Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sugar, Sugar; Honey, Honey

A vertical tasting of Ch. d'Yquem is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I've been the recipient of three now. All due to the generosity of the Appliance Couple. They've applied themselves to collecting this ultimate dessert wine, and they have a need to share the collected bottles with their friends when the appropriate big birthday comes along. I send them a Christmas card regularly, and I keep getting invited, so I'll keep up my end of the deal...

This was a thirty plus bottle affair, with most of the wines served at a serious, sit-down tasting. These went from 1946 to 2006. Afterwards, there were three vintages served at a designed dinner, all from big bottles. The extravagance! But no, they were shared among a lot of people, and the word generosity must be applied. Here's my run down on them, from old to young, in the logical and natural groupings they appeared to be, for me:

The Older Wines: 1946 - 1969
These were past their plateau, with the 'dark side' showing. That's burnt toffee and caramel, full blowsy palates, and lower acid profile. It should be said some of these look young and fresh, with many years to age, but they were a surprise. The 1946 was one of these, quite pale in colour and lively in the mouth. Then two dark coloured wines, brown, mahogany and tawny looking. The 1955 malty and rich, and quite lush, the 1958 a bit of a dense old beast with fortified-like character, including rancio. Our 1960 had TCA, pinching it, giving it some bitterness and grippy texture. The 1967 was a little beauty, all pristine in a medium weight style. Quite pretty indeed. Unfortunately the 1968 was flat and dull, one of the lesser wines of the whole tasting, but this was made up for by the 1969, a wine with excellent drive and length, needing some extra liveliness to be great.

Wines at Full Maturity: 1970 - 1983
The room of 30+ tasters all agreed this was the period they would drink Ch. d'Yquem. Who am I to disagree? They were all on their plateau, some doing better, others worse. It all depends on the vintage and the condition of the bottle. Our 1970 had everything there, but not quite the dimension to go to the top. But the 1971 did have it all, until the slightly drying finish. We are being picky here! 1975 and 1976 are the twins to compare. Most people like the size and power of the 1975, and this was starting to get to full maturity, with darker complexities. I love the 1976, more elegant, more acidity, more detail. And fresher. I think I'm right in this. 1978 has never quite been up there, lacking the noble rot required for greatness, but it looked harmonious here. 1979 has always been reasonably well-rated, but I've never seen it this way, and this bottle had TCA dulling it all down. I've always enjoyed the 1980 for its soft elegance and it was that today. Punching above its station was the 1982, ripe tropical, driven with real length. However 1983 has always been a star, and a star it was here, immensely concentrated, elegant and fresh still, multi-dimensional. A wow wine.

The Younger Wines: 1986 - 1999
Here the brashness and obvious nature of youth was displayed. You could, however, tell where these children were going to end up. As good adults, or not quite as good adults. 1986 seemed to make great wine everywhere classic wine was grown. But our bottle lacked a bit of lustre. It was a difficult year in 1987, and it shown on the sour nose, however redeemed by a nice, soft, attractive palate. 1988 is a cracker year, and this was locked down, waiting to blossom. When it does, it'll be one of the greats, as one can sense its quality. It was a pity about the 1989 being corked. I was in a 5.0 Litre bottle too. Normally a decadent wine, but here, dulled and dryish. I could still drink it - no trouble! Slight oxidation on the nose on the 1990 was more than made up for by the wonderfully layered and harmonious palate. That dreaded cork-taint also got the 1991. Medium weight, smaller, musty and flat. TCA also knocked the 1993, but the wine fought back with its richness. The problem with the 1994 was huge volatility on the nose. but a solid palate redeemed it into the pretty good category. The faintest mustiness on the nose on the 1996 did not prevent this being seen as a wine that will become a classic. Make sure your bottle is clean! Wow, the 1997 is a big, rich, statement wine. Served from a 5.0 Litre, it was coming along. It may age quicker than some around it. The 1998 will also mature relatively quickly, its softness making the integration happen. And likewise the 1999, a medium weighted goodie, with all the right things, but a little wallflower-shy.

The Recent Releases: 2001 - 2006
New wines, all easy to identify componentry, not unlike other sweet wines of the world. You can still detect the d'Yquen essential nature, but 'terroir' has yet to come. 2001 will be one of the greats. The perfect young d'Yquem. 2002 maybe a little ignoble? Some lolly notes, only OK. But 2004 is a sleek and beautiful wonder. Almost as good as the 2001. Ours came from magnums. I hope it gets there for sheer elegance. The 2005 clean, oily and unctuous, for the medium term, but nice with it. And finally a very smart 2006, absolutely clear-cut and oozing potential to be near the top echelon.

Its all easy to condense the notes and scores to a few flip words. But the occasion was a most special one. We all cheered and saluted the Appliance Couple. There have been better words written than this blog, and they'll come out in time. They'll do justice to the wines and the kind folk behind the tasting.

Monday, August 23, 2010


We had the big event. Tasting around three dozen vintages of Ch. d'Yquem. I'll do another blog on these soon, after I gather my thoughts. At the big dinner, there were lots of other wines. Some of these were great wines with immense pedigree. Yet in the context of the day and night, they were incidentals. However, they deserve respect and a report on how they showed - well at least to me. I only tasted about 15% of what was going around the dining room, on the other tables. Sort of in style order, and not how they were 'served', they follow:

A rather plain 2002 Schloss Vollrads Riesling Spatlese. Shy, muted, in the past noted for its VA, but I'm not good on that. However clean in other ways. Not that rich, really.

