TN: Château Bel Air-Marquis d'Aligre (Margaux) vertical 2010-1985

In the summer a friend of mine noticed that one of the European internet shops had received a new shipment of different vintages of Bel Air-Marquis d’Aligre, so he decided to grab the opportunity, ordered one bottle of each and arranged an ad-hoc vertical of BAMA.

As Bel Air-Marquis d’Aligre (BAMA) is both a former Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel and one of the pet producers of the AFWE folk here, I should assume everybody knows the château. However, one shouldn’t be doing assumptions, so here’s a short introduction to the house.

BAMA is a Château in Margaux, run by nearly 90-year old Jean-Pierre Boyer (born in 1933) who has been working in the winery since 1947 when he started helping his father run the château. Since 1950 he has been producing the wines himself, so this year saw his 70th vintage. Boyer owns a total of 50 hectares (125 acres) around the appellation of Margaux, yet only 13 hectares (32,5 acres) are under cultivation. Of the farmed vineyards, Boyer rents out a considerable portion and his wines are produced only from vineyards totaling only five hectares (12,5 acres). Most of his vines are old, craggy, centenarian beings, some of them pre-phylloxeric, i.e. planted to their own roots. For the most part the vines are not really cultivated - just allowed to grow on their own - and the resulting yields are very small.

As a wine, BAMA is old-school Bordeaux by every standard imaginable. Despite producing wine in the 21st century, Boyer has never produced wines according to any modern methods. Instead, all the wines are made more or less according to the same recipe his wines produced in the early 1950’s. The exact grape proportions of the blends is not known, since Boyer really doesn’t seem to care what he farms. At one point his vineyards were planted to Merlot (35%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Cabernet Franc (20%) Petit Verdot (15%) and, at least at some point, some Malbec as well. However, those numbers are most likely outdated, seeing how unsystematically Boyer replants his vineyards - for example, he has a fallow vineyard next to the winery because he had the vines ripped off in mid-1950’s and never replanted them.

The wines are both fermented (spontaneously with indigenous yeasts) and macerated in huge concrete tanks and most wines never see a smidgen of oak, since Boyer has only a small handful of barriques, which is not nearly enough to hold his annual production of approximately 30,000 bottles. Boyer’s traditional way of making wines doesn’t include punch-downs and the tanks have no built-in mechanism for pump-overs, so the only pump-overs the wines see is when Boyer manually tops up the tanks from a handful of large-format bottles he keeps next to the tanks. A portion of wine is aged for some months in the old, neutral barriques while the remaining wines age in these same concrete tanks, in which they are kept for 2-3 years - until Boyer deems the wine ready for bottling. Even then the wines are not released for the market, since Boyer sells the wines only when he thinks they are ready to be drunk. Normally he releases his wines only small numbers at a time, keeping a large library of back vintages at the winery. Thus, it isn’t that rare to see multiple vintages of BAMA on the market at the same time, but never any recent vintages (since they are still aging at the winery!).

Stylistically the wines are not big, ripe or flashy, but instead quite stripped, bare and restrained. To my understanding, Boyer harvests relatively early, so the wines can be even quite lean, are often high in acidity and always modest in alcohol. Due to the lack of maceration, the wines never feel particularly extracted and can be quite light in tannins, even in very powerful and tannic vintages. One can easily describe the wines as “Burgundian”, even though the more appropriate way of describing them would be “old-school Bordeaux” - since this is the style of wine made in the late 19th century, before the modernization of vinification and viticulture. While the rest of the Bordeaux has changed with the times, BAMA has not, and the wines offer a glimpse into the style of wine drunk more than a century ago.

Just to contrast the style of BAMA, we had one contemporary Bordeaux in the tasting as well - Château Tronquoy-Lalande 2010 - which felt quite enjoyable and balanced on the first sip, with bright, youthful fruit and somewhat noticeable, yet judicious use of oak. However, when returning to the wine after tasting a couple of BAMAs, the wine suddenly came across as very modern and polished in style with very noticeable alcohol and quite heavy-handed oak influence. It’s remarkable how much one’s view can change after successively tasting a few wines from the extreme stylistic ends of the spectrum. To BAMA’s credit, I must point out that it didn’t feel one bit thin, diluted or weak after returning to them after Tronquoy-Lalande!

