The 300 – (of mature Bordeaux)

……Not – as you might expect (given that this is a wine blog) a reference to sword-wielding Spartan hoplites.  Nor indeed to the eponymous – and gruelling – workout programme of said film.  The 300 or, to be accurate, 298 points in question of course, being those ascribed by Robert Parker – and consequently highly unlikely to contribute to the sculpting of a six-pack….

Perhaps topically – given that it is currently en primeur time, and that apparently another great vintage is upon us with 2015 – the occasion arose to drink three highly rated mature Bordeaux (over dinner for four at L’Anima in the private room, amidst the racks of Italian wines…..!)  On the face of it, drinking French classics in an Italian restaurant might be considered perverse, but it actually worked very well: unfussy food, as ever, providing the best possible canvas for the brushstrokes of vinous excellence.

And the wines.   Well: 1986 Lafite-Rothschild, 1989 Montrose  and 1989 Haut-Brion for the reds. So, clearly, none too shoddy as line-ups of mature Bordeaux go.   But – naturally – incomplete without the judicious addition of ‘refreshment’ in the shape of 2012 Kongsgaard Chardonnay, a 2005 Criots-Batard-Montrachet from PYCM (Pierre-Yves Colin Morey) and 2002 Meursault Chevalieres, Coche-Dury.  The wines were served in two flights: three whites, three reds and single blind.

Simple: or so you might think !

 2012 Kongsgaard Chardonnay (94+?/100)

(Just to complicate things a little, this was the only wine served double blind) to three out of four diners.   Honeyed, rich and peachy on the nose initially, with fruit completely overshadowing any notion of oak or minerality when first poured.  Which led some of our group to be unsure of grape varietal ~ although there was a general agreement it hailed from pastures new (world).  Full-bodied and fleshy on the palate, with a toffee / caramel finish.  Delicious.  Young.  On the basis of the first hour in the glass one could be forgiven for assuming this to be somewhat monotone, somewhat simple – but later it tightened and became positively racy and saline.  Which makes me think it actually needs time in the bottle, or at least the decanter.  Very, very good with more to come.

2005 Criots-Batard-Montrachet, PYCM (97/100)

A wow wine, particularly if your taste is for minerality and freshness.   This was (understandably) assumed to be Coche by two tasters because of the characteristic reductive, herbaceous spearmint and gunflint scent.   Textured, creamy and yet extremely bright, with grapefruit and lavender flavours and aromas.  Gravelly, and a bit savoury – oyster shell and smoked nuts.   Excellent.  Really five star stuff.  Now, or in five+ years.  No sign of any pre-mox whatsoever.  Fullish bodied.  Gorgeous.

2002 Meursault Chevalieres, J F Coche-Dury (92/100)

Hints of the ‘Coche’ scent I have tried to describe above.   But in this case, low-key and slightly muted.  I tracked this over the course of the evening, thinking it was eventually going to start pumping out more scent, flavour and volume.   But it never did, really.   At it’s best I picked up hints of oatmeal and bacon fat.  Not showing any sign of waning, but didn’t really improve in the glass much either.   Just very good.  Nice, subtle: but no fireworks.  Medium weight.

1989 Ch. Montrose (94?/100)

The second deepest-coloured red.  Identifiably less fine than the other two aromatically with savoury, barnyard scents as well as ironey blood notes and a touch of orange peel.   Forceful, masculine and savoury on the palate.  This had been double decanted by it’s owner, ‘Legal Eagle’, for several hours.   I felt it became progressively more astringent and less charming in the glass.  On a stand-alone basis this might have delighted, in the company it kept, this was definitely the least attractive red. I also wonder if the extended decanting did not serve it well ?

1986 Ch. Lafite-Rothschild (96+???/100)

*Note to self: try tasting and analysing wines before you declare confidently what they are.

(Embarassingly, I took this to be the HB because it had the most exuberant scent, which I had pre-decided was going to belong to Haut-Brion).

The darkest colour of the three wines.  Perfumed.  Intense.  Initially I caught a whiff of violet and tobacco and jumped to my (erroneous) conclusion.  Later (especially after seeing the label!) its Pauillac origins became apparent – swirling scents of pencil lead, leather, mint and wax soared from the glass.  Long and very flavourful.   But this also remains quite acidic and also rather tannic. There was considerable speculation about the future of this wine. Certainly it remains intense and vivid, with primary currant fruit overlaid with hints of lanolin and eucalyptus.  But the tannins remain fairly stern and the overall impression is one of classicism – and austerity.   For me it isn’t a hundred points, now at least.  And I am always sceptical as to whether the tannin and acid will resolve enough for it ever to be charming – as opposed to impressive – which it certainly is.  Didn’t budge in the glass.  It may well be that this is indeed still a very young old wine.

1989 Ch. Haut-Brion (99/100)

The palest colour of the three wines, although still a good deep garnet, showing considerable evolution.  Less overt than the Lafite on the nose and my first impression was that there was a touch of acidity or volatility which also pushed me toward mis-identifying the two wines.  As that blew away, a harmonious nose of violet, meat, spice and coffee emerged.  By far the most appealing texture of the three wines. Silky smooth and layered.  Seems to be fully mature and very seductive indeed with flavours of blueberry, spice, raisin, coffee and smokey embers.  Gorgeous wine.   It doesn’t – quite – match my memory of the last time I tasted the 1990 which seemed to have just a bit more energy ?

All in all this was a lovely evening which, holistically speaking, was worth immeasurably more than the 288+/300 (or indeed 572/600 for both colours of wine).   My thanks to the Legal Eagle, Mr Andrew and Risky Business for their extremely generous contributions (both vinous and political).

If I were to draw conclusions…..it would be that (a) PYCM seems to make consistently excellent white Burgundies at all levels; that (b) Haut-Brion 1989 is lovely, truly lovely – and that (c) I think I maybe becoming marginally less excited by older wines than once was the case…..