Followers of this Blog know that your scribe really appreciates quality aged Bordeaux that were purchased for good value. There are many properties that qualify in this regard both in the past and presently. Keep searching to find your own clarets that become unsung favs and let us know by posting them. One of mine is the Fifth Growth in 1855 of Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste in Pauillac. Several previous enthusiastic reports on this Blog including September 21, 2015 here (from 1966 to 2006 where the oldest 1966 shone brightly) and September 26, 2022 here (Vertical of 9 vintages between 1982-2010 with 1982 again outstanding). This month I was most fortunate to drink and study intensely 8 vintages of GPL from 1966 to 2003 each paired with 8 at-home dinners. Lots of impressions and insights revealed. How they improved after decanting and blossomed with food pairing was notable. How the colours varied so substantially. Perhaps the most striking was the bottle variation from previous tastings of the same vintage. Believe me that old wines do vary a lot from bottle to bottle!
It was nonetheless a treat to actually study one wine all evening and to enjoy drinking it and reflecting on how it showed against other vintages. Won’t go into detail but will list in order of my preference with brief notes:

1970 GPL: Bottle variation with this vintage but this one was spectacular. Dark deep look and explosive true cedar cigar-box bouquet with lots of fruit left and so impressively mature. Shows what high quality this property is capable of producing – even after 50+ years of age.

1982 GPL: Always a delightful wine but this bottle is slightly below best showings. Dark and still young but atypical medicinal overtones (almost a touch of Vicks VapoRub) on the nose. Unusual. Where is the cedar? Full of balanced fruit but reminded me of a more rustic old Leoville Barton (St. Julien) style. Better with eggplant pasta course. Bottle variation again. No rush.

1966 GPL: This bottle is drying out and much leaner. Acidity prominent over the remaining fruit. Nose clearly the best part with exquisite complex notes ever changing in the glass. Now best as a food wine improved matched with a mustard coated fresh rabbit dish.

1986 GPL: What concentration of powerful fruit. Will still develop and soften further. This bottle suffered from a slight unclean mustiness that wouldn’t clear off. Big fan of this wine and expect the next bottle to be singing with more clean brilliancy.

1999 GPL
: Harvest September 20-October 4 of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon + 25% Merlot with a lighter balanced charming presentation drinking well.

1989 GPL
: Spicy with some tobacco notes but not really up to the best of the vintage. Delicious drinking presently.

2003 GPL: Harvest September 15-26 with usual 3/4 CS & 14 M but has 2% Cabernet Franc. Ripe but always seems a bit lighter and more roasted. Gets a good report on the GPL website but IMHO this year not up to the fruit level of d’Armailhac or the fantastic drinking Duhart-Milon.

1975 GPL: Variable year with hard tannins. Disappoints here again as too dry but serviceable with tender braised fresh local lamb shoulder dish. Still not nearly up to other successful Pauillacs in 1975 coming around led by Latour and even Lynch Bages.

Really enjoyed learning more about these vintages of GPL through careful study. Fun!

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Ask Sid: Best white grape from Maremma?

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Question: My constant go-to reds are the good-value Maremma wines. What white grape should I be looking for from that region?

Answer: Yes, the rather young Maremma Toscana appellation in Italy only got their DOC status in 2011 after using IGT for a while. However they have great diversity with lots of Tuscan red grape varieties (including the increasingly juicy native Ciliegiolo “little cherry”) plus International ones used in popular blends with more varietal wines all at good value. Smart choice. More wineries are starting out and much more grape production every vintage from this dynamic quickly expanding wine region. The hot white variety and new driving force of this region is VERMENTINO that has increased production rapidly over the last 5 years and is now over 1/3 of all grapes harvested each vintage in Maremma. Suggest you surprise yourself by trying a bottle of their “generous” style of Vermentino!

