Definitive Bordeaux

Mirabelle Restaurant Austin, Texas
Tasted Sunday, February 21, 2010 by AustinWineSalon with 862 views

Introduction

The third exploration of the Austin Wine Salon into Bordeaux. The first, in 2008, was a look at classic wines from nine different Bordeaux appellations and the second, in 2009, was a 2005 Bordeaux horizontal which compared highly-regarded (and somewhat drinkable) 2005 wines with older counterparts from classic vintages (e.g., the 2005 Branaire Ducru was drunk along with a 1989 and a 1978 of same). Our 2010 salon, dubbed "Definitive Bordeaux," was superb, with 34 attendees each tasting three flights of wine, with nine flights of four wines each overall. We even had a group of Burgundians, led by visitor Peter Wasserman of Selection Becky Wasserman, provide some keen scouting for our exploration.

This salon was highlighted by some fine food accompaniments, including a Mirabelle smoked prime rib, their sliced beef tenderloin (with horseradish sauce and a salsa/zinfandel chili jam), Jack’s lamb stroganoff, Earl’s short rib appertif with mashed rutabaga, several cheddars, and James’s out-of-gas charcuterie/salad, and, finally, Peter's "grass-fed sirloin rubbed with New Mexico red chile, crushed peppercorns, and Hawaiian red sea salt, marinated in 2006 Chateau Saint-Sulpice Bordeaux, grilled rare, served chilled & thinly sliced with olive oil & capers."

In the background of the food was a wonderful selection of wines contributed by fourteen generous donors. From such, we created some compelling flight themes and helped a number of budding sommeliers and afficionadoes move along the vine trail. We were also provided, gratis, a new palate-cleansing beverage developed specifically for wine by SanTásti. This was a god-send when we were trying to distinguish between four 2000 Leovilles, the young garagiste wines, etc., but I found this aqua palate cleanser most helpful in removing food tastes that countered the wines. For instance, when that salsa/zinfandel chili jam did not work with the old bdx, the santasti was a quick rinse and an easy reproof about getting the food straight with the wine. Anyway, we appreciated and used much SanTásti’s generous donation--for info on this go to http://santasti.com/. And a quick plug for Mirabelle, which provided food, service, atmosphere gratis--they are the salon's grandest supporter, & the best wine restaurant in town, merci beaucoup.

For "Definitive Bordeaux", we first looked at the terroir through: a vertical of the oldest and most distinctive of Bordeauxs, Pape Clement; a horizontal of the largest and most varied of properties, Leoville in 2000; a horizontal from the most complex of Bordeaux soils, in Pomerol. Next we looked at winemaking via a horizontal of great “garagiste” wines of 2000 and a blind tasting of two neighboring Pauillacs from 1989 and 1990. Then we looked at the classification system, via a tasting of the super-seconds of 2000 and a blind tasting of first growth wannabe’s (plus a first growth) from 1995-6. Lastly we had a blind swipe of Cal cab versus Bordeaux via blind tasting four of the wines from the 1976 Paris tasting, 26 vintages later, and we drank some top older Bordeauxs—why not? Our youngest vintage was ten years old, our oldest 44 years, and we purposefully omitted classic vintages such as 1975, 1982, 1985, and 1986 for a future salon…… Later, as we reviewed our tasting notes, we drank some great value, younger Bordeauxs and finished with a great 1990 Fargues Sauternes. C’est le vin!

Flight 1 - Definitive Pomerol (4 Notes)

Four estates within a stone's throw of one another, and so much variation. The 1999 vintage is a great value, as all of these wines are improving and drink well. The L'Evangile and La Fleur Petrus were memorable for most tasters, and overall the great structure and balance of this appellation stood out, rather than any consistent nose or taste.

  • 1999 Château L'Evangile 93 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

    A favorite wine of many, the Burgundians downplayed the Pomerols here. The wine had a floral and a subtle herbal nose and was very soft and velvety on the palate. A great balance and softness/silkiness was repeatedly emphasized, and notes of red fruit, bright cherries, strawberry, and dark fruit (a Burgundian) were noted. Though this wine was not the favorite of any tasting group, at the end of the day it was one of the most discussed wines of the salon. This wine drank very well after having been decanted for three hours and several saloners thought it was ageworthy. And we learned that our Burgundians have an affinity for Margaux more than Pomerol.

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  • 1999 Château Clinet 89 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

    In magnum, unfortunately the wine improved a lot after the tastings and it had some air. Since the magnum had not been decanted initially, the tannins were conspicuous and the wine hot and not in balance. It had some bell peppers, cigar box, and wood on the nose, earthy tones, and dark fruit on the palate. A Burgundian detected a "clos vougeot" nose, and others noted some dried mushrooms also on the nose. This was a good wine that gained some balance, had a pleasant finish, and may have been a bit young.

