NobleRottersSydney - top 80s Bdx with Rhone ringers

Fix, St James, Sydney

Tasted June 1, 2022 by graemeg with 76 views


A staggering night of top wines from Bordeaux’s Golden 80s thanks again to the unmatched generosity of Gordon; and to such patient cellaring for thirty-plus years. I suppose there are restaurants in the world who could have served the ten of us all the wines we had tonight, but you wouldn’t have had change from fifty grand. All fills were still into the neck; a tribute to correct storage. Wines served in pairs; sequence & decanting (noted below) all determined by host Stuart upon uncorking and an initial evaluation taste. Riedel Overture glasses used. Over the last eight years we’ve had all the Bdx tonight at least once before; reading my past notes (and from memory) it’s disturbing to note such bottle variation even when provenance isn’t an issue. I guess this will be a factor at 30+ years of age, irrespective of anything else (bar more screwcaps…).

Flight 1 - Champagne & lesser St Juliens (3 notes)

The two reds were decanted and served immediately.

White - Sparkling
N.V. Pol Roger Champagne Brut Réserve France, Champagne
{cork, 12.5%} [DavidM] Very attractive, slightly developing nose of yeast and bread, sourdough, maybe a hint of cheese. Still fresh though. The palate is nicely balanced with medium acid, creamy, medium-sized bubbles and medium weight, but it somehow seemed to run out of flavour just a bit quickly for me, for whatever reason. OK but a bit underwhelming.
3 people found this helpful Comment
1986 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
{cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] I gotta say, this smelt a bit TCA-musty right from the start. It never got worse, but never cleaned up either. Soft old leather flavours, but always with a cardboard tinge. Light/medium weight, mirror-smooth in texture, somewhat scalped finish. Re-reading notes from 2018 and 2015 this seemed the least of the three, but I think this is probably at the end of its drinking window at any rate. Definitely showing sub-par tonight.
2 people found this helpful Comment
1986 Château Gruaud Larose France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
{cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] This too was very different to notes in 2015 and 2018. Much more refined and softer; earthier, with mature leather and soil aromas. Aged currants and cigar flavours, low chalky tannins, medium acid, medium weight on the palate. Medium length, savoury and pretty finish, if a little tremulous. I suppose you can’t really talk about how a wine is ‘supposed’ to show at 35 years old, but this was well away from the last two tastings. Soggy cork, but the level was not compromised. Again, I suspect an outlier, but on this tasting the end is approaching for this wine.
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Flight 2 - Chateau Lafite (2 notes)

Decanted and served within fifteen minutes.

1986 Château Lafite Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
{cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] Maturing meaty aromas, earthy too, with a dark iodine character. Notes of spice and black fruits. The palate is medium weight, with low/medium powdery tannins and impeccable balance. Structure dominates the maturing and quite mild blackberry and blueberry fruit flavours. Even, mirror smooth palate. Medium long finish, quite savoury in character. Both instructive and confusing to drink it alongside the ’89 I must say. In that context it was more brutish, almost, even angular. Very fine indeed, but on this occasion the 89 was the pick of the pair. This will hold a while though; no need to rush into it if you’ve got a stash!
1989 Château Lafite Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
{cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] Following the ’86, this was at once more ethereal, more seductive. More classic cigar box too; very much aged, subtle cabernet. Also medium weight, it has medium chalky tannin and good medium acidity, but seemingly with more dimension to the flavours overall. Beguiling tobacco and currant flavours. Has a pretty spicy note too. Long, seductive finish. At once more polished and impressive than 2018 bottle. So be it. This is the epitome of great claret and conceptually at least, can be held longer. Just shaded the ’86 on this occasion, but what a pair of wines!

Flight 3 - Leoville-las-Cases (2 notes)

Decanted for 30 minutes before serving.

1986 Château Léoville Las Cases France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
{cork, 13%} [Gordon] Has been a pretty austere and forebidding mouthful in the past, this. But tonight there are definitely some cracks letting in the light. Spectacular cigar-box nose, but also powerful currant/black fruits underneath. Ripe palate, finally mellowing somewhat, although it would be perverse to call it anything other than full-bodied in a classic Medoc context. Medium acidity, medium/high dusty tannins. Relatively a bruiser of a wine, and if the structure seems likely to overwhelm the fruit in the end it’s going to be a hell of a fight. For me, the best example I’ve tasted; the even palate, long finish, the sense of powerful cabernet fruit all demand respect, even awe. Can take on the 86 Mouton for another fifty years or so.
1989 Château Léoville Las Cases France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
{cork, 13.5%} [Gordon] Another example where I think this fell a little short of previous examples, although I think it was more popular at the table than the ’86, which I preferred. Makes me the outlier, I guess. I thought this a little pointed and even metallic after the ’86. Medium/full weight, medium dusty tannins. Classic old Bdx fruit, with sweet currants. I wrote piquant, which isn’t really what you look for or expect in LLC. Seemed to me to tail off a little from the mid-palate as well, despite the medium length finish overall. I know we were staggered how good a previous example of this wine was; perhaps I’m judging a little harshly. At any rate, probably should be drunk now. And, you know, this was really pretty good; it’s context that weighs it down.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 4 - His and Her Majesty (2 notes)

Decanted about 40 minutes prior to serving.

