Two nights ago at a casual dinner with small group of friends (total 4 people), I brought two excellent, excellent wines to KO – essentially a comparison between “Super Second” and “Super Tuscan”. Either of this wine would shine like a star when put against any other wines, when put side-by-side, oh man, it’s a real tough call!
From Bordeaux, we selected one of the best “Super Second” – Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1985. Scored 96 on Wine Spectator, this 1985 came in second after 1986 (and ahead of 1982 and 2000) for all its vintages rated by Wine Spectator. 1985 was a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged for 18 months in barrel, with 50% new oak and remaining in one-year-old oak.
The contestant from Italy was Ornellaia 1998, one of the most reputable “Super Tuscan”. (“Super Tuscan” is a class of Bordeaux-inspired wine from Tuscany started in the late 70s. For more details, refer to our previous blog: The Supermen in Italy). This 1998 wine was also scored 96 point by Wine Spectator; came in third (after 2004 and 2007, both scored 97) among all vintages. Ornellaia 1998 actually won the No. 1 spot of Wine Spectator Top 100 in 2001. It was a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The wine also spent 18 months in French barrel, also with 50% new oak and remaining in second-passage barrel.
Both wines actually share quite similar profile in terms of the grape varietals, time in barrel and fame (as scored by the critiques). We were expecting Ornellaia to be less ready, given it was only 15 years old, and the higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon used could translate to higher tannic level. Quite the opposite indeed - it’s totally ready to drink now. The wine was sweet, round and smooth, with a long, silky finish. The combination of abundant fruit, chocolate and spice aroma simply captivated the audience from the very beginning. Simply a gorgeous Italian beauty with excellent figure!
Pichon Lalande 1985 presented himself as a solid, sophisticated gentleman. No doubt, whether it comes down to the structure, balance, complexity, texture, and finish, Pichon Lalande 1985 was just as good. It’s the depth that makes it interesting. You just feel that there are elements hidden in the wine that cannot be easily described verbally (not at my current level at least...) About 2 hours into the meal, Pichon Lalande evolved and became more seductive. The friend who liked Ornellaia at the beginning now said” Ah, I like this wine more now!”
We didn’t finish both bottles (lucky for me as I got to try them again next day). Less wine was left from Ornellaia though if that’s any indication of vote from my audience. I kept the remaining of both wines overnight in bottle, with some wine preserver gas inserted to slower the oxidation (useful or not, I need to do more experiment to test its effectiveness).
Most of the fruit flavors in aroma and palate were gone in Ornellaia the next afternoon, leaving behind some tasty wood and chocolate flavor. I tried the Pichon Lalande around dinner time. While the wine certainly faded (maybe 50%?), it’s amazing that overall sensation and balance were still there!Of course, a fairer match would be the tasting of Ornellaia 1998 in 13 years’ time and compare it with Pichon Lalande 1985 today. I will see whether I have patience (and will power) to save this bottle and try it again then.