  • 2010 Château Tronquoy-Lalande - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe (2.9.2020)
    A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (40%) and Petit Verdot (10%). Aged for a year in oak barriques (20-25% new). 14,5% alcohol.

Inky, still quite youthful and almost fully opaque blackish-red color. Ripe yet rather savory nose with lush and quite polished aromas of juicy blackcurrants, some savory wood spice, a little bit of mocha oak, light plummy tones, sweet oaky hints of vanilla and chocolatey toast and a touch of pencil shavings. Although the wine doesn’t see that much new oak, the overall impression is rather oak-forward. The wine is full-bodied, ripe and somewhat concentrated on the palate with flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some extracted woody bitterness, a little bit of juicy blackberry or black cherry, light oaky notes of mocha and cocoa, a leafy hint of herbaceous greenness and a hint of vanilla. The overall feel is pretty balanced with the moderately high acidity and firm, somewhat grippy medium-plus tannins. The high alcohol lends some obvious warmth to the palate. The long finish is quite warm, somewhat grippy and quite powerful with flavors of juicy blackcurrants and cherries, some woody notes of pencil shavings and extracted spicy bitterness, a little bit pf plummy tones, sweet oaky hints of toasty spice and vanilla and a touch of tobacco.

A rather youthful and quite polished St. Estèphe, but not without redeeming qualities. For me the oak is still rather unintegrated at this point, making the wine come across as quite woody and toasty with somewhat prominent chocolatey overtones, but on the other hand the wine shows nice, ripe fruit and good sense of concentration without overextraction or excessive ripeness. The alcohol is tad high, making the wine come across as rather warm with at times quite prominent heat, but nothing too distracting. Although Tronquoy-Lalande is known as a Bordeaux that is best drunk on the young side (and in its own way, the wine is drinking pretty well right now), the oak here makes me feel that this wine really needs more age to integrate the woody tones better with the fruit. Fortunately the wine feels still very youthful and the ripe fruit and the good, balanced structure promise lots of potential for future development, so it is safe to assume this wine will continue to improve in a cellar. If you don’t like your Bordeaux reds oaky and polished, I heartily suggest letting the wine wait for at least another 5-10 years. (89 pts.)

Luminous, moderately translucent and relatively youthful blackish-red color. Dry, fresh and somewhat restrained nose of brambly dark berries, some bayleaf, light meaty notes of beef stew, light gravelly mineral tones, a crunchy hint of red currant and a touch of fresh cherry. The wine is dry, medium-bodied and somewhat austere on the palate with somewhat lean flavors of raspberries, sanguine iron, some fresh black cherries, light floral tones, a little bit of gravelly minerality and a hint of red currant. The overall feel is balanced and harmonious with the moderately high acidity and well-behaved medium tannins. The finish is long, dry and clean with relaxed flavors of gravelly minerality, some red currants, a little bit of tart red plum, light notes of blood and a hint of dried herbs.

An attractive, sophisticated and harmonious Margaux that sings in a delicate voice, not with a booming baritone more typical of modern Bordeaux. The fruit here is more about freshness and flavors inclined towards crunchy berries rather than ripe, dark fruits. With no obvious oak to mask the flavors in rich, glossy tones, the wine isn’t powerful or particularly expressive, but instead rather restrained and painfully precise. I was surprised to learn how light and easy the tannins were here, considering how tannic many of the 2010 Bordeaux reds have been - most likely this is all because of Jean-Pierre Boyer’s very unextracted style. All in all, a lovely effort, but still very closed and all too young for consumption - even after 4 hours of decanting the wine really didn’t give much. Most likely this won’t be opening up before its 20th birthday. No need to hurry with this one - and expect the score to go up with age. Priced somewhat according to its quality at 44,90€. (90 pts.)

Luminous, moderately translucent and relatively youthful blackish-red color. The nose feels quite understated and earthy with rather dull aromas of ripe red fruits, some dusty notes of TCA and a hint of savory herbs. The wine is lean, medium-bodied and somewhat earthy on the palate with autumnal flavors of ripe redcurrants, some mushroomy notes, a little bit of earth, light metallic tones, a hint of apple core and a touch of cardboard. The wine is quite structured with its high acidity and moderately grippy tannins. The finish is dull, short and lacking in fruit. Flavors of sour cherry bitterness, some metallic tones and a hint of dusty earth.