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  • 1999 Château La Fleur-Pétrus 93 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

    Labeled "quintessential Bordeaux" by one veteran, the la fleur petrus had good extraction, balance, and weight. I have had this wine four times now and it has continued to gain weight and structure. A roasted meat and cedar box nose were noted, the fruit-acid-tannin was in balance for most tasters, and the wine had luscious dark fruit. This was probably the lightest and most structured wine of the four "definitive" Pomerols in this flight. Will age well.

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  • 1999 Vieux Château Certan 92 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

    The favorite wine of one tasting group, its fruitiness and bright acidity were quite apparent. The wine had dark fruit, blackberries, and some red fruit, and improved when paired with meat, even with duck. The wine was uneven for our tasters: some thought the finish short and the wine pleasantly light, others thought the finish long and the wine unctuous--I would bet that having food with it was a factor in this variance. Not the overall favorite of the flight, nor the most ageworthy, but a very drinkable and classic Pomerol.

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Flight 2 - Leoville in the Year 2000 (4 Notes)

This would be an exciting theme for an older vintage, or in a future decade, but the Leovilles, even though decanted for hours, remained closed. The Clos du Marquis (and Langoa Barton) are excellent substitutes now.

  • 2000 Château Léoville Las Cases

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    A bruiser of a baby, this will be a great wine but five hours of decanting was not enough to access its nose and flavors. "Built for the ages," said our gracious host. Simultaneously his favorite and least favorite Leoville of the flight because the wine's greatness is readily discernible but not enjoyable yet, as he strongly stated to all that 2000 is a vintage that will only improve for the next 20-25 years. This Leoville developed some in the glass, and we detected dark cocoa and slate notes, along with some red fruit, but the wine broods. This wine and its second, the Clos du Marquis, initiated an interesting discussion about what might a best wine of a flight be, the wine you can taste to be great someday, or the wine that is the best tasting right now, as our host said the Clos du Marquis surely was.

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  • 2000 Château Léoville Barton

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    Full and rich on the palate, balanced but a bit angular, dark and dirty, the Leoville Barton seemed balanced but not all that complex......yet. It had some dark fruit and Asian lilly on the nose, was dry rather than sweet, and simply needs a lot more time. It reminded me of the 1982, pleasantly dumb for about twenty years and then a very fine wine of structure, balance, and tar/leather/cedar flavors....

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  • 2000 Château Léoville Poyferré

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    This wine and this flight did not bring much light to the longstanding competition between the Poyferre and the Barton for dominance in a vintage. In the 1980's Leoville Barton seemed to dominate (except in 1983), then in the 1990's Poyferre started a move up, and now into the last decade it might be a tie...... It probably was in this flight on this day. The 2000 Leoville Poyferre showed more fruit and elegance than the 2000 Las Cases and Barton, had good structure, and paired oh-so-well with the short ribs and mashed rutabaga dish..... but it doesn't seem to have the weight of the Las Cases nor the dark and promising character of the Barton. I think it will be the first of the 2000 Leovilles to hit stride, probably in 6-8 years.

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  • 2000 Clos du Marquis

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    In magnum, decanted for three hours. Smooth, bright, good aromatics, fruits and minerals, might be the best LLC second yet. We found lilac, brown sugar, dark cranberry, slate, blackberry flavors--almost a maple chocolate milk character, which was quite tasty. Yes, this 2000 Leoville sibling drinks well now, and should improve for awhile. It was our group's favorite 2000 Leoville as it thought the favorite should be the wine that drinks well now (I dissented), and it was two other groups' least favorite among a compelling group of Leovilles, as they tasted out into the future.

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Flight 3 - Grave Distinction (4 Notes)

The oldest and perhaps most distinct of Bordeauxs, Pape Clement was presented from three decades to twelve tasters in three groups. The consistency and age-worthiness of the wines was noted repeatedly, and, yes, graves is gravel, especially after 700 years in the vineyard.

  • 1966 Château Pape Clément

    France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan

    Starts with the tell-tale PC nose of mushroom, earth, "lover's body odor" (otherwise known as stink), and old book/glue, then slowly opens into hints of floral, pencil lead/graphite, cherry and black currant, and some herbal/spice notes of spearmint, clove, cinnamon. What a lovely old wine. It has surprisingly good color, some metal and minerals at first, lots of tannins, and fair balance. Most tasters agreed that this was 10-15 years past its prime but still had much complexity and fruit, and went well with our beef dishes. It had no hint of oxidation and opened nicely. Young at heart, with some body still. At 44.

