Superb wines for the New Year 2013
January 26, 2013
What a special evening with wine lovers in Washington D.C. shortly after the New Year. It is not often that the wine of the night – if one must be chosen – is the bubbly at the start, but such was the case on 3 January. Many thanks to Chris Bublitz for bringing one of the most magnificent Chardonnay based Champagnes money can buy: the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1996. From memory, I am now writing almost two weeks after the dinner, this wine was as opulent as it was precise. Just great stuff and of course now expensive. But for a special occasion, do not hesitate. 1996 is one of the very best vintages ever from Champagne.
We had two other Champagnes but neither came close to this glorious 1996. I brought a Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut 2000, which had lovely fine bubbles, but remained somewhat metallic and light. Perhaps we did not give it a long enough chance? It did get better in glass.
I liked even more the Nicolas Maillart Champagne 1er Cru Brut Platine (non vintage). It was more expressive with touches of acidulated red fruit, and plenty of flavorful energy. Thanks to Randy McFarlane for buying this bottle just before the dinner.
Among the dry whites, we enjoyed a butterscotch flavored Domaine Michel Niellon Chassagne Montrachet Clos de la Maltroie 1er Cru 1996, which conveyed adequate freshness. Perhaps a touch tired, lacking some verve. But for 1996 white Burgundy, pretty good – in the sense that it was not suffering from overt premature oxidation.
Now the Henri Boillot Meursault Les Perrieres 1er Cru 2004 was an excellent example of a how a vintage in Burgundy could be awful for reds, yet rather good for whites (and vice-versa). It is an example of the former in 2004. I recall very much enjoying the crispy qualities of this Meursault, which also conveyed adequate richness. A fine drink!
We then enjoyed a German Spätlese. very mineral like Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese (Nahe) 1990. It combined exotic fruit with pure inorganic earthiness with excellent acidity. I loved drinking this wine with the duck rillettes, because the acidity cut through the richness very well.
I particularly enjoyed the Chateau Meyney St Estephe 1989 which I had brought. It was an excellent cru bourgeois, and a wine that is savory and rich, with fine backbone. This was a pleasure to drink and illustrates yet again the success of Cordier wines from the 1980s, including Gruaud Larose and Talbot.
Next came a pair of Bordeaux from the 1960s. The La Mission Haut Brion Graves 1964 proved good, combining fruit with typical Graves smokiness, but it seemed a bit over the hill, displaying some dead leaf aspects. On the other hand, the Chateau Beychevelle St Julien 1961 conveyed a beautifully perfumed nose that appealed over and over. The palate was refined – very St Julien – if perhaps not as concentrated as other 1961s I have had (Latour comes to mind, but also Figeac). Now, I have not had that many 1961s so cannot place this lovely Beychevelle on a grid for Bordeaux 1961, but it exuded lovely cedar and minerality with mature fruit. Should you have any bottles, do not hesitate to open. A delight.
We then tasted a pair of impressive Leoville Las Cases St Julien. Now this is a superb estate in St Julien, and many a critic would easily put this in a first growth category: a veritable super second. While the Leoville Las Cases 1975 I brought was delicious, the Leoville Las Cases 1982 was more impressive. Almost ten days after the tasting (there was still a good amount of wine in the bottle), I tried it again (having taken it home) and it was still nice! This wine is still evolving on the early side and will last a very long time. See the video below:
What a series. I lost my virginity for Domaine de la Romanee Conti’s La Tache Grand Cru. I have never had this wine before, and we enjoyed a La Tache 1970. According to more experienced palates, 1970 may not be particulary great in Burgundy, but this wine had such a delicate aroma and palate. It was subtle in its expressions of spice and red fruit and then silky smooth on the palate. I just kept going back to this as much as possible and it was my favorite Burgundy of the evening.
Then came the Domaine Jean Hudelot Musigny Grand Cru 1969. The nose was every bit as good as La Tache, perhaps more floral. But the palate was less impressive; I noted some light oxidation and some pinched aspects on the mid palate, but it was showing something akin to “echoes of its past.” It was in any case a fine experience to taste my first 1969 Burgundy!
It was then time to have three wines from Vosne Romanee and one proved to be my second favorite of all the Burgundies, albeit too young…
First off, the Domaine Leroy Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts 2001. From memory, I liked its rich fruit aspects on the nose and palate. It seemed quite concentrated and tasty. But the next wine really wowed me. The Alain Hudelot-Noellat Romanée St. Vivant 2002 was just so focused in its expression of black and red fruit, very precise on the palate and tonic, although it was far too young. One could feel how this wine, with its beautiful balance, pureness of primary fruit expression, and superb juicy ripeness, will get much better in a few years, probably in about ten years. The two main indicators were the fine aromatics and the length. The Joseph Drouhin Romanée St. Vivant 2001 was not as impressive, not as spherical in its somewhat cooler blue fruit expression and perhaps not as linear and precise on the palate. Still, it was a fine drink to be sure.
Then came an excellent northern Rhone wine, the Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2001. Classically Cote Rotie, with iron and bacon notes combined with white floral aromatics. There was so much vigor on the palate, initiated by an impressive enveloping attack and lovely dry spice aromatics. Its body was of medium plus concentration, and the palate was very smooth with lift on the finish. Wow! I am glad to have one more bottle…
Château de Malle 1924. This was the second oldest Sauternes I have ever had (the oldest was Raymond Lafon 1921). Toffee and dry fruit on the nose, with a pleasing palate, that has lost much sweetness. Refined palate.
By the time we got to the Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles 2000, I could not help but adore its rich and varied fruit and spice expressions. A lovely wine. I also liked very much the Grahams Port 1977. It was classic vintage port at a certain plateau, displaying plenty of mature fruit and dry tobacco. The palate was rich and savory.