Yesterday, a bunch of us Austin wine folks convened to taste through a whopping number of wines. Each tasting group was assigned two flights to taste through before tasting through a third flight double-blind. The theme of the salon was “Great Vintage + Average Producer or Great Producer + Average Vintage. The results were very interesting.
Flight 1: Burgundy
Wine 1: 2002 Albert Morot Beaune 1er Cru “Les Teurons”
Wine 2: 2002 Jean Marc Pavelot Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru “Les Guettes”
Wine 3: 2001 Michel Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru “Les Chenes”
Wine 4: 2001 Maison Leroy Volnay 1er Cru
The Morot came across as very masculine, very stuctured, very deeply fruited, yet slightly overoaked. The Pavelot was frankly a bizarre wine to me. Shrill acidity, surprisingly thin fruit, and (at least to me), a very strange flavor profile. The Lafarge was the shining star for me in this flight. Feminine, silky, sappy, complex and red fruited. Perfumed nose and lovely intensity of the palate. This delivered the goods for me. The Leroy should have been great, but it just wasn’t. Perfectly pleasant and drinkable wine, but lacking the intensity and excitement of the Lafarge. Overall, I liked the Lafarge best, followed by the Morot, then the Leroy and the Pavelot in last position.
Flight 2: Antinori Tignanello
Wine 1: 1996 Antinori Tignanello
Wine 2: 1997 Antinori Tignanello
Wine 3: 1998 Antinori Tignanello
Wine 4: 1999 Antinori Tignanello
We all knew that ’96 and ’98 were the inferior vintages, we just didn’t know how that might manifest itself in the wines. As soon as I started tasting the wines, it became very clear to me what the difference was. Although Antinori is clearly very consistent from vintage to vintage with the fruit profile in this blend (usually about 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon), the oak regime seems to not change much from vintage to vintage, which accounts for the fact that I was tasting lots of coffee and tar flavors in the ’96 and ’98. Too much coffee and tar flavors, especially the burnt kind were present in the “off-vintage” renditions for me to really like them. The 1997 and ’99 on the other hand were extremely balanced and didn’t show any of the flavors I associate with overuse of new oak. The 1999 in particular is in my opinion, the better wine than the 1997 and it will drink well for quite some time. The 1997 won’t be quite as long lived as the 1999 and drank maybe a smidge better than the ’99 did yesterday. While the ’96 was pleasant, I really didn’t love the ’98…very cool, hollow, and ungiving. Definitely drinkable, but no more.
Flight 3: Double Blind Bordeaux with a CA Cab ringer
Wine 1: Totally madeirized and oxidized. Could be anything, but because it showed restraint and dry flavors, I guessed Bordeaux. Mid-1970s to be exact (given that it was doa). Thought this would be a great producer from a so-so vintage.
Wine 2: Very nice wine. Showed great classic Bordeaux flavors of cigar box, lead pencil and cassis. I guessed Bordeaux. Thought great producer from average vintage.
Wine 3: Pretty horrible stuff. Immediately recognizable as CA Cab. Ultra sweet on the mid-plate with a weird jolly rancher twist. Every group identified this correctly as CA Cab.
Wine 4: Another really nice wine. Clearly Bordeaux. Gravelly, stoney dark red fruit flavors. Many thought Pauillac, but I didn’t think so. Wasn’t sure what it was, but thought average vintage great producer.
Wine 5: Wonderful wine. Stereotypical Bordeaux from a great vintage. Structure, stuffing, black currant, cigar box/tobacco, and lots of earthiness.
My favorites were #5 followed by #2, then #4.
Here’s what the wines were:
Wine 1: 1982 La Lagune (+ Vintage / – Producer)
Wine 2: 1997 Leoville Las Cases (- Vintage / + Producer)
Wine 3: 1991 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (+ Vintage / – Producer)
Wine 4: 1994 La Mission Haut-Brion (- Vintage / + Producer)
Wine 5: Clerc Milon (2000?) (+ Vintage / – Producer)
After and during the tasting I also tasted through another bunch of wines that were no longer being tasted by their groups. A few of the standouts were:
– 1997 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino: Tuscan sun in a bottle. Wonderfully rich yest restrained, nuanced, complex and with just enough animale to make it very interesting.
– 1998 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino: Cleaner than the Barbi and not as opulent (vintage-related), but still outstanding balance, intensity, complexity, and plum flavors.
– 2004 Drouhin Laroze Chambertin Grand Cru “Clos de Beze”: Everything I want top-notch burgundy to be. Feminine, finessed, structured and cherry and raspberry fruit with incredible perfume. Ever so slight greenness that didn’t bother me. A winner.
– 2000 Chateau Figeac: Lovely wine. Deep, elegant, dark fruited, balanced, classic St. Emilion.
One surprisingly poor wine I tasted was the 2000 Sloan Cabernet Sauvignon. An awful wine that tasted like a hypothetical blend of Welch’s grape juice and cherry flavored cough syrup. For a wine well North of $200 on auction, this was a shocking showing.
Next up…Rhone wine Salon in November. That one should be very interesting.