TN TN: top 80s Bordeaux

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Graeme Gee, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. NOBLEROTTERSSYDNEY - TOP 80S BORDEAUX - 360 Bar & Dining, Sydney (6/08/2018)

    Some phenomenal generosity from Gordon tonight as a celebration of the Rotters’ 30 years. We toasted Bruce – in the health wars just now – with the Dom & proceeded to a collection of awesome clarets. A couple were decanted immediately before dinner, the rest a few hours previously. All wines were still filled into the neck; a tribute to correct storage. Like all wine dinners, you tend to start with what you think will be the lighter of the night’s wines. It’s not often such a technique leads you to drink Ch Latour up front, but there you go…
    • 2004 Dom Perignon Champagne Metamorphosis Iris Van Herpen Label - France, Champagne
      {cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] I understand this to be the same bottled wine as the ‘regular’ labelled DP. It has a gorgeous brioche & yeast nose, with a gentle smoky touch. The palate is crisp and generous, with incredibly fine but persistent bubbles. It has a distinctly textural feel – almost gently tannic – to it, with a long dry finish. Specific flavours are hard to pinpoint; classic lees/champagne complexity but so polished and fine. Quite wonderful.
    • 1988 Château Latour Grand Vin - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
      {cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] Attractive, developed nose of cedar, cigars, sandalwood and classic aged cabernet currants. There a faint suggestion of herbs but no green here at all, and the nose is intense and fragrant. The palate is about medium-bodied, integrated and seductive. It’s generously claret-flavoured, not austere, impeccably balanced, with even presence along the tongue and a lingering gentle finish. Soft dusty tannins and medium acid still give it great structure. Seriously impressive wine. Decanted about half an hour before service.
    • 1989 Château Lafite Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
      {cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] After the Latour, this was at once for confected-smelling, with additional notes of earth, malt and meat. It also had finely-gritty medium tannins still obviously present, which tended to dominate the finish a bit. Medium-bodied, it seemed in some ways a bit rustic (although this is in the context of top-shelf claret!) but not unattractively so. Has just a little bit of mongrel about it, but shows no sign of falling over. Long finish, although it’s weaker on the back-palate than the front. Double-decanted a few hours earlier. Seemed in better shape than the last bottle in 2015 (same provenance obviously!). Will hold on this showing.
    • 1989 Château Haut-Brion - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
      {cork, 13%} [Gordon] The only wine of the night giving cause for concern on opening, with a near-saturated cork and dubious nose; this was at the double-decant some hours in the late afternoon. By the time we got to it ~7.30pm, the aromas were restrained but pure; graphite, cedar and cassis. The palate is mirror-smooth, medium-bodied, with gentle fine dusty tannin, tasting of graphite and tobacco and leaves and perfectly-judged ripeness. It’s medium-weight, with a longish finish. Objectively, it’s outstanding, but there is a slightly brittle, bony feel to it, a thinning of the texture which drops it a notch below the previous transcendent bottles, especially the one in 2015. Impressive as this was, I think it a touch sub-par by its own exalted standards.
    • 1989 Château Léoville Las Cases - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
      {cork, 13.5%} [Gordon] Aging currants, leather, cedar; wonderful nose. Perfect structure on the palate; mature blend of red/black cabernet fruit with classic cedar/oak twist; maturing but fresh and alive. About medium/full-bodied, maybe the impression is heightened by the impeccable balance along the even palate, and the long finish. Acid is unobtrusive, medium dusty tannins provide a structural frame. The archetypal great Bordeaux red; this wasn’t outclassed by anything else on the table tonight (ie. the four first growths). It really doesn’t get any better than this. Double-decanted a few hours prior.
    • 1986 Penfolds Grange - Australia, South Australia
      {cork, 13.7%} [Gordon] The cat amongst the pigeons tonight, although since it was Max Schubert’s original ambition to make a ‘claret equivalent’ in concept I guess its inclusion is justified. Served alongside the Mouton, these two biggest wines of the night made a fascinating contrast. In a line-up of great clarets this sticks out like the proverbial; the meat, tar, dill and coconut somewhat jarring amongst the cedary subtlety of the Bordeaux. And although this was more obviously about fruit and flavour – plums & roses & tar – it had a balanced full-bodied richness and depth, with medium/high powdery tannins, fine acid and a long, even, powerful finish. Stands on a different peak to the Bordeaux, but at a similar altitude. Like Dvorak compared to the Mouton’s Brahms! Double-decanted a few hours earlier.
    • 1986 Château Mouton Rothschild - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
      {cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] Drinking this alongside the Grange tends to just highlight the differences between the wines and runs the risk of distracting from their greatness. The nose is has moved a little from overt youth, but it’s a long way from an aged wine. Instead, it’s essence of currants, or cabernet (despite being 20% merlot & franc). Cedar, malt, and rich black fruit coat the tongue. It’s full-bodied, with plenty of fine chalky tannin on offer, with richness of texture, depth, and concentration. A magisterial wine, with a long even finish. Might just be one of the longest-lived dry wines of all time. Double-decanted a few hours earlier.
    • 1986 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
      {cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] The 86 Mouton is a tough act to follow, but this wasn’t disgraced. It’s evidently aged, with compost and leather aromas, maybe a touch musty after the Paulliac powerhouse. The palate is lovely though; currants, olives, a touch of mixed herbs and a leafy ripeness. Medium-bodied, and still has some medium weight tannins. Feels a bit looser than the top-shelf wines tonight but that’s just context; this would be a star any other time. Medium length finish; at peak drinking but seems likely to hold a while. Decanted just before dinner.
    • 1986 Château Gruaud Larose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
      {cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] Bit of a favourite now, this old bruiser. Lots of plummy, chocolately, flavours and aromas. Graphite too. Hefty on the palate; a bit less refined than the other reds. Some compost/farmyard character, a bit of earth, touch of mushroom, but in a good way. Medium-full body, the gently gritty tannins are soft now. Still wonderfully drinkable. Double-decanted a few hours earlier.
    • 1977 Dow Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto
      {cork} [Gordon] Decanted just before dinner. Aged nose; camphor, leather, furniture polish, nuts. A really chewy, savoury port, heady, with a mirror-smooth palate. Medium weight? Didn’t seem especially sweet to me. Is there some oxidation here? A hard one to call for me without much experience here.
  2. Wonderful Graeme, thanks for sharing the notes.

