Always surprising for me to see which questions asked by you have the widest interest of all. Certainly the specialized knowledge of the somewhat esoteric difference between a Gavi & a Gavi di Gavi was an unexpected result topping out as #1. Perhaps it is because followers didn’t know there was a difference and so investigated further for the answer. Impressed there is such a wide diversity in topics in the Top Ten from food pairing (Thai) to word definitions (“novinphobia” & “siegerrebe”). Thought that the Ask Sid query on important new Wine Ingredient Labelling rules would get more attention. Your scribe notices that current 2023 wine info is very popular with frost in North America vineyards, harvest in Burgundy/Beaujolais, harvest in Bordeaux, and best social media coverage of a harvest all prominent. Thanks for your insightful questions in 2023 and look forward to getting many more challenging ones from you in 2024. Happy holidays!
Question: This year I discovered several South African wines including the top Chenin Blancs from Ken Forrester and quality Chardonnays like Hamilton Russell from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Is there a reference book or online site to help me make some further choices?
Answer: Yes, you found two outstanding wines you mention. Widen your selections by getting the annual 2024 Platter’s South African Wine Guide – though many of the highest-scoring wines are probably not available in your retail market. Your scribe enjoys and highly recommends the excellent website (plus free newsletter) of Mike Froud at topwinesa.com. Check it out.
Another vertical wine tasting dinner #116 by the Group of Eight Vancouver was held at CinCin restaurant on December 7, 2023 featuring nine older vintages of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. What a fortunate spectacular way to celebrate the festive season! All the wines were in the older classic style ranging between 1969 (the mystery wine) and 1996.
Also enjoyed outstanding bookends starting with 2004 DOM PERIGNON CHAMPAGNE so structured showing young fresh briskness from the 53% Pinot Noir & 47% Chardonnay blend from a large crop but a leaner excellent vintage that with patience will develop further mature complexity. The final wine was the amazingly precise 1970 CHATEAU D’YQUEM SAUTERNES perfectly decanted and served leaving the tartaric crystals and sediment in the bottom of the bottle as shown in the photo. Not as rich and full bodied as some vintages but distinctively different showing remarkable fresh delicate dry-sweet styling developing great quality complexity from selectively using only 75% of the crop!
Some brief comments on the nine Moutons in two flights served youngest to oldest:
1996 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Dark and young. Lovely classic cedar bouquet but a little reluctant at first gradually developing in the glass. Deep powerful cassis big statement but is slightly austere. Not yet beautifully singing but showing potential.
1995 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: A tad lighter on the rim but more open and approachable than 1996. More mint spicy eucalyptus notes than cedar from a large crop of 72/19/9 Cab Sauv/Merlot/Cab Franc. Too much fine sediment in your scribe’s glass interfering with the wine’s texture. Mixed feelings but enjoyable with the tasty Bolognese pasta.
1989 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Lighter red colour. Always find it much better than their 1990. Attractive components but the heavy toasted new oak used plus a touch of brettanomyces detract. Have tasted much better bottles of 1989 Mouton.
1969 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Mystery wine was slightly cloudy from cork problems even though using a dependable Durand. Purchased by your scribe at Christie’s London in 1977. Overrated early on release because of the terrible decade of 63, 65, 68 vintsges. Now with fading herbal fruit and prominent acidity is still interesting in that unique Mouton style and well guessed blind as an older Mouton from the sixties by a knowledgeable Group of Eight member.
1988 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Initial nose reminded me of a petrol Riesling from Alsace but cleared to a mineral tobacco oaky satiny simpler vintage.
1986 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Clearly darkest of second flight. Buckets of fruit on the nose and palate with structured tannins from 80/10/8 usual blend plus 2 Petit Verdot. Somewhat like the 1996 but prefer this 1986 for concentration, balance, and layers which also still needs more cellar time. Amazing long flavours are impressive. Majestic and should turn out to be one of the best Moutons ever made with more time than the already 37 years. Shows better presently with the juicy protein in the Tomahawk steak.
1985 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Lighter look with an elegant nose. Ready and much more enjoyable presently with lovely sweet nuanced fruit that is slightly drying though lacks stuffing.
1983 MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Second darkest of this flight. Deep impressive fruit and underrated coming after the sensational 1982. This is 75/15/8/2 grape mix with 90% new oak. Refined, creamy and delicious!