Feels like subtly corked. There is some fruit here, so the TCA hasn’t ruined the wine completely, but the overall feel is dull and dusty, lacking depth and vibrancy and making the wine come across as rather earthy and somewhat mute. The cost of the wine was 44,90€. NR (flawed)

Luminous, moderately translucent and relatively youthful blackish-red color. Somewhat dark-toned yet at the same time subtly herbaceous nose with aromas of licorice, some gravelly minerality, a little bit of fresh, crunchy blackcurrant, light notes of wet stones, a hint of fresh red plums and a sappy touch of raspberry leaf. The wine is dry, moderately ripe and silky smooth on the palate with a medium body and bright flavors of ripe raspberries, some blood, a little bit of meaty umami, light crunchy notes of cranberries, a sweeter hint of wild strawberry and a touch of gravelly minerality. The wine has a supple and silky yet firm enough texture, thanks to its moderately high acidity and quite gentle medium tannins. The finish is juicy and quite light with medium-long flavors of fresh red plums, some blood, a little bit of ripe raspberry, light stony mineral tones, a hint of old leather and a touch of tobacco.

A tasty, supple and gentle claret. Very approachable now at 15 years of age, although by no means particularly developed in style. Compared to many surrounding vintages, this felt surprisingly light and delicate, lacking a bit in both depth and intensity - which was quite surprising, given the power and richness the warm 2005 vintage has given to many Bordeaux reds. All in all, a nice and enjoyable effort, but came across as relatively underwhelming compared to the other BAMA vintages. Perhaps further aging might lend the wine some additional depth and complexity? Perhaps a bit pricey for the quality at 44,90€. (88 pts.)

Luminous, moderately translucent and slightly evolved pomegranate red color. Quite big, somewhat sweet-toned yet still relatively youthful nose of wizened red plums, some ripe blackcurrant, light and slightly off-piste creamy aromas of Brie rind, a little bit of mushroomy sous-bois and a hint of game. The wine is rather ripe, quite dry and medium-bodied on the palate with flavors of ripe cranberries and crunchy redcurrants, some wizened red plums, a little bit of stemmy wood character, light umami notes of raw meat, a slightly weird hint of something lactic and a touch of earth. The overall feel is firm and balanced with the high acidity and the textural, gently grippy medium tannins. The finish is long, savory and moderately grippy with layered flavors of crunchy redcurrants and ripe cranberries, some bloody meat, light gravelly mineral tones, a little bit of juicy cherry, a sweet hint of wizened plummy fruit and a mushroomy touch of sous-bois.

A very nice, harmonious and sophisticated vintage of BAMA that comes across as slightly more ripe and sweeter-toned than most other vintages. Although the wine doesn’t feel young anymore, the overall feel is still rather youthful and most likely the wine will not only keep but improve for many more years. There’s also a slightly odd, subtly lactic undertone to the flavors here, which might be just this bottle or will disappear with further aging. Nevertheless, a balanced and enjoyable BAMA that is now entering its drinking window. Recommended. Good value at 37,90€. (91 pts.)

Luminous, slightly developed garnet red color with a wide, pale rim. Savory, complex and somewhat evolved nose with seductively nuanced aromas of wizened dark berries, some gamey meat, a little bit of farmhouse funk, light mushroomy notes of sous-bois, a hint of ripe redcurrant and a touch of tobacco. A very classic Bordelais nose without any of the glossy polished character typical of modern Bordeaux. The wine is firm, textural and very savory on the palate with a moderately full body and dry flavors of ripe dark berries, some sanguine iron, a little bit of leathery funk, light mushroomy notes of sous-bois, a hint of game and a slightly sweeter touch of wizened plummy fruit. The wine shows good sense of structure with its high acidity and still rather grippy medium-plus tannins. Beautiful velvety texture. The finish is rich, savory and moderately grippy with long, complex flavors of ripe dark berries, meaty umami, some gravelly minerality, light funky notes of leather and barnyard, a little bit of sweet pipe tobacco, a hint of sour cherry bitterness and a touch of earth.