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  • 1985 Château Pape Clément

    France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan

    More to the nose, less to the palate than the 1966, this was a smooth, nicely balanced wine which "even has a little finish." A leaner, lighter style than the 1966, the 1985 Pape Clement had a "gorgeous" and "stunning nose," with one discerning taster identifying cinnamon, clove, all-spice, and rosemary, and another sour cherry and pencil/wood shavings. Remember when you had to change out the pencil sharpener shavings at school? Additional flavors of fruit, peppercorn, spices ("a cornucopia of"), black currant, and dark cherries were noted. "Good time 2B drinking this," "very 85," "damp forest floor," "lighter style," and "perfect example": this wine had its proponents. Billy said he was glad 2B here today. Thank the french pope.

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  • 1990 Château Pape Clément

    France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan

    The favorite of two groups, the least of one, the proponents noted a powerful nose, of dried roses, "grandma's house," and pencil/wood shavings, with smoothness and a really good balance. Bright flavors, of cherry, dark fruits, rock and dust (gravel), baking spices, and anise were easily recognized. "Modern but solid" proclaimed a veteran, having just sipped the 1966 and 85. Full, young, easy to drink, said his compatriot. Bah, doesn't have the black currant of the 85, is a little hollow on the mid-palate, isn't as round, is under-ripe, mused the third. Gorgeous nose, though..... And should age well, "this baby" of twenty years.

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  • 1998 Château Pape Clément

    France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan

    A beautiful cowgirl, with slightly sweated chaps, fell asleep in a sage garden...... Now that's a start. Most thought this would get better with time, but not be as long-term as the other vintages in the flight. Bright acidity on a cola nose, with ripe, young fruit and dusty tannins, definitely the most barnyard of the quartet. Noting dark fruit on the palate, with a hint of blood, baking chocolate, some cinnamon, Big Red, mushroom, wild rice, balsamic vinaigrette, and, yes, sage, the tasters thought this very good and smooth, but needed 5-10 years and would not be as long term as the other vintages. Just a dozen years old now, to hit stride at twenty, fall off at 25: seems very catholic, dreaming of a cowgirl.

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Flight 4 - Pack your merlot in a Garage (4 Notes)

A further confirmation that 2000 is a vintage to sit on, this flight focused on the top garagistes, minus a Mondotte which we could not find. Interestingly the 1999 Pomerol flight was more memorable than this flight, a tease for us to do this flight again in ten years. The wines were merlot fruit driven, deep and dry, challenging.

  • 2000 Gracia

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

    The tannin overpowers the fruit now, this may still be shut down and waiting another day, a year, or a decade. It has a perfumey nose of sage, eucalyptus, rosemary, vanilla, and lots of fruit, and is quite acidic-- there is potential. The fruit, dark and some blackberry, is not forthcoming, seems dry. Softness and good balance was noted, but the merlot (80%) component is lacking now. The finish, a bit short, was described as gum drop, the wine a cherry gum ball. A femme thought it feminine. This wine will definitely improve, as I'm still waiting for the 1998 Gracia to develop.

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  • 2000 Château Bellevue St. Émilion Grand Cru

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

    A vegetable of a wine, most tasters noted the thinness of the wine (compared to the other garagiste wines tasted, maybe) and described it as: olive brine, asparagus, kalamatas, stewed tomatoes, beets, carrots, chickpea soup. The tannins were good, the wine was balanced, there was an uncomplicated but distinctive black currant on the nose, a good wine but not as distinctive as the other wines, and disappointing for its pedigree. Maybe the fruit will come forward someday, the wine certainly has tannins.

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  • 2000 Château Valandraud

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

    The favorite of the flight, but then we like Dr. Pepper down here in Texas. The nose was complex: pinot earthiness, forest floor, spice, cedar box. This wine had a lot of finesse, balance, pronounced tannins, and a good finish. Dark and clean fruit taste was noted, maybe with some molasses and plum; enjoyed much by most, not by Billy, the Quilceda champ.

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  • 2000 Château La Gomerie

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion

    One of two major bordeauxs composed of a single varietal (the other, La Fleur de Gay, both 100% merlot), the 2000 Gomerie is still quite young and will continually develop in the glass--a wine to sip over several hours. Some tasters said this wine reminded them of Italian or Californian merlot, but it was more complex. Lots of tasting notes here: eucalyptus, espresso beans (chocolate-covered!), coconut, chalky minerals, herbs, dark fruit, caramel, cherry compote, "a kiss of dried blueberry" (that's a bit of a stretch, mr. goodtastereport), black pepper, a Good Humor bar. All sounds a bit like merlot. The toastiness of this wine was noted by several, and the Gomerie was the fave of one group of sophisticates, the overall second for all. Will age long and gracefully, but would be fun to drink through a few world cup matches this summer.

