Question: I am a fan of Prosecco. Do they need to protect their name?
Answer: Most topical question. Yes as a product becomes more popular there will always be producers trying to market off that name. Reference the legal battles over the years by Champagne for Protected Designation of Origin. Now though still rather locally focused there are some of these same “trademark” issues in dispute between Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia concerning Prosecco, Prosekar, and the sweet dessert wine Prosek. Also check out this update on the matter of November 7 by Associated Press here. Stay tuned.
Always amazed at how top wines evolve with maturity yet usually retain their original distinctive vintage style. You continually see those differences at vertical tastings of wines held from most regions around the world. Contrast this with how particularly larger producers often are looking for consistency in their wine brand hoping to avoid noticeable change from year to year and also those non-vintage blends. All of this is not unexpected as we know how important the weather throughout the growing year is on the harvested grapes from the vineyard. We decided to revisit these differences in a tasting-dinner in Vancouver on November 2, 2021 at Blue Water Cafe with the theme of red Burgundy six Grand Cru & two Premier Cru from 1988 & 1990.
The wonderful evening started not with the usual aperitif Champagne (left this time for the end of the meal in the old French custom) but a delightful young 2016 BIENVENUES BATARD-MONTRACHET DOMAINE FAIVELEY. Now run by 7th generation Eve & Erwan Faiveley since 2005 with a focus on approachable subtle wines of finesse resulted in the perfect result here. Smart purchase by them in 2008 of this older vineyard (planted 1980) in the NE corner of Batard-Montrachet with Chardonnay juice barrel-fermented in oak (half+ were new) with frequent battonage and 18 months aging. A rather difficult high acid less fragrant harvest but the resulting wine now is superb. Shows the delicacy, harmony, and elegance of this special terroir in this lovely fresh clean treasure. Champagne before the dessert worked much better than expected as a glorious refreshing finale. 56% Pinot Noir & 44% Chardonnay with no MLF. Structure with power but described as “elegance of a Degas ballerina” in this LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL ROSE 2012 from Estate old vines on limestone soils is really something special. In their helpful booklet they accurately state “complex”, “difficult to describe” but insightfully go on to do so more accurately than your scribe possibly could: “The nose exudes delicate, zesty, fresh and precise notes of citrus peel, yuzu, forest fruit, mandarin, raspberry and wild strawberry which evolve towards roasted notes and almonds before giving way to fresh, herbal aromas of verbena and bergamot. The overwhelming sensation is one of serenity, the elegance of fresh fruit and the power of the zesty, chalky freshness. The finish is wonderfully long and enticing.” Fantastic with the raspberries on the panna cotta.
1988 FIRST FLIGHT:
ECHEZEAUX DOMAINE MONGEARD-MUGNERET VIEILLE VIGNE
ECHEZEAUX DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE-CONTI
CORTON CUVEE DOCTEUR -PESTE HOSPICES DE BEAUNE ACQUEREUR: JEANNE-MARIE DE CHAMPS
RICHEBOURG DOMAINE DE LA ROMANEE-CONTI
This 1988 vintage followed some very disappointing ones in the eighties from 1981-1987 inclusive though 1985 was and still can be marvellous. The weather was mixed in the Fall and some picked too early with high acidity plus too many grapes lacking concentration but with prominent drier tannins. Started out austere and some lacked fruit but others are getting better at 30+ years. Choose carefully as not a consistent vintage. This flight showed quite nicely overall. M-M improved opening in the glass with some complexity. There is classic loose knit terroir showing rustic menthol earthy notes but fresh with 1988 vibrancy of acidity perfect for lifting the fresh salmon course from the Indigenous people in the Maritimes brought in by Chef Frank Pabst. Echezeaux DRC has spice and noticeable stems from the fermentation methods while matching well with the cherries in the dish. Lovely classy plateau of drinking. Corton is funky and less clean than others though there is fruit there but is outclassed. Richebourg DRC clearly best with deep riper intense richer fruit though still somewhat stern. Believe it has the quality to still develop a better bouquet of textbook oriental spices with improved sumptuous velvet textures. Patience. All four need a little more charm but that 1988 austere style remains underneath.
