Cuisine by Emile Jung, a couple of Clos des Lambrays, a Leoville Barton vertical: life is good!

Nothing beats sharing wine and food with passionate wine lovers, and Saturday 19 June was no exception. It was great to welcome two bloggers I have known now for several years, Jürgen Steinke and his wife Susi, Michael Lux and his wife Valerie, along with one of my all time favorite winemakers in Alsace, Maurice Barthelmé and his wife Marie-Claire (the 2008 vintage at Albert Mann is particularly successful, with an out of this world precise and delicious Schlossberg Riesling), and two other friends, Jean-Marc and Jean-Frederic. The dinner – a slow cooked veal Marengo – was prepared earlier that day by Emile Jung, who basically spoiled us. It is like a Blanquette de Veau, only made with red wine and tomatoes, thus better for the red wines we enjoyed. Emile also prepared the rice as a pilaf, with chopped onions and then Paris and Girolle mushrooms and diced red pepper, all pan seared.

We started things off with a bottle of Raymond Boulard Petraea Champagne, according to Michael only one of two Champagne producers who use the Solera technique, blending a long stretch of vintages (the other being Jacques Selosse): 1997-1998-1999-2000-2001-2002-2003-2004 and 25% 2005. I liked its complexity (mix of Fino Sherry with bright citric aspects) and fine bubbles. As Michael said, this mix of 60% Pinot Noir and 20% each of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier was almost more like a still wine than Champagne, indeed very vinous. Thank you to Michael for bringing this.

We then had a couple of whites from Mouton Rothschild, their Aile d’Argent in 2005 and 2004. The 2005 was noticeably darker, and, frankly, not that interesting. Too much oak dominating whatever fruit was there. In fact, it had a Sherry like aspect, although most tasters did not call it oxidized. We all agreed that it was just over-oaked and somewhat typical of 2005 whites in Bordeaux: lacking verve. A different story with the 2004; although one year older, it looked two or three years younger, and was clearly the better wine, it was far more balanced. I bought the 2005 in Strasbourg; the 2004 was a leftover bottle from a tasting I organized for Mouton Rothschild and the Grand Hyatt in Dubai in November 2008.

We then went to the main table and started enjoying some tartines: basically toasted breads with a variety of spreads – including hummus, eggplant, olive tapenade, tomato confit and feta. We also enjoyed some raw vegetables, salamis and French pate en croutes with salmon and chicken. Simple food for a blind tasting that went a bit awry. I had originally planned to have Cote de Nuits 2003 tasted blind, and asked for that from participants, but only Michael brought one. So what was going to be a single pirate – a German Pinot Noir from Jürgen – turned out to be the rule. We ended up having just one Burgundy and three non Burgundies. Well, at least they were all 2003s.

Wine 1 (Clos des Lambrays 2003): Now, I did not take detailed notes, if any, but from memory, we liked the nose here, or at least I did.  I found the palate just a bit less appealing, perhaps showing that 2003 heat? But overall, this was a very nice wine. Thank you to Michael for bringing this.

Wine 2 (Pinot Noir “F” Blanck Domaine Paul Blanck Alsace 2003): Yes, this showed wet sock. But it was a sophisticated sock. Certainly Pinot in character. It got mixed reviews. Some called it rustic. Certainly not as smooth or (nearly as) sensual as the above. I liked it, though. Tasting it again the morning after and it has actually improved a bit – it has become smoother. One of the better Alsatian Pinots I have had, and no doubt 2003’s heat came in handy. I decanted this into a Burgundy bottle so it would not be obvious as to its origin.