A beautiful, classic claret that feels like a time capsule depicting a style of wine virtually gone now. The wine shows wonderful finesse, exceptional sense of balance, good structure and almost Zen-like harmony. If pitted against a modern Margaux, this would probably feel noticeably underwhelming in comparison, but in a long lineup of Bel Air-Marquis d’Aligre wines, this comes across as more impressive than most other wines tasted in the evening. Although I preferred the more rustic roughness of the 1999 vintage, this 2000 vintage seemed to be the overall winner of the evening for many, and no wonder - the elegance here is peerless. The wine is now in its drinking window, but thanks to its intensity of fruit and terrific structure, I can imagine this wine will not only keep but improve with additional cellaring. Highly recommended. Great value at 44,90€. (94 pts.)

Moderately developed rusty pomegranate-red color with a thin, colorless rim. The nose feels savory, robust and somewhat smoky with aromas of roasted game, some ripe redcurrants, a little bit of burnt hair, light wizened red plum tones, a hint of earth and a touch of dried flowers. The wine is dry, sinewy and medium-bodied on the palate with focused, savory flavors of crunchy redcurrants, some sooty notes, a little bit of tart lingonberry, light funky animale tones, a hint of sour cherry bitterness and a touch of licorice root. The overall feel is surprisingly tightly-knit and structure-driven for a BAMA with high acidity and rather grippy, grainy tannins. The finish is dry, quite tannic and very complex with long, intense flavors of leather, some animale funk, a little bit of ripe redcurrant, light sanguine notes of iron, a hint of smoke and a sweet, pruney touch of wizened red plums.

A very distinctive and structure-driven vintage of Bel Air-Marquis d’Aligre with a somewhat evolved and relatively funky overall character, yet still brimming with intense, vibrant fruit that can still take many more years of aging - which is great, since the relatively tightly-wound structure of the wine feels like it could really use some additional cellaring. While moderately ripe, the wine tastes very savory, dry and crunchy, exhibiting only subtly sweet undertones amidst its generally dry and somewhat rustic flavors. With its firm, sinewy overall feel and funky complexity I’d go as far as to say this was my wine of the night, even though the 2000 vintage came across as equally vibrant and complex with more poise and finesse. it’s just that the unpolished, rusticity of 1999 really spoke to me. Very highly recommended. Simply outstanding value at 34,90€. (95 pts.)

Quite translucent but also relatively youthful pomegranate red with a slightly bloody hue and a clear, colorless rim. Quite rich and expressive nose with complex aromas of wizened blackcurrants and juicy black raspberries, some gamey meat, light dark-toned plummy notes, a little bit of herbaceous leafy character, a savory hint of bayleaf and a touch of leather. The wine is juicy, full-bodied and relatively concentrated on the palate with a silky mouthfeel and clean, vibrant flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some meaty notes of umami, light iron notes of blood, a little bit of bayleaf, a hint of gravelly minerality and touch of brambly black raspberry. The structure relies more on the high acidity than on the grainy yet easy medium tannins. The finish is silky and gently grippy with long, savory flavors of fresh blackcurrants, some autumnal notes of sous-bois and herbaceous leafy character, light pruney notes of wizened dark plums, a little bit of licorice root, a meaty hint of rich umami and a touch of stony minerality.

A beautiful and very balanced Margaux that is stylistically more Burgundian than Bordelais: despite its full body, the wine is relatively delicate for a Bordeaux with flavors that show freshness and minerality that would be more in place in Côte de Nuits than in Left Bank - qualities only accentuated by the lack of obvious oak, low alcohol and high acidity. The overall feel is seductively silky and while the wine isn’t young anymore, it certainly isn’t going to be falling apart anytime soon. Truly a positive surprise considering how the wet 1998 vintage wasn’t that memorable a vintage on the Left Bank. Most likely the wine will continue to improve for a handful of years and then keep for a long time. Comparatively speaking, this wasn’t as great as the neighboring vintages 1999 and 2000, but nevertheless among the best BAMA vintages we had. Fine stuff, highly recommended. Terrific value at 34,90€. (93 pts.)