1990 SECOND FLIGHT:
VOSNE-ROMANEE LES CHAUMES DOMAINE MEO-CAMUZET
VOSNE-ROMANEE LES BEAUX MONTS DOMAINE LEROY
CHARMES-CHAMBERTIN DOMAINE FAIVELEY
ROMANEE ST.-VIVANT DOMAINE JEAN-JACQUES CONFURON
Heralded as a possible vintage of the century on release but hasn’t quite turned out that way. Mostly full rich outstanding wines but more praise now for 1999 and even some 1991s. Tonight these 1990s are deeper and darker than the 1988s in the first flight. Brilliant wood fired roasted partridge with the 1990 flight. Fantastic flavours matching and accentuating the sweetness of the pinot noir wines. No better pairing than game birds with red Burgundy IMHO.Interesting the two 1er Cru V-R with Les Chaumes located below Les Malconsorts on richer clay soils while Les Beaux Monts better situated up the slope with more marl next to Echezeaux. Both lovely but Chaumes lighter while Beaumonts exquisite perfumed bouquet with concentrated almost lush palate with elegant finesse. My wine of the night! Charmes is ready, good but on the lighter side without the depth of fruit in Faiveley 1990 Mazis or even Latricieres. RSV is bigger from JJC than you usually see from this Grand Cru site with huge extraction from very old vines resulting in a massive wine. Impressive ripeness of the 1990 vintage here though lacking a little finesse. 1990 still shows more charm than 1988 because of the balanced acidity together with riper fruit and easier tannins. Two very different vintages evolving yet retaining their inherent unique overall styles. Fun to compare!
Question: What currently is a very good buy for red wine cellaring?
Answer: Easy one for me. I am very excited about the 2016 Nebbiolo reds from Piedmont. Equally successful for both Barbaresco and Barolo. A fantastic classic long ripening late picked vintage that may well develop into the greatest year of all time – including in the future with global climate change resulting in earlier harvests. An especially good value for the quality are the 9 Cru Barbaresco Riserva from the Produttori del Barbaresco. Reasonably priced in British Columbia compared to the world market for these wines. Not inexpensive but super value for such terrific quality. Already have received wonderful reviews as noted below but are safe bets with cellaring to be truly outstanding.
The 1970 Bordeaux vintage is getting on in age more than half a century old. It is the vintage most tasted over the years by your scribe together with the 1982 and 1975 as close runner-ups. Fortunate to monitor so many properties from this big 1970 crop produced from rather good weather but is an underrated vintage. It was released as an optimistic beacon in what has turned out to be the darkest period of Bordeaux vintages. Many decades were assessed by Harry Waugh in his brilliant Wine Diary with quotes from his 1982-1986 one published in 1987 as follows:
1963: “a disaster”
1964: “rain during the vintage in the Medoc, but it was quite successful for the wines from Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.” Love those old vines Chateau Trotanoy 1964 that mostly survived the 1956 frosts just like L’Eglise-Clinet did.
1965: ‘The less we say about 1965 the better!”
1966: “Great expectations … too much acidity for enjoyment.” IMHO there are some excellent 1966s where there was enough fruit with the acidity in balance (like Chateau Palmer) as Michael Broadbent called “the long distance runner of 1966.”
1967: “Made from unripe grapes, this is another vintage which did not come up to expectations.”
1968: “third catastrophe of this irregular decade”
1969: “indifferent vintage”
1970: “one of those golden years which occur all too seldom and which yielded a very large crop of excellent quality. It is rare for such quality to accompany a large harvest and it was not until some time later that sceptics could accept it had actually happened.”
