Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Old Bordeaux with Family

Spending my Fourth of July in Maine is a treasured tradition of family togetherness, lots of lobster and plenty of silly games. Wine has gradually taken a bigger and bigger role with sparkling wine nearly always accompanying our steamers and lobster nights. People pay more attention each year to what corks are being pulled and I am often asked which wine I am choosing for the meal.
Last year we wiped out our collection of sparkling wines. Once we learned they weren't being saved for a special occasion, there was a mad dash of chilling, popping and drinking! Here are the two posts from that fiesta - a reminder not to wait too long and a fantastic surprise
This year we continued digging into a case of old Bordeaux given to my father for officiating a friend's wedding. This was an even rarer treat in Maine and we had a cold, rainy day, due to Hurricane Arthur, that seemed perfect for opening some reds. We were also grilling monster porterhouses that looked like the real world version of the meat that tipped over the Flintstones vehicle...more kismet for some big red wine.
The bottles has stood for more than 24 hours so the sediment would settle.
[The bottle pictures were taken a few days later.]

We started this process in the kitchen with more than twenty people in attendance. I was soaking wet from a lengthy match of cross country Bocce and was also trying to watch a horse race with one of Ms. Wright's stable running. However, I was not about to pass up an opportunity to taste more of these wines!

We started with the Chateau Duhart-Milon-Rothschild, Paulliac 1968:
The fill was very low on the wine, noticeably below the shoulder, but anytime you can try a wine almost as old as you it's exciting. My notes were short. The wine was brown and tired. I thought the nose was interesting for a moment or two, with some old brick aromas and hints of brown sugar and  it drew me in, but the palate was dead. Not surprising at all based on the age, quality of vintage and the fill. Still, I am always optimistic that any bottle possesses the possibility to amaze, so disappointment followed. 

Chateau Rausan-Ségla, Margaux, 1985:
The cork was clean but reeked of cork taint. I was not optimistic. Turned out great! The nose was just okay at first but the palate was really solid. It also showed enough life to have us stash about half the bottle for 20-30 minutes later. 
The edge was brown, moving to a slight orange and then to a decent core of red. The nose kept coming around, it had some old dried fruit but also pretty raspberry and hints of darker fruits too. This was the style of the 1985 vintage I remembered so fondly! 
With time (about half an hour) the nose displayed more appealing character and nuance. Happily, mineral notes and even some gravel emerged as well. This was my favorite of the night and a truly delicious bottle.

Chateau de Marbuzet, St. Estephe, 1983
The wine was not as brown as the 1968 but did not exhibit the core of red that the 1985 so proudly displayed. The nose was similar to the 1985 but had much more presence right out of the bottle. There was a significant tannic bite on the finish, much more than the Rausan-Ségla, as if it were stubbornly clinging to a life that had clearly passed it by. The tannin was subtle but very, very present. The overall impression of the wine was short and tough, supporting the no surrender liveliness of the tannins. It reminded me of a boxer who thinks there are still a few fights left when, in fact, there may not even be a few rounds in the future. The de Marbuzet wasn't unappealing but it was far from sexy. It wasn't polished or refined, like the 1985, but rustic and wild, like a run-down cabin in the woods. It was drinkable and moderately enjoyable but not very rewarding.

Chateau L'Eglise Clinet, Pomerol, 1982: The color was fantastic! Nearly opaque at the center with a nearly purple core - the color of a much younger wine. The nose was immediately appealing, if a bit standoffish, I knew it would relax and open up soon. Intense dark fruits like plum and cassis showed in the middle of the palate. There were plenty of tannins here too but, unlike the Marbuzet, they were integrated and had the luxury of still fresh fruit to keep the wine balance. It was a big crowd pleaser, it was huge and people loved it. The weight and intensity remain, as expected with this massive vintage, and this wine has some life left in it.
I prefer the seamless beauty of the Rausan-Ségla 1985 for my palate but I would be happy to have another glass of this 1982 at any time. The difference is a little like red Burgundy versus Napa Cabernet. Palates hew to one or the other more often, even if they appreciate both.

We still have a few bottles of some of these to try again and a 1980 Mouton Rothschild which I fear will have more aural cachet than oral cachet...but finding out for yourself is the fun part!

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