    Another (relative) mixed report for where '89 HB is at.
  3. WRT the question of oxidation of the Dow’s I’d have said that your bottle sounds spot on. Dryness is a Dow characteristic relative to other ports. For me they usually have a dryness along with a dry spice character (and in the best bottles a touch of dried flowers). Given that you are of my vintage I’d ask if you remember the smell of window putty? If I had a port (or almost any other dry red) and there was dryness in conjunction with window putty on the nose and on the palate then I’d be calling oxidation.

    The other bottles sound great by the way......
  4. Interesting note on the ‘89 LLC, I love that wine in the late ‘90 and bought a few magnums, down to one last bottle, probably time to refill.
  5. Interesting notes Graeme and thanks. Gordon is a generous fellow. Surprising and interesting that the LLC 89 showed so strongly in such an illustrious line up. Paul Dellar picked up a case for a song a couple of years ago. I am less surprised by Ducru 1986. Despite its proximity to the 1988-90 Ducru horror show I have never had a bad bottle and have enjoyed many inspiring ones.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  6. Obviously good provenance (storage) is key at the 30 year mark.
    Gordon bailed on buying 1st growths when the 95s came out & the price were usurious!
    And I think he sold a lot of the early-90s wines when prices were silly even for those mediocre vintages, so this is all free drinking I guess.
    I checked local auction prices here and some 89 LLC sold early this year for ~£150 ea, which if you were sure of the storage would be a pretty tidy price.
    That's only 10% more than the current release Mt Edelstone, to reference my other thread.
    I know which I'd rather drink now!
  7. When you do these Noble Rotters tastings Graeme do you have a vote at the end of the evening on wine of the night? Sometimes here we adopt the Comte Flaneur 3-2-1 method where each participant chooses their top three wines: three points for their top wine, two for their second and one for their third. Often the Comte can’t add up at that stage of the evening, and neither can the participants follow the simple voting rule. Sounds like from your narrative that the Mouton and the Grange were slugging it out for most elevated part of the podium. At a 1989 tasting in NYC in 2009 Lafite, surprisingly, stood head and shoulders above everything, notably Haut-Brion and La Mission. This was among BWE bretheren - some of the most educated Bordeaux palates on the east coast of the USA.
  8. There's an informal WotN, sometimes, if something is head-and-shoulders above the rest. But not a formal vote usually. For on-the-night pleasure, I think it might have been a toss-up between the Latour & Leoville, on the grounds they seemed nearest peak drinking. The Mouton - and to a lesser extent Grange - were more a come-back later proposition.
    It's harder on a night like this - usually it wouldn't be too tricky to find a consensus WotN (once you adjust for those voting for their own wine!)

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