Quite translucent and moderately evolved red with a somewhat rusty maroon hue and a clear, colorless rim. The nose feels surprisingly restrained and slightly dusty with very understated aromas of developed blackcurrant-driven fruit, some campfire smoke, a little bit of sappy leafy character and a hint of earth. The wine is silky, medium-to-moderately full-bodied and somewhat dull on the palate with quite reticent flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some red-toned plummy fruit, a little bit of dusty earth, light gamey notes of meat, a hint of tobacco and an autumnal touch of old leaves. The wine is rather high in acidity with rather grippy and somewhat angular medium tannins. The finish is quite long, dry and dusty with some tannic grip and rather light flavors of blackcurrants, some dusty earth, a little bit of leafy greenness and a hint of tobacco.

A surprisingly reticent, dull and underwhelming vintage of BA-Marquis. People were wondering if the wine was suffering from a very mild case of TCA - not enough to make the wine feel corked, but enough to mute the fruit - but reading the CT tasting notes it seems quite obvious that we had a textbook 1996 BAMA. In this vintage when almost everybody else made thoroughly impressive powerhouses of wine, BAMA seems to have made a very reticent, dull and underwhelming wine that was rather a dud upon opening and never really got any better over the evening. Almost a polar opposite to 1998 - a vintage which was rather poor on the Left Bank yet in which BAMA excelled. I can imagine this wine will keep just fine for many more years - perhaps even decades - since it doesn’t show much evolution, but I doubt it is going to be a memorable vintage, no matter how old it gets. If you get to choose, pick any other 1990’s vintage of BAMA over this one. Rather poor value at 39,90€. (83 pts.)

Moderately translucent and quite evolved rusty red color. Aged, meaty and somewhat tertiary yet still wonderfully vibrant nose with aromas of ripe blackcurrants, evolved earthy notes, some blueberries, a little bit of bloody game, light perfumed floral tones, a sweet hint wizened dark fruits and a touch of balsamic richness. The wine is dry, quite acid-driven and somewhat lean on the palate with a medium body and harmonious, savory flavors of crunchy cranberries and ripe redcurrants, some tart notes of lingonberries, a little bit of meaty umami, light sanguine notes of iron, herbaceous hints of cooked bell pepper and herbal bitterness and a sweet touch of raisiny dark fruit. The structure relies more on the high acidity whereas the resolved medium tannins contribute more to the silky texture. The finish is long, savory and moderately grippy with dry, evolved flavors of gamey meat, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of old leather, light sweet notes of wizened blackcurrants, a hint of beef jerky and a touch of dried herbs.

A wonderful, harmonious and immensely enjoyable vintage of BA-Marquis that is smack in the middle of its drinking window. The flavors are getting quite tertiary, but the wine is still brimming with fruit and intensity - yet, true to the BAMA style, the wine isn’t a particularly fruit-forward wine, but instead somewhat understated, savory and structure-driven effort in the vein of a good, proper claret. All in all, a terrific old Bordeaux. Will keep, but most likely won’t develop. Drink now or within the next 10-15 years. A terrific purchase at 34,90€. (94 pts.)

Deep, luminous moderately dark pomegranate red color with an evolved mahogany hue and a thin, colorless rim. Somewhat dull, earthy and slightly dusty nose with understated aromas of charred game, some damp soil, a little bit of wizened dark fruit and a touch of old leather. Feels slightly musty and lacks vibrancy. The wine is somewhat dull, dusty and understated on the palate with a medium body and slightly thin flavors of earth, some sweeter notes of wizened dark berries, a little bit of ripe plummy fruit, light sanguine notes of iron, a hint of gamey meat and a touch of old leather. The wine is high in acidity with moderately grippy medium-plus tannins. The finish is dull, quite grippy and somewhat bitter with rather short flavors of crunchy cranberry, some sanguine meaty notes, a little bit of wizened blackcurrant, light dusty notes of earth, a hint of tobacco and a touch of sous-bois.

A wonderfully structured and still quite tightly-knit vintage of BAMA that was surprisingly dull, musty and understated for a Margaux clocking at 35 years of age. We wondered whether the wine was mildly corked or if it was suffering from an extreme case of bottle stink. Since BAMAs are known to require very long periods of decanting, we had the wine decanted for 3 hours prior to pouring it, yet still it was very dull and inexpressive from the start and didn’t seem to open up in the glass during the evening. Without further experiences with 1985 BAMA it is hard to assess whether this was a representative bottle or not, but based on this taste, I wouldn’t say this was really worth the 127,90€. Leaving the wine without a score for the time being.

