Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lynch Bages Face-Off

Tasting a classic like Lynch Bages 1982 once is special enough. Getting to do it three times in three months is even better. Having two of those bottles, from different cellars, at the same time felt a little like winning the wine lottery.
Heading north for a lot of the summer was part of my plan, incorporating lots of old Bordeaux into that time continues to surprise. I named the first post, A Rare Opportunity To Try Some Old Bordeaux, since it was, especially on a rooftop in Manhattan. Then the 4th of July brought out another chance to sample more of the case my father received as a gift for officiating a wedding (More Old Bordeaux with Family). A trip to Massachusetts to visit family created A Very Happy Surprise when we opened a Chateau Latour 1955...and another when we discovered it was in amazing condition. I felt spoiled and lucky and the tastings felt a little less rare, though excitement always builds when trying old wine.
Then came August. My time up north was winding down. My Uncle Jim brought up a treat from his cellar and we made plans to taste. When he told us it was a Lynch Bages 1982, Dad smiled. He had one of those as well. So, we stood them up and pulled the corks the next day. 
One came out cleanly, the other crumbled a bit. No major mess of cork bits in the bottle, and we skipped decanting.
I swear by giving young wines a chance to breathe and rarely decant old wines for fear of them falling apart too quickly. Stand older bottles up a day or two before opening and pour carefully. Unless you have an outrageous amount of sediment you won't have any issues until the very end of the bottle. Never filter wine if you can avoid it (more on that in another post).
My father's bottle was a gift, so we did not know when it was purchased, or where, or whether it moved around during its life. Jim's bottle had been in his cellar, unmoved before coming to Maine this year. The price tag was still on the bottle. Price and date are clear and easy to read.

His bottle had a better fill, clearly lower than when bottled but nothing to worry about. The wedding gift wine was just below the neck (almost exactly like the one from June). We started with the wedding bottle, thinking Jim's would turn out to be superior and we could have it second. 
Lynch Bages 1982 - Wedding gift - I recognized a lot of the same things from the first bottle we had in June (in case you don't want to scroll to the top, click here). The wine was soft, lush and long with that old Bordeaux brick aroma and impressive color. The core of red was a gradual fade to the edge of brown.
Cedar, some earth notes and a distinct whiff of fresh cellar dominated the nose. I did not get so much of the brown sugar or the iodine that appeared in the previous wine but this one exhibited more palate feel. I noticed subtle fruit but mostly the aromas echoed their presence. There was a dirt element and it was not quite chewy but tannin was noticeable. I could feel almost a clay note on the palate. Again, the sense of a bit of a hollow note appeared about halfway through the finish but it was thoroughly enjoyable and only became less so in comparison to the other bottle.
Lynch Bages 1982 - Jim's - The core of red was immediately noticeable and more pronounced. The first showed a more consistent color throughout, but this red was vibrant and differed more dramatically to the slightly orange edge. (The pictures hardly to it justice).
It also was lush and soft and long on the finish but had more happening. There was still that exciting edge of liveliness and acidity that I treasure in wine. The first began to fade, where this one filled out nicely and got much plumper in the middle and finish with about 15 minutes open. It even showed some spicy character that I associate with minerality, almost like what I expect from a Graves wine. Tannin was present but very subtle. What dominated was dark red fruits and that amazing zing of minerality and wet gravel that did not appear in the other bottle at all. The clay note I found this time around appeared here too but it was fresher and more appealing than the somewhat dirty (again, only in comparison) version of dirt/clay in the wedding gift wine.
We were all very happy and the order was correct. Returning to the first made it seem dull and lacking. The bottles emptied quickly and then we moved on to a 1997 Brunello with dinner. The first few tastes of this was very disappointing after our high water mark of the Lynch Bages face-off.
We all won in that contest...

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