My annual tasting dinner – 1985 Bordeaux

My annual tasting dinner is a a time for a dozen wine loving friends come together for a tasting chez nous, with only one “rule”: I supply all the wines and food, and they are not allowed to bring either. It is my way of making sure I a) actually drink the best stuff from my cellar and not let it just accumulate, b) share these wines with loved ones and friends, and c) have a generally thoroughly pleasant time.

Maximin Grunhaus Riesling Kabinett 1999
To my shame I cannot remember the vineyard. This had been in my cellar for a few years and the bottles were in the bottle bank next morning. It was lovely limpid stuff, quite waxy and peachy, with very fine acidity.

Penfolds (Australia) Bin 389 1993
Rich, ripe, mulberry and redcurrant fruit with quite a bright red cherry character. Very smooth, ripe palate. Lots of deep, rich chocolate and ripe berry fruit with masses of pepper and spice. Finishes becomes thick, low-acid and chocolaty, with plenty of alcohol but good fruit. Very good indeed. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

Valdivieso (Chile) Caballo Loco No 1
This was the first ever release of this multi-vintage “super Chilean”, made in a solera system from a whole variety of grapes. It was releases around the same time as the 93 Bin 389 above. Quite dank and vegetal on the nose at first, with a slightly stewed quality. Nice red fruit beneath develops some cedar and spice too. The palate is really quite fine, with lots of richness and a fine, silky weight of black fruit. This is savoury and balanced, with more elegance than the Penfolds. Very good indeed.

Muga (Spain) Rioja Prado Enea 1991
Lovely nose here, with a fragrance of old roses, cedar and a barnyardy note. Red fruits tinged with brown sugar start to emerge. On the palate there is lovely sweetness, with delightful raspberry and red berry fruit. There are hints of marzipan and very sweet oak, but then a dry, redcurrant and light, cherry acidity keeps it savoury. Spicy tannins and oak and good acidity keep this focused into a long finish. Excellent.

Lindemanns (Australia) St George Cabernet Sauvignon 1989
Much more obvious vanillin overlay here: lots of sweet, coconutty notes, ripe, lush and fudge-like black fruits and mint. On the palate it is very sweet and chocolaty, with plenty spice, low acidity, and ripe, softening tannins. It doesn’t really carry through, and finishes slightly soft and simple. Very good.

Dominus (California, Napa) 1987
Beautiful nose: delicate, ethereal notes of cedar and sandalwood, dried blood and game, with wild, brackeny notes and a delicate black fruit core. Fabulous sweetness of fruit on the palate, with super-ripe cassis, lots of vivacious, glossy berry sweetness and then a warming undertow of spices, coffee and cedar pushes through. Though for drinking soon, this ends really quite rich, with sweet, ripe tannins and enough acidity. Excellent/outstanding. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

Leoville-Las-Cases (Bordeaux) Clos du Marquis 1990
There is huge ripeness and forward, plush fruit here. Subtle violet and black cherry notes emerge, but the weight of blackcurrant and plummy fruit pushes through. Lovely palate: real sweetness of fruit that is more solid than the Dominus and quite youthful, with plenty of blackcurrant and dark, bitter-edged blueberry and chocolate. Lovely sweetness throughout, but the elegant tannins and juicy blackcurrant acidity are balanced. Excellent. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

Chateau Monbousquet (St Emilion) 1985
Surprisingly light and slightly washed-out colour. There’s a dank, herbal edge on the nose at first, with gentle, sweet fruit emerging on the palate. There’s a background of coffee, and quite bright acidity that leaves this elegant and not unpleasant, though lacking a little fruit and texture. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

Chateau Pichon-Lalande (Pauillac) 1985
Much deeper with a crimson core. There’s a mintiness here, with some cedary character, and solid, if rather restrained black fruit. The palate still has plenty of ripeness and sweetness, and this is really quite refined, with blackberry and cherry fruit notes, a fine coffeeish warmth, and a vegetal streak adding a chewy, sappy note. Very good length here, in a wine that seems to miss a beat, but is very classy. Very good indeed/excellent. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

Chateau Margaux (Margaux) 1985
Glorious deep colour. Beautiful fragrance here, with a slightly floral, violet aromatic, delicate redcurrant fruit and plenty of pencil-shaving, cedary finesse. There’s also a touch of liquorice or clove in a nose that develops in the glass. The palate has lovely weight and richness, with glossy blackcurrant fruit, a touch of blueberry, and mellow coffee and earthy flavours. It is quite luscious and smooth through the mid-palate, the blackcurranty fruit staying very central. Superb length, with infinite balance and silky, smooth tannins. Excellent/outstanding. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

Cheval Blanc (St Emilion) 1985
Also very dark, with a black coffee-coloured rim. There is coffee on the nose too, with a seductive mocha note and a weight of fudge, black plum and deep, ripe, chocolaty fruit. A totally sumptuous first impression. Spices and clove emerge, with dark Demerara notes. On the palate this is just beautiful: fabulous weight and balsamic thickness, with sweet, full fruit and mouth coating tannins and dry fruit extract. Yet there is such finesse, with silky texture, elegant acidity and the tannins staying purposeful. An absolutely outstanding wine drinking perfectly now, and one of my great Bordeaux experiences. Find this wine using wine-searcher.

The wines above were polished of course, but we also had Kunstler’s Holle Riesling Auslese Trocken 2001 with a fennel gazpacho, and Terrasous Banyuls Ambre Hors d’Age 1986 with a black cherry Tarte Basque. The Riesling was delightfully apple-fruited and just off dry, and the Banyuls was a treat: mellow, toffeed and soft.