This past weekend, I went to a wine dinner. It had no specific theme, but it turned out to be an around-the-world tasting of mature wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont and Napa.
Chateau Clerc Milon 1986 – Good vintage makes a huge difference
This was blind-tasted and we were mainly guessing this Bordeaux coming from the early 90s/late 80s. The tannins were already well-resolved with a solid structure and plenty of fruit on the palate. Soft and fleshy, with plenty of power and structure. We didn’t use any decanter and the wine performed well throughout the night, after breathing 30 minutes in glass. Nobody guessed this quality would have come from Clerc Milon, a wine usually lighter in style, more forward and perceived not for long cellaring. This particularly one from the excellent vintage 1986 demonstrates that vintages impact a wine’s style and longevity as much as the winemaker.
Simon Bize Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru 2004 – A well-masked identity but very enjoyable now
The wine performed well after 30 minutes in bottle and maintained its balance throughout the night. Elegant and pure, with rich and intense flavors. A lovely combination of power and finesse. Exactly because of this well balanced, this was a wine very hard to guess. Its well-resolved tannins and perceived maturity made us think this wine coming from good vintages in the late 90s (95, 96, 99), this being a young wine from 2004 was a shocker. For its elegance and soft texture, Chambolle-Musigny was the most logical guess for its origin. Seeing this coming from Gevrey-Chambertin was a second shocker. 2004 is not a generous vintage and Latricieres-Chambertin is certainly more humble than Chambertin and Clos-de-Beze. Under this combination of vintage and terrior, Patrick Bize produced this wonderful and enjoyable surprise.
Gaja Barbaresco 1978 – Piedmont oldies are tricky beasts
Gaja Barbaresco 1978 is a wine that you wished you could spend at least half a day to appreciate its evolution. My friend opened the wine at 5pm and the first sip was amazing – with generous amounts of dark fruit; nothing you would imagine from a 36-year-old Barbaresco. The rest of us didn’t get to taste the wine till 830pm. We decided to let the wine settle for 30 minutes after it had “traveled” on MTR for some time. For every pour from the bottle, the wine stayed fresh and maintained its balance in glass for 15 minutes or so until the fruit faded away and acidity took over. There is no sign of fatigue till the end of the night. However, we couldn’t help but wonder how the wine would have tasted like at 530pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm.
Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon “Lot 2” 1978 – Napa Oldies are straight-forward and lovely
Compared to the 1978 Gaja, this 1978 Stag’s Leap is much easier to handle. We popped and drank and it captured our heart from the get-go. The wine was at its peak performance after breathing an hour in bottle. It presented gorgeous fruits, velvety texture and a smooth-as-silk, rich finish. There are some people who are biased against New World/USA wines. This wine would change their perception on US wines and how well US winemakers can present Cabernet Sauvignon. Well, 1978 is almost the best vintage for Napa in the 70s, this helped.
There is no “wine of the night” really, but with each wine performed almost at its best performance. I can’t ask for more from a casual wine dinner like this. Bravo!