Thursday, April 03, 2008
Ancient wines to delicious excess
This morning I woke up feeling like a rose, despite an evening of serious wine consumption (and I won't tell anyone about the half-bottle of NV Laurent-Perrier I shared with the charming wife of a friend at a hotel bar prior...)
So, we happy ancient wine aficionados of François Audouze's Académie des Vins Anciens met up at the restaurant Macéo, where Mr. Audouze himself had, some hours earlier, singlehandedly opened a lineup of wines that would be enjoyed over the course of the next few hours with dinner.
NV Besserat de Bellefon Brut (with 15 years of cellaring) - this we drank before being seated. Honey and hazelnut on the nose, it showed few bubbles; just a light frizziness. On the palate it had integrated a sweetness and become a fine, round drink.
1998 Le Brun de Neuville Blanc de Blancs - this was a first champagne served at the table; it was sharp and young with sour citrus tastes and a very quick attack on the palate.
1978 Dom Pérignon Rosé (from magnum) - an awesome nose of crushed raspberries and strawberries, and tastes of ripe strawberries on the palate, this was nonetheless quite streamlined with great finesse, and a pleasing bitterness on the finish; long, long on the palate.
1966 Calvet Meursault - expressive Meursault nose. I was worried I would find this over-the-hill, as I don't usually like (or should I say "get"?) older whites; here, though, while there was an original walnutty vin-jaune note, that blew away and the wine fleshed out into a classic Meursault; a little hollow on the mid-palate, but with a fine, round finish that came bouncing back at the end.
1949 Ph. Meunier Puligny-Montrachet - the nose on this was discreet, almost inexistent. Vigorous swirling refused to bring it out. The original impression on the palate was of a much less seductive wine than the Meursault, less immediately pleasing, but its acidity was well-balanced and it showed excellent Puligny typicity. Then, when tasted with the starter dish of marinated white fish on a little tower of quinoa, fascinating crunchy, toasty notes came forth. A wine made for quinoa, apparently!
1975 Château Montrose - the first of the reds were poured, and I stuck my nose in this glass. Ooh. A sumptuous nose on it. Just lush and powerful. On the palate, it was powerful and silky both, with fruit and ash; I loved it. Outstanding wine.
1964 Château Brane Cantenac - cloudy purple in the glass, this had a much less "flattering" nose on it than the Montrose, but was more complex; it was fascinatingly backward yet unabashed about it. Curiously, then, its tastes were all fruit and softness. It tired in the glass before long, but it was a pleasing wine.
1955 Château Moulinet - another incredible surprise; a very dark color in the glass, it gave off aromas of dried rose petal and lilac, almost like pot-pourri; it was lush and round once tasted, with poised, offhand balance. Wonderful stuff.
1965 Château Lafite-Rothschild - lighter in color than the precedent, this had a slight, very slight whiff of cork on the nose. It was silky, complex and long, and I don't think the cork taint was present on the palate. Seamless and very long, utter finesse.
1934 Pomerol "mise de Luze" - this had a very "confited" nose of prunes; it was compact, somewhat confited and skewed a little toward acidity on the palate; it was not up to the level of the others.
1921 Château Rauzan-Ségla - somewhat cloudy in the glass, this was also "confited" on the nose, similarly to the Pomerol, but less so. And what I loved about this wine (I loved this wine) is that it was utterly "flawed" yet utterly seductive. I loved its tastes of compoted fruits; it had sweet charm.
1969 Louis Latour Corton "Clos de la Vigne" - Hm! As someone who loves Burgundy, I went weak in the knees when I smelled this, as though finding in its aromas of pinot noir and soil the memory of pleasures past and to come. And tasted, it did not disappoint; it was lacy, long, complex, brilliant. My favorite red.
1964 Clos de Tart - smelled after the Corton but before tasting either, this gave off a nose of mint and menthol; on the palate, it had tastes of moss and dark fruit; it wasn't as sensual as the Corton, but it had aged well, showed no signs of tiring, and was a powerful Burgundy with a very distinctive style.
1953 Pommard Epeneaux (prod. unknown) - dark and brooding, this was like a punch in the nose after the heady grace of the Corton and Clos de Tart. A taste of grilled steak at the end!
1934 (?) Jaffelin Bourgogne "Grand Vin des Caves du Chapitre" - this was off; corked or compromised.
1959 Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape - a second strike in a row, this wine had seen better days. Didn't linger over it.
1959 Vega Sicilia Unico - though this still had the power of a Vega Sicilia Unico, this is the second time I have had the 1959 and it did not show as well as the previous time. A sugary, stewed side was peeking out. Enjoyable, but not grandiose.
Now, as people were starting to talk a little louder and walk around a little more, we moved on to the dessert wines (and my notes grew more sparse):
1957 Truilhé Langoiran moelleux - this is either from the appellation Cadillac or Premières Côtes de Bordeaux; it had a petrolly nose to it; I moved on quickly.
1962 Château Sigalas Rabaud - classic, elegant Sauternes. As the French would say, "Rien à redire" - i.e. it gives you just what you want from it.
1934 Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives SGN - when I taste old sweet Alsace wines, I am always shocked by their supernatural ability to age. This was, though it did have a bit of petrol on the nose, incredibly young. It is also the lucky winner of a tasting note I can no longer read: "slight apisanchare"?!
1969 Château Suduiraut - another stunner of a Sauternes. I only got a taste of this from someone else's glass, but it was lovely.
1932 Rivesaltes ambré Cuvée Prémisses - dark, dark toffee color; amazingly light fare in the mouth (I don't know why I always have the image of Rivesaltes as heavy; they are closer to port in alcohol level, no?); it was delicate, with an amusing maple syrup finish. I liked it a lot.
1937 Domaine du Pin Premières Côtes de Bordeaux moelleux - another great surprise from an unprestigious appellation, this was refreshing and had aged perfectly. It was also as dark as toffee, but it was light and nicely balanced. I drank more of it than I should have.
At least, afterward, I was able to locate my coat in the cloakroom and had the good fortune of having put my umbrella in my pocket, so was able to bid François Audouze and the other revelers good night and head out into the rain with a light if somewhat imprecise step...