Vintage Bordeaux with Tour des Deux Rives
For the longest time, I didn’t understand the attraction of Bordeaux. I was one of those wine lovers who would seek that “ah-ha” moment and work to understand the appeal of Bordeaux, yet repeatedly found myself feeling unsatisfied. What’s more, I was constantly told that there were great values to be found from the region, only to end up with a wine that was recommended at a local shop and failed to impress. I continued to study the region and soon found myself more knowledgeable than the salespeople at my local shops, yet in my studies, I still didn’t find the answer to my problem. In the end, it took years and a total change of careers.
The answer was maturity (not mine, but the wine), and I only came to understand it after having the opportunity to taste broadly over the course of years while working in the trade. In fact, I believe that a lot of consumers struggle with this when it comes to Bordeaux, both in understanding the importance of maturity and having the means to taste enough of it to gain this understanding.
Especially in this age of having everything we want on demand, the idea of buying wine on release that won’t be pleasurable to drink for many years seems absurd, yet that’s exactly the case with Bordeaux. Somehow we’re all trained to understand that a wine like Barolo takes a decade or two in the cellar, yet seldom do we walk into a wine shop to be told that the bottle of Bordeaux in our hands is ten years away from maturity.
Most Cabernet and Merlot produced around the world requires further time in a cellar to reach its optimal drinking window. However, this fact is obscured by producers and regions who have managed to create wines in a style that are approachable earlier. We can thank California for much of this, as well as the “Big Fruit” mentality that many of today’s wine lovers have come to think of as the domestic style. Granted, things are changing in California as well, yet after decades of masking Cabernet’s structure under gobs of sun-ripened fruit, consumers began to think of it as a wine to enjoy upon release. Add a sheen of toasty new oak, and you have a glass that smells like vanilla and tastes like a dry dessert.
However, when you visit most other regions that pride themselves in Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being the top two), you find something quite different. One of the first that comes to mind for me is Tuscany, a personal favorite because of the region’s ability to add a recognizable stamp of terroir on everything they produce. Here too, like in Bordeaux, the majority of wines are austere and tightly wound for the first ten years of their life.
Coming back to Bordeaux, understanding maturity finally put Bordeaux into perspective for me, and I found that I truly love mature Bordeaux. In any other region this might be a problem, because we have come to believe that it’s difficult to find mature wines with good provenance at a fair price. However, in Bordeaux, this is much less of an issue. In fact, it may be easier to buy the top mature wines of the region from perfect storage and at great prices than it is to buy them on release.
The reason for this is the quantity of Bordeaux produced each year, and a tradition of holding back a large chunk of their production for later releases. What’s more, as we’ve seen great vintage after great vintage over the last thirteen years, the prices of Bordeaux on release have skyrocketed, while the older vintages have slowly escalated.
With this in mind, I am now always on the hunt for mature Bordeaux, either direct from the Chateaux or from the stocks of a trusted negociant. Also, I’m always excited to attend a tasting or dinner focused on mature Bordeaux, and that is how I came to be at the Tour des Deux Rives dinner at Lafayette on November 8th.
Tour des Deux Rives
Not only would we be enjoying ten to twelve mature wines from around the region, but we would be doing it with producers in attendance at our table. That night, I was able to chat Pomerol with Christian Moueix, stony terroir with Cathalin Burke of Ducru-Beaucaillou, clay and ancient vines with Veronique Sanders, a return to classicism with Nicolas Glumineau, and listen to Jean-Philippe Lemoine explain why it’s better to start (instead of finish) your dinner with Sauternes. All of this while tasting wines going back to 1986. What’s more, each of them could still be found in the market.
The evening was full of highlights, surprises and only one real letdown (a corked bottle of Mouton Rothschild).
Highlights & Surprises
My happiest surprise came from the 2000 Hosanna, a Chateau on the Pomerol plateau, which neighbors Petrus, Lafleur and Vieux Chateau Certan. As I’ve come to think of 2000 as a riper vintage, the classicist in me didn’t expect to find such a vibrant expression. This may have something to do with the higher-than-usual proportion of Cabernet Franc in the blend. Whatever is was, in the end, it was one of the wines that I simply didn’t want to put down. And speaking of ripe vintages, the 2003 Haut Bailly was also in fine form. It didn’t show the depth and complexity of the better vintages, but it had balance and refinement in spades.
The highlights of the dinner were two wines that deeply impressed me. First was the 2006 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, a wine that I’ve been lucky enough to taste twice this year, and both times I found myself deeply satisfied. Thinking back to my last trip to Bordeaux, the 2006 vintage wines impressed me each time I had the opportunity to taste, and the Pichon was one of the best. Here again, I found a young Pauillac just entering its drinking window and packed with potential. If I had to recommend one wine from this event to buy in quantity for both drinking and investing, this would be the one.
The other big highlight of the evening was the 1995 Mouton Rothschild, which at first glance you may think to yourself “of course, it’s Mouton,” but you’d be wrong. In my opinion, showing a wine with this price tag attached gives people pause, raises their expectations, and sets you up for failure. If Mouton Rothschild doesn’t show well, then what are we paying for? There was no worry of that on this night. What’s more, as I sat with a friend and fellow collector talking about “ah-ha” moments and First Growths, there was a moment when we had both taken our first whiff and sniff, that we both looked at each other thoroughly impressed. The ‘95 Mouton Rothschild was gorgeous.
