. On the palate, there’s good grip, it has a great structure, fine acidity, noticeable minerality, just hints of sweetness. There’s apple in the harmonious finish. Beautiful. (92 pts.)
  • 1999 August Kesseler Rüdesheimer Berg Schloßberg Riesling Erstes Gewächs - Germany, Rheingau
    Medium yellow. Very nice in the nose with winter apple, apricot, notes of nuts (nutmeg), it’s consistent and seductive. On the palate, quite opulent with noticeable residual sweetness, stylistically not too far from some Alsace Rieslings. Very attractive apple and apricot notes also on the palate. Quite pretty, but it could have a bit more precision, especially in the finish (which is quite long though). (90 pts.)
  • 1999 Georg Breuer Rauenthaler Nonnenberg Riesling - Germany, Rheingau
    Badly corked NR (flawed)

Foie Gras, Brioche and Sauternes

Then we had Foie Gras d’Oie en bloc from with Brioche and a beautiful pair of wines to go with it - Rieussec and Climens. Here, the table really was divided over the question which wine everyone liked better. I totally admired the Climens, it was so clear and bright and weightless - substance without weight. Most of the others preferred the Rieussec. I have to admit that it was really great and extremely impressive with its dried fruit notes and expansive botrytis notes. But it was also a tiny bit heavy, not the kind of wine you want to drink two or three glasses of. Both wines obviously went well with the foie gras.

  • 1999 Château Rieussec - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Light amber colour. In the nose, this is really rich with strong botrytis notes and a great spiciness (saffran and cinnamon) as well as notes of dried apricots and honey. On the palate, it’s also quite rich, oily, but not too sweet. The acidity is mild, but gives the wine sufficient backbone to carry its weight. Very spicy finish. Long. This is great if slightly overpowering. (93 pts.)
  • 1999 Château Climens - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Light golden yellow. In the nose, this is absolutely stunning and gorgeous with wonderful notes of ripe, fresh and juicy apricots, some honey, Bergamotte, hints of vanilla and only very restrained botrytis notes. Very airy, like tiny butterflies slowly flying into your nose. On the palate, it’s almost perfectly balanced with animating acidity, wlel integrated sweetness, notes of apricot cake and - despite the high alcohol - a weightless feel. This has grandezza and style. (97 pts.)

Lamb and left bank Bordeaux

As the main course, we had lamb joints seared three hours in red wine, Thyme and Rosemary, and with shallots and potatoes. The lamb was marvellous, it’s from a race called “Eifeler Ur-Lamm” from the volcanic Eifel region close to the Mosel valley, and comes from a small producer who has managed to re-breed this ancient, more than 3,000 years old sheep race. It fell off the bones, was nicely intervowen with strands of fat and super-tasty. It also went very well with the first two Bordeaux, both from St. Julien. I had had both wines before and had sometimes even seen Lagrange ahead of Ducru Beaucaillou, even though the 99 Lagrange really is quite modern in style. 99 Ducru Beaucaillou seemed very “serious” to me a few years ago and still was quite serious now. I did like it a lot that evening though, it was really elegant and transparent, fairly old-school in style. Lagrange was good, too, but not as good as I had it before.

As an extra, one of the guests brought a bottle of 99 Marojallia, the Margaux venture of Jean Luc Thunevin of Ch. Valandraud. Blind, we guessed St. Estèphe or Pauillac, but in any case a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. We were right only with the last bit. Even though it didn’t have the charme of good Margaux, it was a really good left bank Bordeaux, not the kind of wine I expected and still with some potential to get better. It did seem incredibly young.

  • 1999 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Fairly dark and shiny red colour. In the nose, it’s quite spicy with cedar wood, fresh tobacco leaves and some black tea as well as griotte cherry and red currant. Very elegant, very restrained, not showing off at all. On the palate, this is nicely transparent in its aromatics with fine fruitiness, rather forward going acidity, no fat at all and a rather “serious” appearance. Good tannic structure. Good wine, even though it lacks a tiny bit of substance to be really, really good. (91 pts.)
  • 1999 Château Lagrange (St. Julien) - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Medium cherry red. In the nose fairly modern with some vanilla, espresso and bitter chocolate as well as sweet cherries. Fine sweetish scent. On the palate, it’s got soft tannins, a well integrated acidity and good structure. Breaks away in the finish. This was a bit weaker than other bottles I had, we may have drunk it too warm. (89 pts.)
  • 1999 Château Marojallia - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Blackish red. In the nose, this is quite pretty, dark fruited with blackberry and cassis, some pencil shavings, very clear and pure in its aromatics. I can’t smell the 100% new oak. On the palate, it’s got rather robust tannins, again a dark fruited aroma profile, medium acidity and good freshness. More Pauillac than Margaux, this currently seems really, really young. Impressive. (91 pts.)

Strawberries with Woodruff and Cream and Mosel Riesling Auslese

To get fresh, we then decided to have dessert before cheese. For the dessert, I tried to capture some typical flavours of the Middle Mosel, the strawberry and cream typical for wines from Erden and Ürzig and the woodruff typical for some wines from Kröv, Traben-Trarbach and Enkirch. It had been hot the days before so that the strawberries (Sonata) were juicy and sweet. They were served with fresh woodruff and liquid cream. This was a near-perfect match for the two Mosel Auslesen. I had planned to serve a JJ Prüm 1999 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese for dessert alongside the Schmitt-Wagner, but had it in my other cellar. The only suitable replacement at hand was a Dr. Loosen 1998 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spätlese, but one of the guests luckily brought another Auslese, the 1999 Eitelsbacher Marienholz from the bishops. The bishops don’t get much love from Riesling afficionados and I for myself also hardly ever had a super stunning wine from them. But for dessert, the Marienholz was just right, classic in style, not too sweet, fresh and lively. It couldn’t quite compete with the Schmitt-Wagner Herrenberg Auslese, which was very old-school, quite lean, not too sweet, slightly tart as I like it and just right.

  • 1999 Carl Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Auslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Light green yellow. In the nose, this is ultra-classic middle Mosel with notes of apple, stone fruits, bee balm and hints of smoky, black slate. On the palate, it’s fairly light for an Auslese, fairly racy despite the rather soft, yet noticeable acidity and has just the right amount of sweetness. Very harmonic. (90 pts.)
  • 1999 Bischofliches Konvikt Eitelsbacher Marienholz Riesling Auslese - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Greenish yellow. In the nose, there’s ripe green apple, some gooseberry, herbal notes, hardly any noticeable Botrytis. On the palate, it’s racy, fresh, animating, thus very beautiful if with limited depth. (88 pts.)

To finish the meal, we had the Rieussec/Climens again, this time with some Roquefort and Fourme d’Ambert. The wines were even better than with the Foie Gras, but matched the Roquefort much better than the Fourme d’Ambert.

In conclusion, except for the Breuer Nonnenberg we had bottle luck. All wines were spot on, ready to drink, some with more potential, some without, but all seemed in a good phase right now. My favorite flight was the Rieussec/Climens flight, followed by the two Mosel Auslesen. It was interesting to see that in hardly any flight the table could agree on a clear favorite.
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