A series of Chardonnays. The 2005 Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay had lots going for it, quite complex, but in the context of the next two, rather up-front. The 2005 Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne beautifully fresh and fine. I can see why Corton-Charlemagne and Grand Cru Chablis can get mixed up. Then a 2002 Jadot Puligny-Montrachet 1er 'Folatieres'. I was going to be scared to look at this because of premature oxidation, but not here, this was complex, nutty, steely and with substance in a gritty-grunty style.

A couple of Pinot Noirs. Funny how these can look a bit light when in the company of monsters. For Pinot and burgundy to shine here, they need to be truly ethereal, or big enough to take the clarets and Rhones on their own level. The 2002 Senard Corton 'Clos du Rois' was pretty and clear, without the herby-fungal base these wines can be made around. Modern stuff indeed. The 2001 Quartz Reef 'Bendigo' Pinot Noir was not outshone by the previous wine, still shy, tight and with legs to go, as this label usually has.

Rhoney things looked good in this dinner context. A 2007 Domaine la Boussiere Gigondas full of juicy Grenache fruit - brilliant! Not quite so endearing was the 1996 Rostaing Cote-Rotie 'Landonne', somewhat herb and vege tinged, to a still youthful, structured palate. Not pretty, but serious. The 1990 Wynns 'Michael' Coonawarra Shiraz was a wow. A great year. This was still fresh, minty-fruity with pepper, black berried fruit and spices on a supple palate. Yum yum.

But tonight it was claret night. A host of clarets that I only got to try a few of. Two 2006s were pretty smart. The 2006 Ch. Lynch-Bages Pauillac was full, broad, open, but packed with powerful cassis juiciness. The 2006 Ch. Gruaud-Larose St Julien was more aromatic, and lush. Slight bretty notes lurking, but not detracting at this stage. The other Mr Parker would love this. However, jam-packed with Mr Brett was the 1990 Ch. Batailley Pauillac. For this label, it was well-built - probably the best I've seen made under this label. But the brett.... As was the 1986 Ch. Montrose St Estephe, still vibrant and dark. Powerhouse in its day no doubt, and still there. But alas chocka full of brett. Drying too. Thus, this was well overstructured. And a 1982 Ch. La Lagune Haut-Medoc. Very aged, savouriness and complexity. Also plagued by brettanomyces. The tertiary characters and brett melding together. Still some sweetness, but also sourness. At time of release, the other Mr Parker loved it...

At the end of the night, there appeared some 1950 Calem 'Quinta da Foz' Single Quinta Port. Tawny and quite clear and light. Very elegant. Truly tawny in style with drying finesse through the palate and rancio kick-in on the finish.

All these would have been great on their own. And they were fabulous to taste - and drink. But on this day and night, they were unfortunately incidentals.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Casual Catch Up

Big Weekend. Preamble. Staying with old school friend and his family of girls. Noisy and fun.
Off to the pasta and pizza joint.

A trio of casual wines to set the scene - because we were to have some special wines later. But more on this in a later blog. Sometimes it's great not to think too hard about the wines you are drinking, and you get very pleasantly surprised, as was the case here.

A 2007 Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling. SWMBO loves this, and with reason. This was clean, fresh and delicately refreshing, but with enough body to handle the food situation. Nice wine that will live for some time. If you gave it some thought, it was shy, though.

A 2008 Single Paddock Central Otago Pinot Noir stole the scene. Delightfully vibrant, juicy, simple and gulpable. Made for a supermarket chain. But at that moment, it was all you needed. With air-time, its true colours came out. It was obviously (then) picked too early and green. It got a bit meaner and harder to drink.

Finally a 1996 Saltram Classic Barossa Shiraz. Great year in the Barossa. Great winemaking team too. Thoroughly integrated and a soft, smoothy. But with air time, the animal came out. Brett was rife in the past. It made for tasty, flavoursome, gamey-tasting wines that were deemed European in style. Hah! We know better now.

Eating and drinking in a fun environment made them all good. So there!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Near Perfect

What a lovely night we had with the real Mr Parker. It was full of news, not all the best, but that's what is happening in real life. In a perfect world it would be a bit dull in the end?

And the beverages were that way too. Over a meal at the favourite eaterie, we had a 2007 Loosen Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese (white cap, not Gold). The Goldcap has that much more richness, botrytis and textural depth, and a little more 'extra' nuance that makes it pretty much the ultimate. This white cap was a little less rich, but cleaner, more poised, more acidic, and pretty well just as perfect as the God cap, but in a different space and different way. Delicious with the Asian food, and probably better than the Gold cap would have been. And surprisingly not overly sweet! It unfolded more and more, but kept its stylishness.

Also sipped on was a 1999 Jadot Musigny, a Louis Jadot domaine wine, of course. Mr Parker would not have anything but the best! A bit scary to open, particularly with the lightish Asian meal, as Jadot's way is big, serious and meaty - the the vintage is a strong one. On broaching, it was full of funky, complex bits, tight and densely solid. It wasn't a pretty Musigny for sure. But as these burgundies do, it developed in the glass. The terroir of Musigny appeared on bouquet. Silky nuances of meaty perfumes. The palate remaining acidic and alive. And coming harmonious, with nuance and interest. My early summary was "Musigny on the nose and Jadot on the palate", and this held true. No hurry with this one - another decade easily.

We went home for a nightcap. SWMBO and I couldn't think of a better occasion than having Mr Parker share our 2002 Eitelsbach Karthauserhofberg Riesling Eiswein. Only 6.0%, so he could drive home! Golden colour, and the most amazing depth and concentration of florals, minerals and ice, with toast and honey on the nose. It was on drinking it that its glory was revealed. Incredible depth of flavour, amazing presence and acidity, as Eisweins have. The inclusion of botrytised fruit giving it a forward flavour edge. If it wasn't showing the development, it would be perfect. But then less enjoyable on the night for us. So perfect, really!