Wine 3 (Weingut Friedrich Becker Kammerberg Spätburgunder Schweigener Sonnenberg Pfalz 2003): Jürgen’s bottle. When I first sniffed, I found it very appealing. But, yes, there was volatile – the telltale nail polish aromas associated with that kind of acidity. The tannins were also a bit rough, but this was showing much character. Interesting how one side of the table, including Maurice of Albert Mann, loved this wine, while another side, including Michael, were not nearly as interested. I guess I find myself somewhere in the middle…

Wine 4 (Chateau de Fonsallette 2003 Cotes du Rhone): Now this was a bit annoying so many apologies in order. Jean Frederick did not, he told me, have a Cote de Nuits 2003 that would have been up to snuff, so he brought this instead. We all could tell basically that it was not a Pinot Noir! I smelled the garrigue notes of the Southern Rhone immediately. And the 2003 aspect was too obvious: jammy and raisin-like Grenache. Tasting it alone this morning, I have to say that it is a better experience, within its own context. But it was thoroughly trounced by Wine 1, which for me at least was the very best of the tasting.

So much so that I just had to crack open one of my two bottles of Clos des Lambrays 2006, which proved better than the 2003. OK, it was perhaps not as sensual, but it was more elegant and balanced in my opinion. Last year, during the harvest, I visited the domain and tried the 2007, 2006 and 2005. The 2005 is supreme, but the 2006 is not loin derrière as one says in France. Proven again last night, this wine was exuding Pinot Noir silkiness with a certain fine cherry aspect coupled with suave mineral. And a clean, lingering finish. Tasted again this morning and all I could repeat is the word Lovely!

We then launched into a series of wines from Château Langoa and Léoville Barton. Léoville Barton deservedly enjoys a great reputation. It often offers superb price/quality ratios – getting ever rarer – from top crus in Bordeaux. We started off with the oldest vintage and worked our way up to the most recent. Non blind. Notes from memory.

Léoville Barton 1988: Thanks to Maurice for bringing this one. My, what a beautiful nose of pencil lead. It was certainly tertiary and just lovely. The palate showed focus and distinction, with a medium-bodied aspect. Good finish. A very popular wine at the table, with Burgundy fans like Michael appreciating very much… Bordeaux J. Tried again this morning, and it was showing just a hint of truffle along with the graphite. But a fine spine, and a perfect match for a grilled steak, if one would be so inclined. Yum!

Léoville Barton 1990: Thanks to Lilian Barton Sartorius for whom I had organized a vertical tasting back in March on the occasion of ProWein in Germany. Some bottles were left over and she told me to serve them for wine lovers in Strasbourg, so here we are. The nose was more sensual than the 1988, but the palate was a bit less focused. Like most tasters, I found myself liking the 1988 more. 1990 can be terrific in Bordeaux, but I feel as if it is somewhat overrated. I recall also trying the 1989 Léoville Barton, again with Lilian for a tasting I had organized in May 2006 at the Berlin Adlon Hotel. And the 1989 had a bit more structure than the 1990. I feel as if the 1989 is a happy mix of the 1988’s precision and the 1990s warmth. But I digress. The 1990 is certainly a good wine, but not as good as the 1988, for my taste.

Léoville Barton 1995: Thanks to Jürgen for bringing the 1995 over, whose nose reminded me of the graphite from the 1988 more than anything else. Very appealing. But the palate was tight. Not quite as tight as a drum, but even the next day, it was quite foreboding. There is a certain tannic austerity to the 1995, which should resolve itself in another 5-10 years. When one sees the price of the 2009 en primeur as comparable to the 1995 in bottle, one would be inclined to just buy the 1995!

Léoville Barton 1996: Thanks to Lilian for this bottle – another leftover from the Düsseldorf tasting. Showing bright cassis fruit, tobacco leaf and creosote. I got a bit more creosote this time than the bottles we had tried in Düsseldorf in March, but certainly smoother and more open than the 1995, with just riper tannins than the 1995 perhaps. Certainly more polished, which seems logical for the Medoc in any case.

Langoa Barton 1998: Thanks to Lilian for this bottle, which was just slightly off to two tasters. Was there a hint of cork? I did not think so. It was very mentholated on the nose, and because I like mint, I think I liked this more than most tasters. Certainly less multidimensional than the Léovilles we had been tasting, but all agreed that it was a good bottle of wine. I thought it retails for about €35, but you can find it on wine-searcher for closer to €40. In any case, a good effort.