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Flight 5 - 2000 Super 2nds in 4 Medoc appellations (4 Notes)

The final confirmation that 2000 Bordeaux is to await for. The Pichon Lalande and Lascombes are almost drinking well, the Ducru and Cos need a decade or more. These were the first wines out of their wooden cases from a marked 2000 bordeaux fan, merci beaucoup.

  • 2000 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    A big wine and well-regarded by all, it was probably the most enjoyable of this flight of 2000 super-seconds. A heavy, dark fruit nose, good balance, resolved tannins, and quite smooth, the 2000 Pichon Lalande had classic Pauillac notes of tobacco, sweet dark fruit, green bell pepper, gunpowder, and cigar box. Of the dozen 2000's we had today, this was the great wine for now, and it will undoubtedly improve with age. Even the Burgundians kind of liked it......

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  • 2000 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    The muscle wine in this flight of 2000 super-2nds, this is an impressive, young, closed wine with the ripest, sweetest fruit, good balance, much structure, and the acidity for long againg. Though the tasters repeatedly said it needs time, this wine was delicious for many. The Burgundians noted the tar and pencil lead on the palate, much mineral and fresh fruit, sweet extracted dark fruits, and a medium finish. It was the favorite of this salon for one European wine/restaurant vet. And it will get so much better, probably eclipse the pichon lalande in a few years.

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  • 2000 Château Cos d'Estournel

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe

    This was the most closed wine of our 2000 super-2nds. The minerality of the wine stood out, with dusty tannins and smooth, maybe under-ripe, fruit dropping off. One group noted a buttery nose, dark chocolate, coffee, and butterschotch notes and liked this wine a lot. All agreed this wine needs another 6-10 years to show its stuff, a bit like the 1985 and 1986 of Cos. Hey, it's a very young vintage, even if a decade old now.

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  • 2000 Château Lascombes

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux

    This wine was a bit controversial: some tasters thought it too barnyard, bitter, coffee grounds, and dirty dishwater; others thought it chocolate, mineral, elegant, good fruit, and plummy. That's a broad spectrum to dissect. The Lascombes was the most forward in this flight of 2000's, and its tannins were more bitter than the Pichon Lalande an fell short on the finish. For the Burgundians it was a favorite, with berry on the nose, pencil shavings, elegance, silkiness, and medium length--yes, margaux might be the favorite bdx appellation of pinot-philes. For the bordeaux-philes, the lascombes fell short in this flight of supers.

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Flight 6 - First growth quality? (4 Notes)

This discussion is like, who was the best basketball center, or who was the best bass player, the best Chevy...... With Bordeaux it is, who should be the next first growth, and who doesn't deserve to be a first growth........ So we had a blind tasting, and the answer is simple: in what season, in what decade, in what genre? Without a La Mission in the mix but adding into the flight a bona fide first growth, we blind tasted three great second growths, and all made a worthy claim to a raise in status, if for only a year or two.....

  • 1995 Château Haut-Brion

    France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan

    In a blind tasting of compelling first-growth wannabe's, this was the first growth, and it showed well. This was open-knit, young, rich, and expansive. The nose was forward and smoky, and did not have the telltale graves nose, so most tasters thought this was the Cos. There was fine dark fruit, some Asian spice, light acidity, and great balance. Drank very well now, which surprised the Pape Clement fans.

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  • 1996 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Tasted blind as a first growth candidate, this indeed made the grade. The best Pichon Lalande since the 1982 (IMHO), it was the most fragrant wine of the flight. Its aromatics had smoke, cedar box, bell pepper and it had pronounced mineral, leather, and red fruit flavors with some spice, pepper, dark currant, and tobacco notes. It had earth, slate and plum flavors at the back of the palate with well balanced tannins-- a nice food wine. "Ethereal," proclaimed a taster. It was the second favorite of the flight, and was readily identified as the Pauillac. First growth quality in a first growth year.

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  • 1995 Château Cos d'Estournel

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe

    A highly regarded wine, it was mistaken by several to be the Haut Brion in this blind flight. Very aromatic, it had bright cherry on the nose with smoke, limestone, clay, and earthy loam notes. It was lush and rich, had much chocolate and purple fruit flavors, some anise, strawberry, leather, and graphite notes at the back-end. A long and subtle finish, will likely improve. Maybe a first and a half growth.

