TN: Old World, Old Wines

Blind tasting notes from a tasting with a theme of Old World, Old Wines – anything Old World prior to 2000 qualified. Because we dug deep into our cellars, just about everyone had at least one back up bottle in his bag.

1989 Ch. Chevrier (Bourillon d’Orleans) – this Loire chenin is now a mod amber colour but with lots of ripe fruit in the nose, and good fruit levels on palate, finishing just off dry – a demi-sec, I would think, and in good condition.

1961 Ch. du Taillan – this Medoc isn’t exactly a household word and I figured that asking a cru bourgeois to be in decent shape at that age, even from the brilliant 1961 vintage might be asking a bit much, but we were pleasantly surprised – it was Burgundian in colour and had a very mature nose of dusty fruit. The acidity gave it a slightly angular profile on palate but there was enough remaining fruit hints to make it at least an interesting exercise in oenological forensics.

1962 Ch. L’Arrosee – this St. Emilion isn’t that common out there, although our BC liquor board has had a relationship with this house since the 1970s so we have become familiar with it. The vintage isn’t going to be nearly as familiar to most as the 1961, but let me explain why. The 1950s had been a time of poor vintage after poor vintage for Bordeaux and when the 1959 vintage came around it was the salvation of the reputation and was highly touted. But then the 1961 vintage showed up with even firmer structure and requiring long cellaring and it got all the press and adulation of the aficionados. The result was that many of the 1959s were drunk up too early while waiting for the 1961s to come around. Then the 1962 vintage showed up and was very decent but it has always existed in the shadow of the great 1961s, so it isn’t that well known and also had a tendency to be drunk up early. FWIW, having had the opportunity to try all three, my vote for what I’d like in my cellar would be the 1959s!

This wine showed medium garnet colour, a nose that showed mocha hints and great depth, with some slight funkiness, that cleared up to become pure sweet fruit with cherry hints. Long finish. An absolutely lovely 1961!

1996 Alenza Gran Reserva– this Ribera wine from Condado de Haza was quite dark, with a nose that betrayed the American oak by the slight dill backed by sweet dark fruit and vanilla. It was drinking beautifully.

1985 Vieux Telegraphe CNduP – Sadly, I have no more 85 CNduP left in my cellar because they rarely fail to please and the temptation to drink them up is at times irresistible. Medium to light colour, with a nose of garrigue, cocoa and mushroom, smooth on palate and with the tannin fully resolved. Excellent.

1981 Ch. Lafite – OK, time for another discursus on vintages. After the decent (but no better) 1978 and 1979 vintages and with the difficult 1975s far from the time anyone could expect to determine whether the fruit would outlast the hard, sometimes massive tannins, 1981 was a good vintage welcomed by the Bordelais (the one they had been praying for didn’t come until the next year. For the most part the 1981 clarets were early drinking as a result of untimely rain near harvest, and are pleasant wines that are now in serious decline, but a few persist at a high level, and this is one of those. It is dark to medium colour depth with a very nice nutmeg tinges nose and tons of sweet fruit. In the mouth, it showed amazingly good fruit that followed through to the medium length finish. A pleasure to drink and a marvel for that vintage at that age. If you want to experience the vintage in a less expensive wine, the La Mission and the Pichon still drink well.

1975 Ducru Beaucaillou – this is, in my view. A very underrated vintage for the reasons touched on above – many unbalanced wines with tannins so hard that the fruit faded before the wine softened enough to be drinkable with pleasure. This is one of the exceptions that make this vintage a fertile hunting ground at auction. Still quite dark and with good fruit in the nose as well as cassis, tobacco and cedar, and then the test – on palate a wine that has finally come into balance and showed excellent length. Anyone getting a poor bottle of this should not condemn the vintage and say ah, another dud 1975. Bottle variation is to be expected but when you hit a good one it can be very good indeed.

1994 Faustino I Gran Reserva – I had been waiting for a Rioja and was pleased to smell this – a warm dill tinged obviously Spanish nose and decent fruit on palate although I felt that it was slightly high in acidity. Enjoyable but won’t improve.

1967 Taylors Quinta de Vargellas Port – I had several bottles of this in my cellar and made what in retrospect was the mistake of drinking it early. It has been getting better and better over the years and this was my last bottle. The Port houses have always shown a reluctance to declare consecutive vintages, although there are exceptions, and usually take the best wine from a non-decalered vintage to issue a single quinta Port, in this case from the Vargellas property, the wine from which forms the backbone of Taylors vintage Port. This wine has become fairly light garnet in colour and has a very nice nose of spice, pear and a little anise. Sweet entry and a smooth palate with raisin and toasted cashew elements and a very nice lingering finish. I sized this up as being quite good back when I got it in the 1980s; I wish I had realized it would become this good and delayed drinking it another 10 years!

1996 Ch. Lafaurie Peyraguey – medium amber with a rich sweet nose of spice, muscat grape, apricot, coconut, orange rind and pineapple in this Sauternes. Not at all heavy, more elegant and medium length.

Nice thanks