Posted from CellarTracker


Oh my geeky Finnish friend, you just knew that some of us would get all lathered up reading this post!

BAMA is a personal favorite. While not among my short-list of the very best Chateaux in Bordeaux, it does top the charts as the most soulful and traditional Bordeaux made. There are times when it just hits that right spot better than anything else. Sociando is like that to me, popped a 2003 yesterday for some college football!

Very disappointing to see the notes on 2010, 09 and 05, since I have them but have not popped one yet. I will take some solace in the reality that these wines require a very long amount of time to be truly ready. Really only 2000 from the major vintages that decade forward is ready. And I share your view on it, it is one of my favorite vintages of BAMA. We are also in accord with some of the 90s vintages, especially ‘95. I would encourage you to try another ‘96. I have had a few bottles with variability, but some shined quite nicely.

I have not yet tried a ‘99. Wow, now really looking forward to it! I have it sitting at Chambers waiting on delivery.

Thanks for the most awesome write-up, Otto.

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On the heels of your Tempier tasting, this is again most helpful, Otto, as I have several of these in the cellar or awaiting delivery. Thanks again! [cheers.gif]

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Thanks, kiitos Otto
I agree with the country lawyer. I really believe your 1996 must be flawed. I had several excellent bottles.
I also agree completely with your assessment of 2000, 1999 and 1995. Also 2001 is fantastic btw

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If I was a gamblin’ man, I would’ve bet you, my Floridan brother in geeky wine, would be the first one to comment!

I was surprised by the underwhelming character of 2005, but less so of the restraint showed by 2010. These wines certainly need time and 2010 was just 10 years too young to be enjoyed now.

In CT William Kelley already suggested that our 1996 was corked, comparing to his own experiences with his vintage, and I certainly believe you guys. I just wondered why a majority of TNs in CT were commenting on how underwhelming the vintage was, especially compared to other vintages. William suggested that most likely the other users just didn’t have experience with BAMA, but I myself wonder if there is just larger bottle variation with the vintage and getting a solid bottle is just a bigger gamble?

The '99 really blew my socks off - immediately after the tasting I order another bottle just for myself. [wow.gif] Furthermore, I was surprised to see my TN was the first on the vintage in CT! I wonder when this vintage was released? There weren’t that many bottles in CT stock, at least compared to other vintages of BAMA.

My pure pleasure! [cheers.gif]

Ole hyvä!

I really need to keep my eyes peeled for that 2001 as well!

My AFWE Berserker friend influenced me to dig into the Florida “cellar” for a BAMA, it’s been a few months since I cracked one. Since I could not recall having a 2004, and feeling like I wanted something still with some baby fat on it today - it being a football weekend, after all - this young pup seemed apropos. At the risk of highlighting a beauty and the beast difference between his notes and mine - and I’m sure y’all can discern which is which - here it goes.

Pop and pour, popped a bit on a whim, with the intent to follow over the evening and some tomorrow. I have a big day tomorrow, so gotta keep it casual. Still have a Pinot opened from last night as well. A fairly powerful, open, ripe nose of Marguaxberries, rich tilled soils, hint of grilled game and camphor. Meaty, chewy on the palate, still a youthful wine, broad on the red fruit spectrum, more on the Chinon side of things, with a modest plummy note. A bit watery on the mid-palate, finished a little clipped, though do love the grainy texture. The palate does not live up to the nose, but having had many vintages of BAMA, I’d give the benefit of the doubt to this wine opening up more and becoming more complex with some time, and with my bottle, perhaps some air. Initial impression as I’m on glass 2 is 90-91 pts. Not picking up any lactic notes like on Otto’s bottle.

If you have a bottle, I’d recommend sitting on its longer.

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What a great way to start the week - I had not seen this yesterday!

Otto, I had read your excellent notes on CT, but not seen your article before, if it was posted there. I write “article” and not post, because that is what it is: an article which deserves to have been published by a traditional wine magazine. I’m really impressed by the research you have done into the property and Monsieur Boyer’s idiosyncratic approach, which has given me details I hadn’t read about in other articles. This is an invaluable reference guide for any lover of BAMA, one that I shall store next to Neil Martin’s article (there is, I know, another apparently excellent one by William Kelley published by Noble Rot, but I have never seen it).