Lastly, I would be remiss not to comment on Lafayette and the food. Being gluten free, I enter most dinners with hesitation. Some of the best restaurants have failed me in the past. I’ve been skipped on courses, served simple salads in place of house specialties, and even blatantly given plates of food that I could not eat. This was not the case at Lafayette. The meal started with a gorgeous piece of Foie Gras Torchon to pair with our 1986 D’Yquem. From there, we enjoyed a perfectly seasoned Beef Tartare topped with caviar. My pasta course was expertly substituted with a seared duck breast (Thank you, Chef), followed by perfectly cooked Lamb Chop Tagine, and then a dry age Ribeye. No one left hungry, and I left with a smile from ear to ear.
On to the Tasting Notes
(In the Order They Were Served)
Château d’Yquem Sauternes 1986 – The ‘86 D’Yquem was gorgeous in its maturity, showing a mix of dried orange peel, accentuated by lime zest with dried peaches, apricot, sweet herbal tones and dusty minerality. On the palate, I found a velvety expression, nearly coating all of the senses, yet kept lively by brisk acidity and giving way to a mix of sweet lime-infused mango and spiced orange. The finish was wonderfully long and floral, with hints of honey, ripe peach and lingering minerality. (96 points)
Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes 2006 – The nose showed dried floral tones up front with dusty spices, crushed almond, heathery florals and peach preserves. On the palate, I found a remarkably fresh expression for such a rich wine, guided by zesty acidity with sweet inner florals giving way to ripe stone fruits and spice in an expression that seemed to hover upon the senses. The finish was incredibly long, showing sweet-and-sour citrus, hints of mint, honey and inner florals. What a beautiful wine. (94 points)
Château Ducru Beaucaillou St. Julien 1999 – The nose showed dark earth tones up front with hints of animal musk and spicy dried florals, as the ‘99 seemed to gain further richness and dimension the longer it stayed in the glass. On the palate, I found a lean expression with taught textures given life through a wave of zesty acidity, showing dried dark red fruits and hints of savory herbs. The finish was long and spicy with a bitter twang of residual tannin lingering on. (92 points)
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1996 – At first, the nose was incredibly dark, showing a mix of red and black fruits, with a green streak of wild herbs and minerals. Yet the longer it spent in the glass, the sweeter its fruit seemed to become, arriving in crushed blackberry with a twist of citrus. On the palate, I found a silky expression contrasted and lifted by zesty acidity, giving way to herb-infused black cherry, blackberry and spice. The finish was medium-long, resonating on dark fruits and lasting mineral tones. (94 points)
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2006 – The ‘06 was a model of elegance with rich blackberry, currant and violet tones offset by zesty wild herbs, minerals and dried flowers. On the palate, I found a silky expression, contrasted by tart blackberries, wild berries and mineral tones, as brisk acidity added energy, yet ultimately gave way to grippy tannin. The finish was medium-long, resonating on tart red and blackberry fruit with lingering tinge of mineral-coated tannin. What a gorgeous wine the ‘06 is turning out to be, and I’m so happy to have been able to taste it a second time this year, and in a more controlled environment. (95 points)
Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac 1995 – In a word, gorgeous. The 1995 Mouton Rothschild was one of those experience wines that could make a believer out of anyone who doesn’t understand its First Growth standing. Here I found a classic display of mature Bordeaux, showing dusty dark red fruits with sweet dried florals, earth tones, hints of animal musk, savory herbs, and stone dust. On the palate, velvety textures maintained a wonderfully fresh and vibrant expression, as ripe dark red and plummy fruit glided across the palate, leaving licorice, mineral and herbal tones in their path. The finish was long, with a twang of acid and residual tannin, as dried wild berry and cherry tones lingered. (95 points)
Hosanna Pomerol 2000 – The nose showed dusty black raspberry and blueberry fruit, lifted by crushed stone minerality, lavender and dried floral tones. On the palate, I found an unexpectedly zesty expression, as vibrant blue and red berry fruits came together with hints of wild herbs and a host of dark, alluring inner florals. The finish was medium in length, as the 2000 Hosanna’s minerality emerged, along with a twang of savory herbs. (94 points)
Hosanna Pomerol 2010 – The nose was dark and rich with dusty mineral-infused black currant, crushed blueberry, brown spices and dried violet floral tones. On the palate, I found silky, almost creamy textures, yet wonderfully lifted by minerals, sweet florals and spice–earning an official “wow” in my tasting book. The finish was long, as silky textures slowly faded, leaving notes of sweet herbs, blueberry skins and dark chocolate. (95 points)
Château Haut Bailly Pessac-Léognan 2003 – The more I taste from Haut Bailly, the more the wines seem to grow on me. The 2003 was no different, hailing from a hot vintage, showing so much to like about it. The bouquet was a display of sweet herbs and florals, giving way to a mix of dark red and blue fruits, as crushed-stone minerality provided lift. On the palate, I found a soft, silky expression, energized by a wave of vibrant acidity, as notes of raspberry, spice and sweet lavender emerged. The finish was long and zesty, showing spiced red berry fruits with hints of sweet herbs and residual grippy tannin. (91 points)
