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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

On Mature Bordeaux‏ (And Others)

It is rare these days that I taste a wine and don't review it - the odd bottle of dull plonk about which there is nothing to say, a textbook local wine on holiday costing a few euros.
 
For me, the rigour of analysing a wine enough to be able to describe it in a tasting note is all part of the challenge of learning about wine.
 
Dull wines are those whose styles are too familiar - I crave novelty and variety. And when I find it, I want to share the experience.
 
For me, wines are to be considered and discussed as much as consumed; wine-tasting as an intellectual activity.
 
If that makes me a rather geeky and overly-analytical dinner party guest, I can't help myself; we invited round a group of wine loving friends to try some mature Bordeaux, none of which needed a review. But I feel the need to put down some thoughts anyway.
 
We started with a fresh, textbook Canard-Duchene fizz whilst the children played in the garden, before sitting down to begin the serious business of assessing some mature wines.
 
Petite Arvine 2012, Switzerland on first opening, simple and citrussy, but with just a bit of air, it becomes weightier with floral, beeswaxy sweet spice. Very pure and adept. Just like a Swiss watch. Good.
 
Stands up to and cuts through our starters of griddled vegetables, asparagus in pancetta and mayonnaise.
 
From here, we dived into Bordeaux of varying maturity. Assessing these is a different game altogether.

Note that these wines were mostly bought at auction as mixed cases with no provenance details, so quality is, inevitably, variable.
 

Ch d'Angludet, Margux 1967 - not quite the oldest thing in the room. The fruit is rosehips, the tannins fully resolved and what is left is the acidity and tertiary flavours of an aged sherry. If fruit is the youthful plumpness of a wine, the acidity is its bone-structure; this was sallow-cheeked, bony and past its peak but still focused and venerable.

 
Ch Branaire-Ducru, St Julien 1976 almost a decade younger, but not in such good shape - twice decanted, it was still cloudy. It is oxidized, the fruit is all gone, it is somewhere between a decades-old tawny and an oloroso. Interesting academically, but we don't go back for more.
 
La Reserve de Leoville-Barton, St Julien, 1990 good fruit, balance and elegance let down by a lack of substance. What's there is perfectly fine, but it's rather slight and disappointing. A textbook second wine, perhaps?
 
Ch Clerc Milon, Pauillac 1995 previously decanted, this still has some grip and clearly is not short of stuffing. As well as fruit and structure, there is a savoury minerality. Elegant and still muscular. Very Good.
 
Patache d'Aux, Medoc 2003 (magnum) I find this one easier to understand - not least because it's my own contribution. Good, mature, mid-level Medoc; from a hot year, it's at a peak now and won't improve further. But there's fruit, depth, balance and an harmonious texture. The only let-down is a slightly alcoholic finish.
 
For me, it's a solid Good - or 15-16 pointer if you prefer scores. Jancis gives it a 12, meaning borderline undrinkable.
 
La Reserve de Leoville-Barton, St Julien 2006 a very different wine - still youthful and primary. Harmonious, fresh and elegant.
 
Ararat brandy 5yo, Armenia we finish with an Armenian brandy. With just five year's aging it still has the exuberence of youth, but this is tempered with sweet vanilla-spice smoothness. A colorful, characterful diamond in the rough - not without a degree of sophistication, but not entirely polished.
 
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