Enjoying life with Palmer, Clos St Hune, and more…

London Wine Fair wines and more: wines tasted in May 2011

Making new wine connections, traveling and tasting. Life is too short not to enjoy good – nay, great wine, eh? Life is meant to appreciate. Stop and smell the roses. Stop and drink some wine. Let’s start with a small vertical of Chateau Palmer. Commercial director Bernard de Laage de Meux was at the London Wine Fair this month for an invitation only tasting, and we tried the following wines:

Wines in bold, I liked. Red bold, I loved. When underlined, something very special!

2004 Alter Ego. This is the second wine which is one of the best seconds in Bordeaux. Made from grapes not quite good enough to be in Palmer, it can be nonetheless very good. I think I had a faulty bottle though because there was a hint of nail polish in this particular glass. No note.

2008 Alter Ego. Wow, I recall liking this en primeur and from bottle, just fine. Indeed lovely aromas, floral, conveying an overall elegant impression, polished on the palate. Fruits include red cherry and blackberry. Some light licorice. A freshness on the palate, with a fine finish.

Chateau Palmer 2006. A very refined nose. Floral aspects again, but more focused. Hint of vanilla with fine ripe black fruit. Certain tannic feel to the palate, especially on the back end. Seems more Pauillac than Margaux at this stage, tannins firming up, but much finesse. 56% Cabernet and 44% Merlot. Much promise.

Chateau Palmer 2004. More fruit on the nose than the 2006, if a bit less potential for complexity in the long run. The palate is certainly more delicate and less tannic than the 2006, seems as if the age difference is more than just two years, as I think it is already drinking well. Bernard did not think it was ready yet, and I see his point that there are no tertiary aspects, but if you like your Bordeaux on the youthful side, this will not disappoint. Indeed, as it sat in glass, I did get some hints of forest floor, wild strawberry, expressed elegantly.

Chateau Palmer 2000. At first this was quite spicy on the nose, displaying a typical Bordeaux profile of earthy plum like aromas and flavors. A subtle tobacco aspect as well. 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Merlot. The palate was layered, showing subtle depth and creeping intensity. With time in glass, it showed off dark cherry, cigar box, almost perfumed lead pencil shavings and refined tannins on the texture. This is just a tad muted today, but I suspect in about 5-10 years it will really shine. 95, with potential for higher scoring later.

Chateau Palmer 1998. Almost slutty after the 2000, at least that was my first impression. A hint of funk blows off after the initial nose, displaying rich, ripe fruit on the mid palate and just a hint of tannic edginess on the finish. Bernard said this is the wine to drink today, and I would agree, as one gets sheer pleasure from the ripe fruit combined with truffle notes. Certainly far more evolved than the 2000. Seems to have more Merlot, too.

Four more Bordeaux and a special Alsatian

Chateau Du Tertre 1982. An initial band-aid nose blows off to reveal a somewhat mentholated nose with spice and plum like fruit. There is just a slight sweet aspect to this, almost Tawny port like, but a mere echo of that. The wine is certainly on its plateau, and not going anywhere further. Somewhat a light touch in terms of texture, but with enough flavor intensity to enjoy today. Not as intense as when I had last tried it, back in 2001.

Chateau Cantenac Brown Margaux 1989. An initial nose of brownies seems positive, but there is also an unripe green coming through. Somewhat stem like. And the palate shows more than a hint of alcohol. Overall a clumsy disjointed feel, which indicates that the wine is close to falling apart.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 1994. A cooler nose of blueberry and spice, with notions of milk chocolate. The palate is both rich and refined, reflecting the excellent terroir from this great St Julien estate no doubt. Is it perhaps a tad tough on the finish? The tannins of 1994 were not quite the smoothest, and here we have further evidence. Still, the flavor is reminiscent of plum and cedar, very Bordeaux. Fine.

Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 1988. Cigar box, subtle richness on the aromas with a hint of truffle. The attack is sexy smooth, with excellent sap on the mid palate, a hint of tobacco flavor combined with chocolate. The finish thins out just a bit – it is a 1988… Is there just a hint of green pepper? I really do not mind because the overall feel is complex and rich without being thick. Lovely overall and the bottle that everyone loved most, except for the Clos St Hune Riesling 1985… 94

Clos St Hune Trimbach Riesling 1985. A tannic white, with no oak aging. Light butter, caramel aspect, salty too. The palate is mineral like, with licorice, later showing off white peach and pear flavors. A lovely youthful color that puts many dry whites to shame. A glacial aging pace. Finishes with wet stone minerality and juicy fruit. A sublime dry white, that amounted to an epiphany for me. Superb! I am not really so much into giving points to wine…  especially near perfect points, but this qualifies.

Tasting at 28-50 Wine Workshop in London: a mighty fine wine venue…

Sylvain Cathiard Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Suchots 1999. Lascivious elegance? I feel some alcohol but not so much, rather enjoying the elegant richness of this wine, still youthful but such a pleasure to drink. We are not talking New World forward Pinot here. You can taste the earth, but also the sexy fruit, and even a bit of oak derivation which took this down a notch for yours truly, but it should harmonize later, I hope!

Frederic Esmonin Griottes Chambertin Grand Cru 1990. Like the above, 13.5% alcohol, and older school? I got a bit too much brett for my taste, but it blew off a tad with time in glass. I loved the damp earth and distinct cherry and the palate showed a grand cru like depth that outclassed the Vosne Romanee. Still, I had a hard time picking out which of the two I preferred. I suppose that the Vosne Romanee has a brighter future, but if you like more mature wines, this is your ticket.

Bell Hill New Zealand Pinot Noir 2006. Now what was interesting was that I also got to try the 2007 at Decanter’s Fine New World Wine Encounter the next day – here a link to my reports – and this was at first a bit too much for my palate. I sensed the alcohol a bit, but with time in glass, it actually improved. There is good precision on the mid palate after the initial whoooooosh. Only 1956 bottles produced, so a special cuvee, and rather expensive. 14.5% alcohol.

Old Block Shiraz 1996. This one, too, did not really impress me at first. I got some matchstick on the nose, and a somewhat drying finish.

Leoville Las Cases 1989. Lovely cigar box, cedar nose and flavors. The palate is not quite as rich as the 1990, but the sip I got of this – thanks to the owner of the restaurant – reminded me how good really good Bordeaux can be…

Roberto Voerzio Barolo La Morra Cerequio 2000. What a flamboyant nose here, very rich on the palate, its 14.5% alcohol on display – just a tad hot – but in a rather exciting way, with complex aspects like minerals, even pine like freshness. A wine that certainly awakens the palate.

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