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There are lots of culinary delights to experience by exploring the unique cuisines of so many different places around the world. Ideally you should visit them on the spot but a wonderful learning substitute is to try and replicate them at home. Not always easy to find the fresh ingredients or the masterly kitchen hands to do so. The Vancouver Branch of The International Wine & Food Society have shown excellent leadership in successfully accomplishing this feat for the members in the past with several memorable functions. Their latest is a spotlight on Dinner in Sicily on February 22, 2023 at D.I.C.E.D by talented experienced-in-Sicily Chef Don Guthro and his inquisitive students. Impressive tasty dishes using fresh local authentic ingredients to advantage each paired with a Sicilian wine by Jack Segal from his Seacove portfolio. Started off with four genuine Sicilian goodies matched with a lovely Sparkling aperitif using Averna Siciliano Amaro, Prosecco Superiore (Valdobbiadene DOCG Brut from Nino Franco) and Lemon Spritzer. Four more so typically Sicilian courses followed plus the iconic Cannoli dessert. Really enjoyed the feeling to be almost back again dining in Sicily. So many fond memories of our last visit to Sicily in 2016 posted on the food “Really Eating Locally” April 24, 2016 here and on the wines “Making a Quality Move” May 23, 2016 here. Also the six wine estates of “Planeta” on April 18, 2016 here and Ask Sid “What is Niuriddu” on October 5, 2022 here.

For more details and photos link to Events on website. There are current Branch activities in the IWFS Wine, Food, & Friends but suggest you continue to spotlight unique regional cuisines like Sicily. Please post your interesting ideas and successes here.

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Ask Sid: Most controversial Mouton wine label?

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Question: I know Mouton is known for their artsy wine labels. Which year was the most controversial?

Answer: Yes Chateau Mouton Rothschild has wonderful wine labels by featured artists started in 1924 with Jean Carlu and continued every vintage since the 1945 (VIctoire “V” of Philippe Julian). Many famous ones have included Marc Chagall in 1970 and Pablo Picasso in 1973 (the year of reclassification from a Second Growth to First Growth). The Balthus sketch of a nude young girl on the 1993 vintage was initially approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) but due to some later developing public opinion controversy on it in the USA it was changed to just a blank label.

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Followers of this Blog will know your scribe has fun comparing similar wines and reporting on unexpected differences. Many factors go into your final impression in assessing any wine but three important factors usually include Producer, Terroir & Vintage. In Burgundy, Terroir can be a crucial key with sites rated Grand Cru, Premier Cru, and Village. You expect that generally Premier Cru won’t be as complex (or as expensive) as Grand Cru (but there are exceptions like Les Amoureuses, Clos St. Jacques, Meursault Perrieres …) but even more so that a Village AC will not be as fine as a Premier Cru. However, especially in Burgundy the Producer and the Vintage are real variables to be taken into consideration – probably even more so than in many other wine regions. This month was a lovely treat over four home dinners to compare four Gevrey-Chambertin being two 2006 Premier Cru from Domaine Drouhin-Laroze with 2006 & 2005 Village AC from Alain Jeanniard. All wines were drinking well showing real quality value as earlier purchased on release compared to the present inflated prices. Vintage was important with the 2005 treasure singing beautifully even at the Village AC level with more intense depth of fruit and balance than the two 2006 Premier Cru.

  1. 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Au Closeau Dom. Drouhin-Laroze Lighter colour but bright. Floral and racy. Lacks depth from this variable vintage. Drinking forwardly. Interesting small (half a hectare) vineyard on the eastern downslope at the top end of Mazis near La Perriere.
  2. 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Craipillot Dom. Drouhin-Laroze Deeper colour. Cherries with earthy “sous-bois” are full & round, mid-weight but again lighter than 2005. Better fruit depth. Craipillot is north of Mazis and over 5 times the size of Au Closeau.
  3. 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin AC Alain Jeanniard Respected producer in Morey-Saint-Denis who managed Hospices de Beaune lots in Mazis & Clos de la Roche. Bright deep look. Lower yields are obvious in look, smell. and taste. Purer selection. Rather good.
  4. 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin AC Alain Jeanniard Much darker appearance with exciting depth. Perfectly clean ripe grapes with outstanding Gevrey power plus balance. Energy with beautiful textures developing but no rush. So impressive for just a Village AC!

These findings from older Burgundian wines are particularly apt during these years of global warming where previously cooler sites (often higher up at the very top of south facing middle slopes) are now finding much better ripeness. These are only presently rated as AC vineyards but are becoming warmer choice places now helped out for freshness by the previously detrimental prevailing stronger winds. Some deserve a Premier rating now. Keep an eye out for these new remarkable value Village AC great Burgundy wines especially from newer vintages!

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