As to the wines, I agree with most of what you thought - I had the same impression of the 2010 a couple of years ago, for example. I think you may have been unlucky with the 96, although I’ve had several bad ones, so I would agree with you that perhaps the level of good vs bad bottles is higher than usual. I wasn’t surprised the 85 wasn’t better - I think he went through a bad patch in the mid to late 80s, because the 89 and 90 were underwhelming and very unreliable. In fact, this is why I originally dropped BAMA about twenty years ago - the ratio of bad bottles was far too high. This is the flip-side of such an old-fashioned approach, but over the last three years I haven’t had too many disappointments. One vintage I would approach with caution is the 2001 - I’ve only had one good bottle in five tasted, the others being tired and with the tell-tale BAMA taste of caramel.

Finally, you make a very good point right at the start of your article, which I have been warning people about myself - Monsieur Boyer is 87 years old. It’s going to be very sad when he finally hangs up his secateurs, but it’s going to happen sooner rather than later, so anyone interested in trying this inimitable wine should get their skates on before it’s too late.

So congratulations - out of curiosity, are you ITB or merely a very gifted amateur? If it’s the latter, I hope (if you are interested) that some self-respecting wine mag snaps you up!

Julian, a big thank you on your kind words!

This was the first (and, in all likelihood, the only) time I’ve published this introduction to BAMA, so it’s not a surprise you hadn’t seen it before. I prefer to give a preface of sorts to my tasting notes, because I love getting stuff into context and I don’t find it interesting reading tasting notes without any context. Simply put, I just like to write stuff I’d love to read myself.

This introduction was pieced together from several BAMA articles I could find, and that Martin’s article was used in no small part. However, there are some pieces of information I found elsewhere as well, so I tried to cram as much information I could pool together (with my first-hand knowledge) in as small space as possible.

I’m becoming quite certain that the 1996 vintage is simply a very inconsistent vintage (i.e. lots of bottle variation). So many people with tastes I trust have said it’s a terrific vintage when it is good, but your experiences only seem to corroborate with my view that not all bottles are good. Great to know about the vintage 2001 as well.

I don’t know about the gifted part, but at least I can admit I’m enthusiastic - and have been for more than a decade now. I used to be ITB in the sense that I used to work at the Finnish alcohol monopoly shops during my university studies - and that’s also the place where the wine bug bit me. I also had a short stint in a company that imported Italian craft beers, but besides that, nothing. I’m in the IT now and wine’s just a hobby for me.

Working with wine and/or writing about wine is definitely something I’d love to have as a day job (although never again in a wine shop!) but it’s been pretty quiet on that front. I guess that means I’ll continue writing about wine in CT/Instagram/my Finnish wine blog/here for the time being for fellow wine enthusiasts’ enjoyment. I certainly wouldn’t mind if a good wine mag wanted to put my endless energy on wine writing to good use, though!

It looks as though the more highly-regarded Bordeaux vintages were the weaker bottles in your lineup. Do you think it’s because those are too early on their development curve, or does BAMA maybe have more success in the medium and lesser vintages?

Thanks for the excellent writeup.

Not Otto - by my own accounts I’m taller, more svelte and better looking - but I think it’s more about the development curve. Look at 2000, it’s an excellent vintage of BAMA, and generally a very well-regarded vintage for Bordeaux. The 95 also sings. The remainder of the 04 that I had last night is showing even better. I think that further goes to the point that these classic wines need time and lots of air. A really delicious wine.

Thanks Robert.

Only three USA retailers listed on WSPro carry this producer right now, all on futures. Winex had the 2010 earlier this year and I bought three - I guess they should go away for a decade or longer.

This certainly seemed to be the case!

Do you think it’s because those are too early on their development curve, or does BAMA maybe have more success in the medium and lesser vintages?

It’s pretty hard to assess, since the “better” vintages all seemed to have problems of their own. 2010 just way too young, 2009 corked, 2005 both surprisingly light and quite closed, 1996 most likely corked or an off bottle. However, when they are on point, they are very lovely indeed.