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  • 1995 Château Léoville Las Cases

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    This was the most powerful wine of this blind tasted flight. It had power, a shy nose, tannic fruits, complexity, and simply needed to open up. One taster called it "edgy and firm." It had some fruit, coffee, minerality, but after several hours of decanting, it remained closed. A first growth quality wine for the future.

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Flight 7 - Paris '76 many vintages and years later. (4 Notes)

A blind tasting of four of the nine wines in the famed Paris tasting of Cal Cabs and Bordeauxs of 1970 and 1971: we pulled four wines 26 years later, and USA won, simply because a Bordeaux was flawed. Did such a thing happen back then? The Cal Cabs were surprisingly good, the flight fun, a three way tie that a great LLC might have won for the French. There goes the World Cup!

  • 1996 Château Mouton Rothschild

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Leather, old world, books on the nose--guess if this is california or bordeaux! This was somewhere in the middle of the flight, not the favorite but a nice wine. It had good structure, adicity, and balance but was not compelling, It had a classic pauillac palate of tobacco, cedar box, graphite, minerals, but the tannins were hard and it seemed to need age. It was solid, some said delicate, and might improve with age. Tasted along side two top Californians, it lacked flavor but gave structure and balance.

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  • 1996 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard

    USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville

    Drinking quite well, this wine had vanilla, new wood, and barnyard on the nose, and lots of good, dark fruit, even raisins, on the palate. It was the roundest wine in the flight, maybe had less structure, but was very good with food. There were two takes on this wine: one group found bright cherry, dark fruit, ripeness, and jam flavors (they thought this the 96 Mouton), another group thought the wine simple, grassy on the nose, with plum, stew, and minerals on the palate, and moving on a downward slope (the french and quilceda snobs). It was a better than expected Heitz, and gave the Mouton a good contest--a tie, in a tannic year for both.

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  • 1997 Ridge Monte Bello

    USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains

    All but the goodtaster really liked this wine. It was balanced, elegant, and very fruity. Mint, molasses, cream and cane syryp on the nose, the wine had soft tannins, high acidity, little minerality, and various fruit flavors, including cranberry, pomegranate, black plum. The goodtaste naysayer tasted pyrazine (as they say, good in sauvignon blanc, bad in red as the smell delivers a patch of vegetables you don't like), eucalyptus, mint, and anise, without much fruit. It only takes one on a jury, here it took one to teach us all about pyrazine. But the wine tied with the other two anyway.....a hung jury.

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  • 1996 Château Léoville Las Cases Flawed

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    Flawed, and a cog in our flight tasting. Could have been a contender, but the oxidation was not discernible during decanting, jumped out in the blind bag.......

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Flight 8 - Some older Bordeaux (4 Notes)

We might have had some older and more exotic wines here, but we thought the two 1978's would be interesting and perhaps the Leoville and Margaux surprising. Actually the 1978 Mouton was surprising, the rest a bit dull, and these wines provided a good reference for some average vintages after tasting so many top vintages.

  • 1978 Château Certan de May

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol

    The least favorite of an older Bordeaux flight, the wine was likely over the hill. It was very good out of the bottle and went down quickly, single dimensional, light, green, fading, smelling better than it tasted. A stewed tomato and vegetable palate, it went unbalanced and weak after a great start.

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  • 1978 Château Mouton Rothschild

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    This drank surprisingly well, had some good tannins, and a light color, a petrol nose, some barnyard and leather flavors. Some thought the wine fantastic and integrated, smooth, with cedar, cigar ash, pleasant sweat, and tobacco notes--a wine drinking very well now, starting to fade. A few didn't like the petrol nose, weak palate. A Bordeaux-phile's wine.

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  • 1981 Château Léoville Las Cases

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    A good start, a bit thin, a pleasant nose, with some pepper, spice, leather notes. Several thought it "salty," still tannic. Most thought it wouldn't improve, found some complexity, a good wine in a good year, smooth, and in balance.

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  • 1988 Château Margaux

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux

    A favorite of this old bordeaux flight, and a not-so-old Bordeaux, the 1988 Chateau Margaux's tannin for some tasters were resolving well, the flavors classic, and the fruit pretty. For a few, the tannins were harsh and "needed a fatty ribeye." The Margaux afficionadoes noted spice, cedar, tobacco, chocolate, dried prunes, and dark fruit on the palate. Some found floral, menthol, bell pepper on the nose. The wine had a good finish, and was deemed young, ageworthy. Not a great Margaux by any means, but pleasant and it had its fans and detractors here.

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