1986 Château Mouton Rothschild France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
{cork, 12.5%} [Gordon] Barely past youthful, as for previous tastings. Meat and currants. Power. Power and drive. Palate is more about structure than fruit too, but it’s a struggle. Medium dusty tannins, subtle oak. It just seems to have so much pure black fruit that builds, endlessly. Medium/full weight, long finish. It is, indeed, a majestic sort of wine, commanding more respect than adoration. You kind of sit back and think, ‘wow, will this ever mature?’ Possibly not, who knows. Beautifully drinkable though with a decent amount of air and a rare (or blue!) lump of animal protein. Just a nagging sense that it’s best may be yet to come. Maybe.
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1989 Château Haut-Brion France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
{cork, 13%} [Gordon] Perfection. Will that do? Honestly, this is about a perfect as a wine gets. It may be getting a little unreliable at thirty-three now, as the last couple of exemplars demonstrated. But on this occasion, it’s flawless, transcendent. I wrote about tobacco and herbs and mature cassis and cigars in an attempt to capture it, but it can’t be satisfactorily done. We were really just ten stunned-mullet faces sitting around the table staring in wonderment at our glasses. Doesn’t seem more than medium-weight, though I guess it must be, but the balance is so impeccable, and the finish is endless; sweet and savoury all at once. And the flavours live up to the aromas, which it staggering in itself. Polished palate, with everything in perfect harmony. If you could impregnate face-masks with this, people would never take them off! What a triumph. Gloriously perfect, savoury, mature cabernet at its absolute peak.
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Flight 5 - Chateauneuf-du-Pape (2 notes)

Double decanted into the bottle about half an hour before service – no way to get enough air to these in the time available! And maybe they’re hardly the ideal thing to follow thirty-year-old first growths. But we make do.

2007 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
{cork, 14%} [Gordon] Rich, developing nose of plums and jam. Still very young and even a touch pointy and raw, although some mellowing is more evident on the palate where the ripe grenache has some spicy maturity about it. Full-bodied, a touch blocky perhaps. But balanced and interesting none-the-less. Medium/long finish with fine grainy tannins. Will keep happily. Easily the pick of the pair beside La Crau.
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2007 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
{cork, 14.5%} [Gordon] Roasted raisins with a distinctly bretty element for me. The palate continued in this vein, with a soy-like character, sharp heat and a generally baked aspect. Too porty. Medium weight, low gritty tannins, but with a dead-grape character that comes with too much alcohol. Is the label right? I doubt it…
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Flight 6 - Dessert & Bonus (3 notes)

The Valpolicella came from another table and was not decanted but already half-drunk (a bit like us!)

White - Sweet/Dessert
2013 Tamburlaine Chardonnay Reserve Noble Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
{375ml, screwcap, 8.3%} [DavidM] Honey and apricot aromas. Botrytis-flavoured palate but surprisingly translucent sort of quality. In the same way chardonnay can sometimes be no more than a carrier for the winemaker’s technique, here is becomes a conduit for pure botrytis, it seems. Flavours have a tangy mandarin quality, laced with sugar. Medium-sweet overall. Medium acidity, no apparent oak. Light/medium weight, medium length finish. Attractive enough, especially given the age, but not hugely complex. Ready to drink, certainly.
Red - Fortified
N.V. Seppeltsfield Paramount Collection Rare Tawny Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
{500ml, screwcap, 21%} [DavidM] All the alcohol missing from the last dessert wine is here! Pointy caramel and cold tea aromas. Medium/full body, volatile in the mouth with alcohol, brandy, caramel and molasses flavours; there’s plenty of presence, but despite the long (and fumey) finish doesn’t quite have the depth of flavour to justify the ‘rare’ moniker in my view. Lacks the richness of the ‘para’ style, so long beloved of Seppelt. This is very expensive I gather; it should have been better for the price.
2014 Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico Superiore
{15%} Warmly fumey, like pickled plums. But with a weird, artificial aroma, like that stelvia sweetner stuff. The oak? The full-bodied palate is tarty and yet raisiny at the same time. A kind of Amarone style without the sweet richness. Very baked though. Very much in the over-ripe, late-pick style. Medium chalky tannins, and some medium acidity. Does fade from the mid-palate back though. Not quite convincing for me. Was blown away when I discovered the price!


A legendary night of some startling wines, that’s certain. Not everything showing perfectly, but only the Ducru was clearly sub-par, so you’d take those odds with any ten bottles (and a combined age of 280 years amongst the eight Bdx… ). What a rare joy the evening was!

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