Overall it seems that on average BAMA seems to require 15-20 years to really open up - 15 years for the lesser vintages and 20 for the better ones. The wines are inherently so delicate and understated in style that if opened too young, the wines can be quite restrained - the 2010 a perfect case in point. All in all, what my tall, handsome Florida pal here says is true: these wines really do need both a lot of time and air. All these wines were opened several hours prior to the tasting, and according to my friend who arranged the tasting, they really needed it.

Definitely. These seem to be built for the long haul.

Thanks for the fabulous write-up Otto!
This sounds so interesting that I’ve ordered a few bottles from presumably the same source as you (vins etonnants). I’m afraid it appears I got the last ‘99s, but they still stock ‘00 and others.

These notes are great – thank you. Jane Anson also has a good overview of the Chateau in her Inside Bordeaux book.

Great notes as always Otto. I’ve got the 95, 96 and 00 waiting to be delivered so this is very helpful!

Praise where praise is due!

Well, their loss is our gain - I’ve enjoyed reading similar reports you have done on other wines, but my taste is not quite so eclectic as yours, hence my reaction this time and not before. Anyway, keep them coming!

Going back to the wines, it is a bit odd just how good the wines are in the more difficult vintages. The 98 I tried this summer was by far the best I’ve had from any Left Bank producer, and the 03 was astonishingly fresh, the only decent Margaux I’ve had from that year. They both rivaled with the 00, but I would need to try them together to get a really clear idea. None of his wines ever seem to suffer from the flaws of the vintage - whether excessive tannins, high alcohol levels or unripe fruit, they sail through as if immune.

BTW - I forgot to mention yesterday - I remember seeing a few comments on the vins-etonnants blog about the 96, so it probably is a common problem - but when it’s good it’s delicious. I haven’t tried the 05 yet, but I wonder if the bottle you had wasn’t an exception, because NM’s review focused on the wine’s density. I’ll try one myself sometime.

I will! After all, I go to tastings normally once or twice a week, so I definitely have no shortage of material.

Going back to the wines, it is a bit odd just how good the wines are in the more difficult vintages. The 98 I tried this summer was by far the best I’ve had from any Left Bank producer, and the 03 was astonishingly fresh, the only decent Margaux I’ve had from that year. They both rivaled with the 00, but I would need to try them together to get a really clear idea. None of his wines ever seem to suffer from the flaws of the vintage - whether excessive tannins, high alcohol levels or unripe fruit, they sail through as if immune.

I guess it has to do with both Boyer’s winemaking and BAMA’s style. First, he tends to pick so early, so I guess in lesser vintages it doesn’t hurt if the weather has been lousy, when Boyer is not aiming for huge ripeness but instead on having grapes that are just enough ripe. In lesser vintages he just needs to pick a bit later and the grapes are as ripe as every year, whereas producers aiming for more ripeness fall short. Then, Boyer has decades of experience working with grapes with minimal ripeness and he knows the lighter style of wine he is aiming at, whereas other producers vinify the grapes more the same way they make the wines every year, but in lesser years the grapes might behave differently, so the resulting wine might be both lighter and more underwhelming not just due to the lesser vintage but also due to the winemaking not suited for the grapes. At least that is my guess why the lesser Bordeaux vintages aren’t always “lesser” for BAMA.

BTW - I forgot to mention yesterday - I remember seeing a few comments on the vins-etonnants blog about the 96, so it probably is a common problem - but when it’s good it’s delicious. I haven’t tried the 05 yet, but I wonder if the bottle you had wasn’t an exception, because NM’s review focused on the wine’s density. I’ll try one myself sometime.

Another great data point, thank you! I guess then there is a systemic problem of sorts with the 1996 (I mean with some, not every single bottle).

Thank you …
I often taste this wine and my last tasting was last week :
Margaux Bel Air Marquis d’Aligre 2010 : (16/20)
Présentation juvénile, vraiment peu loquace, sans la sensualité orientalisante généralement trouvée sur les vins de ce domaine. A revoir.

After reading a post a few months ago that RAJr posted, I found 4 bottles of the 2010 from WineX and tonight popped one. Wow what a unique experience. I wish it was more readily available, I’m a convert.

Hopefully I can find some back vintages, would love to see what some older ones taste like!