1971: “overshadowed by 1970 – have advantage of developing faster than the more robust and tannic 1970s.” Some outstanding Pomerols including Petrus.
1972: :wretched climatic conditions during most of the summer, the grapes had no chance to ripen and the result was some of the most unattractive young wine the writer has ever had the misfortune to taste.”
1973: ‘began to rain in September, to such an extent that the grapes swelled almost to bursting point – production was a vast one mainly of rather pallid washed out wines.”
1974: ‘born under unfavourable circumstances – cannot be placed among the good years.”
1975: “I have never thought, as I believe some people did, that 1975 was a better vintage than 1970, but of course time will tell.”
As you can see from these comments on vintages 1963-1975 inclusive that it was a bleak time for collectors and 1970 was the star year with 1966 and 1975 also finding advocates. Harry Waugh attended in Vancouver on March 11,1982 for a blind tasting & dinner at The Beach House featuring 10 top Bordeaux 1970. We all thought the wines showed most impressively featuring Latour, Palmer, Ducru Beaucaillou, Lynch Bages, and Montrose all needing more bottle age. The following year October 1983 was the celebration of 50 years for IWFS held in Vancouver with a tasting conducted by Michael Broadbent of top 1970 Bordeaux and again Palmer, Lynch Bages, and Ducru Beaucaillou were stellar but no rush to consume.
Over the next nearly 30 years your scribe has been delighted to taste 1970 Bordeaux hundreds of times and monitor their development. Not expecting consumers to wait 50 years to enjoy any vintage yet there can be surprising thrilling consequences in doing so.This experience has led me to the conclusion that the 1970 Bordeaux vintage is inconsistent, some were made from unripe grapes picked too early with way too high a yield, some should have been consumed many decades ago for peak enjoyment showing maximum young fruit, some had problems like the frequent volatile acidity notes of La Gaffeliere, and La Mission Haut Brion, and some were and still are outstanding. Don’t believe these best wines get the credit they deserve probably because there is no clear banner waver for the year – like a Lafite for 1959 or a Palmer in 1961. The top 1970s led by Latour, Palmer, Lynch Bages, Ducru Beaucaillou, PIchon Lalande, Domaine de Chevalier, and others don’t get the acclamation as mature wine treasures that they richly deserve!
All these thoughts and many more came vividly back to me at a 1970 vertical of 8 examples on October 26, 2021 at Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver. Exciting Champagne 2008 Roederer Cristal got the evening off to a good start with 60% Pinot Noir & 40% Chardonnay described by them as “chalk soils which lend it velvety texture and delicate tension energy tamed by unusually long period of bottle ageing 10 years – A first!”.
Very old wines are always inconsistent because of bottle variation. However here one group was simpler and seen better days: ANGELUS dry, one dimensional, no oak used in maturation, still best bottle in decades; PAVIE: more open but rustic and musty, loose cork; DURFORT VIVIENS: lightest brown colour, simple, acidic. CHATEAU MARGAUX (Menu lists Latour but saved for an upcoming vertical) was in the middle with a couple of us thinking it may even get better as each bottle shows improved bouquet complexity. Yet it suffers from less concentrated unripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes finishing short even though the terroir is so special. However, 4 wines really sang brilliantly as excellent mature classic Bordeaux: DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER always needs time for the tannins and fruit to cohere and is lovely drinking presently with tobacco notes; DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU has terrific gravelly terroir resulting in classic St. Julien style so beautifully elegant; PICHON LALANDE before May de Lencquesaing’s time but well stored Pauillac cedar cigar box dramatic bouquet and lots of smooth fruit left. Underrated. plus PALMER with 16% Petit Verdot (44M 31CS & 9CF) perhaps not as stunning as 1966 or 1961 but still outstanding with no rush to drink up and purchased for a steal in 1975 for $11.50 a bottle.
Try a great 1970 Bordeaux to learn why the region is so deservedly celebrated for the delights from long aging red wines. A rare treat!