Langoa Barton 2007: Another leftover from Düsseldorf, thanks to Lilian. Most tasters noticed a different style here, more fruit forward. I recall trying this with the Léoville 2007 at the UGCB tasting. And it pleased my palate. Freshness yet with indeed up front fruit. Perhaps just a bit thin on the mid palate, which Jürgen noticed as well, but 2007 is not quite a stellar vintage, either.

Léoville Barton 2007: Another leftover from Düsseldorf and here we have a noticeable step up. Much more complete, and balanced, with the fruit that Langoa showed by with greater focus and nuance on the palate – and also more intensity, but never in your face, like some more modern styled Bordeaux.

Let me just say this about Léoville Barton. The alcohol degrees are never too high, even in hot vintages. The selection in the vineyard is second to none. But the vat room selection is more traditional, and the Barton family does not believe in making very small amounts of their first wine, as is done at Léoville Las Cases or at Ducru Beaucaillou, which explains in part the lower prices one gets for Léoville Barton. This makes Léoville Barton for me a consumer’s dream: you get top notch terroir at a decent price. And the wine has excellent staying power, as we saw with some of the older vintages which are quite youthful, including the 1988 and the 1995. Furthermore, in ‘lesser vintages’ Léoville Barton excels, as we saw with the 2007, but as I have also tasted with the 2008, 2004 and 2002, all delicious and worth seeking out, especially the 2008 which is still not too expensive as a future.

In Alsace, the Domaine Albert Mann is for me its Léoville Barton. The wines are so well made, and because the region is not as media grabbing as Bordeaux, you have producers like Albert Mann which are somewhat under the radar – not as well known or established as the famous trio of Trimbach, Weinbach and Zind Humbrecht. But with a wine like Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Fursterntum Vieilles Vignes (old vines) 2007, you have comparable quality at a more moderate price. Old vines, planted in the 1930s and 1950s, on a grand cru terroir of limestone that is perfect for the spicy grape, result in a wine that is as subtle as it is varietal. Yes, you do get the spice of the Gewurztraminer, but not the cliché of litchis and rose. There are floral aspects, but integrated with tea, bergamot cherry, blood orange and ginger and cinnamon spice. The 35 grams of residual sugar are hardly noticeable, so this ‘sweet’ wine tastes as rich as a ‘dry’ top California Chardonnay, Jürgen commented. The entire table adored this wine, justifiably. And it went so well with fresh strawberries mixed with fromage blanc. If readers of this post have not ever tried the wines of Albert Mann, do yourself a favor and buy not just this Gewurztraminer but also the Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2008 when it comes on your shelves. At a recent collective Alsace tasting in Strasbourg, two weeks ago, it went head to head with the Zind Humbrecht Rangen de Thann Riesling 2007, which costs almost three times the price.

We ended things with a box of hand made chocolates from one of my all time favorites: Christian in Strasbourg. 250 grams for … €25 but worth every (Euro)cent.

Lots of wine, great food, great company. Life is too short not to share wine like the ones we enjoyed last night. If I had to pick a top five, in no particular order, here goes:

Clos des Lambrays 2006

Leoville Barton 1988

Léoville Barton 1996

Albert Mann Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum 2007

Clos des Lambrays 2003

A few bottles shots (did not take photos during the dinner, alas) plus video of Emile Jung preparing the dinner coming shortly…

3 Responses to “Cuisine by Emile Jung, a couple of Clos des Lambrays, a Leoville Barton vertical: life is good!” (Leave a Comment)

  1. Jürgen Steinke says:


    again – thank you for the invitation. Me and Susi feeled very comfortable and the main dish was delicious, not to talk about the Clos des Lambrays, the Champagne, the 1988/1996 Leoville Barton and the Gewürztraminer Albert Mann.

    See you soon!

  2. pkakaviatos says:

    It was great to see you Jürgen and Susi. Glad you had a nice time!

  3. Hi, awesome writing.

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