Château Haut Bailly Pessac-Léognan 2005 – The ‘05 Haut Bailly was classic in every way, and it was a pleasure to taste. Here I found crushed raspberry with hints of red currant, as lifting minerals, floral and dusty earth tones added perfumed depths. On the palate, I found an elegant and refined expression, with dark red fruits, citrus-tinged blackberry, mocha and minerals, all kept fresh through balanced acidity. Residual tannin appeared on the finish, as black raspberry and spice seemed to saturate the senses, leaving a savory mineral twang. (95 points)
Standouts from Tour des Deux Rives walk-around tasting
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2010 – The nose was gorgeous, dark, polished–yet earthy, showing depths of woodland berries, accentuated by crushed stone, confectionery spice, cassis and graphite. On the palate, I found velvety textures, which seemed to coat all of the senses yet remained fresh and vibrant through balanced acidity and a core of polished black fruits, showing currant, plum and ripe raspberry as notes of spice, dark chocolate, and savory minerals resonated throughout. It’s tannin came on late, as the ‘10 Mouton finished long and structured, with dried berries and spice battling for some time in the spotlight, yet needing years in the cellar to flesh out. (96 points)
D’Yquem Y 2017 – This is easily my favorite vintage of Y to date. The 2017 was gorgeous from start to finish, displaying a rich and zesty bouquet of lemon curd mixed with ripe crushed apple, spiced orange, and sweet herbs. It was soft and silky on the palate, made vibrant through stunning brisk acidity, with notes of rich citrus tones, ripe stone fruits, sweet herbs, and mounting mineraltiy, which defined the incredibly long finish, where a caking of minerals seemed to slowly crackle and dissolved, leaving sweet and sour tropical citrus. Wow, just wow! (96 points)
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2010 – The nose was dark and alluring with sweet lavender, violet florals and tobacco up front, followed by ripe strawberry, hints of crushed stone, and black currant. On the palate, I found a fresh expression, as silky textures hosted an array of black fruits encased in crunchy minerality with lifting acidity giving way to youthful tannin. The finish was long and structured, with fine tannin clenching the senses as dried wild berries and hints of sweet spice lingered. (95 points)
Chateau Magdelaine 2006 – One of the standouts of the Tour des Deux Rives tasting was undoubtedly the 2006 Magdelaine, which was the last vintage of this wine–which was quite heartbreaking to discover. The bouquet displayed zesty red fruits with woodland tones, hints of animal musk, sweet-and-sour berries and spice. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures contrasted by exotic spice and ripe red berries as it glided effortlessly across the senses, leaving sweet mineral tones. The finish was medium-long, showing notes of blackberry, blueberry skins, sweet spice and a twang of unresolved tannin. (93 points)
Hosanna Pomerol 2008 – The nose was a gorgeous display of dusty dried flowers with crushed black raspberry, sweet spice and hints of animal musk. On the palate, I found a zesty expression on a medium-bodied frame, showing dark red and blue fruits guided by brisk acidity. The finish was long, with palate-staining sweet-and-sour berries, notes of savory herbs and hints of fine tannin. (93 points)
Chateau Haut-Bailly 2014 – The nose was wonderfully perfumed, showing crushed stone with dark woodland berries, lavender, sweet florals and spice. On the palate, I found silky textures which were quickly firmed up by fine saturating tannin, as tart red and blueberry fruits mixed with savory minerality to create a structured expression, yet full of potential. The finish was long and spicy with tart red berries and lingering tannin. (93 points)
Chateau Bourgneuf 2009 – The nose was a display of dark woodland berries, restrained at first, yet opening over time to reveals depths of sweet herbs, lifting sweet florals, and a hint of dried orange peel. On the palate, it was silky, almost creamy in texture, showing sweet-and-sour red and blue berries, inner herbal tones and dark confectionery spices. The finish was long, as tannins mounted with each sip, showing dried red fruits and lingering inner floral tones. (92 points)
Chateau Certan de May 2011 – The nose was dark with musky animal tones up front, followed by blackberry, cherry and sweet spice. On the palate, I found silky, almost creamy textures, giving way to sweet-and-sour red and blueberry fruits, savory herbs and a hint of grippy tannin. The finish was long, as firm tannin mounted, drying its fruit yet providing a youthfully classic expression. (92 points)
Hosanna Pomerol 2014 – The ‘14 was so young yet also energetic and fresh, showing earthy wild herbs up front with crushed stone minerality and spicy dark red fruit. On the palate, I found silky textures, energized by zesty acidity with spiced red berries and savory mineral tones. The finish was long, smooth, yet vibrant, resonating on sweet herbs, woodland berries and spice. (91 points)
Credits and Resources
Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by Eric Guido
A special thank you to Lafayette NYC for a very special dinner
View the Bordeaux selection at Morrell Wine and Spirits