1975 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD: Deep but paler edge. Much more improved mellower tannins now as it has come together with licorice notes approaching 50 years of age. Surprise of the night. Valuable Andy Warhol label but the contents are much better than you might expect from this controversial vintage Drinking beautifully paired with the extraordinary beef course served.
Question: Would you kindly recommend a celebratory drink for our festive breakfast/early lunch over the upcoming holidays?
Answer: So many choices out there from Sparkling to Rose! For morning or quite early day imbibing your scribe suggests the classic MIMOSA. Delightful inspired combination of fresh orange juice with Sparkling wine. In England they add more bubbles using a 2:1 ratio for a BUCK’S FIZZ compared to equal 1:1 mix for a mimosa. Used to be a mix with Champagne but now there are so many reasonably priced bubbles from around the world that will work well. For something a little bit more exotic surprise everyone using peach puree instead of OJ for a BELLINI. Enjoy.
In December the festive season is upon us with many celebratory dinners – some of which include exciting vertical studies of legendary wine properties. The first one up this month for your scribe was a Chateau Leoville Poyferre vertical on December 5 by Commanderie de Bordeaux at celebrated Boulevard. This St. Julien property has been highlighted on this Blog several times previously with the last vertical on January 23, 2017 linked here. Six of the eight wines this time were tasted nearly 6 years ago at that vertical and subsequently as well so this was an interesting update.
Our first wonderful comparison were the two 2015 whites from Bordeaux well paired with the exquisite pate en croute. What a big difference in style to these excellent wines with the small production La Clarte de Haut-Brion (and La Mission Haut-Brion) using 35% new oak for 73% Sémillon & 27% Sauvignon Blanc with Domaine de Chevalier using more new oak 55% and extended batonnage (stirring settled lees) for the opposite ratio of 75% Sauvignon Blanc & 25% Sémillon. Another difference was the closures with La Clarte in standard quality cork and Chevalier the first year using Diam 30 (next year 2016 also red used Diam 30). Proprietor Olivier Bernard told me he did this to avoid so much bottle variation from natural corks but it didn’t work on this occasion as the three bottles varied from slight pre-mox to pristine complexity with freshness. Great start.
The two flights of reds with 4 vintages each followed with the oldest served before the youngest (but 2005 was still 18 years old) and this Chateau production consistency always on the improve. Reference wine notes on the first four of 96, 95, 86, and 82 in the 2017 Blog cited above. Also the 1982 was noted in the 1982 retrospectives of January 3, 2022 here, and April 3, 2023 here.
First Flight of 1996, 1995, 1986, 1982:
1996 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: First one served was impressive indeed with dense generous deep plummy earthy fruit with structured tannins coming together but no rush. Start of changing style with new consultant Michel Rolland using 50% new oak. This bottle still rather dumb with spiced coffee aromas but slightly marred by a faint note of dusty brett. Wine should still develop well with more maturity.
1995 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Less deep at the edge with a floral herbal very 95 slightly softer than 1996 styling that is drinking lovely now. So enjoyable with a remarkable innovative handmade crown pasta dish that was full of delicious umami porcini flavours. What a combo!
1986 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Somewhat controversial year for LP with low scores originally from wine writers including an 87 from Robert Parker. Your scribe is a fan of 1986 Bordeaux late picked in the upper Medoc of St. Julien and Pauillac. Check out again our bullish report on 1986 on a tasting with Bill Blatch of the 3 Leovilles posted September 19, 2022. Younger vines on replanting but highly thought of early on by the winemaker and his consultant Emile Peynaud. 1986 is slowly evolving with impressive showing the last 5 years. Still dark young and underrated but with the best pure St. Julien terroir cedar nose with freshness of all the wines this time. Recommended value.
1982 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Lighter colour with a browning rim. Enticing mature exotica bouquet but some sediment in my glass affecting the smooth delicate texture. Not the best bottle of 1982. Group voted it wine of the first flight in a close decision with 1986 with no support given for 1996 & 1995.
Second flight of 2005, 2003, 2002 and 2000:
2005 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Dark and youthful red tones. Blend is 68% Cab Sauv, 26% Merlot & 6% Petit Verdot. Nose tight and rather closed. Really like the power intensity of balanced fruit and structure with elegance underneath. My fav for unlimited potential. A future winner that is worth searching out.
2003 LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Hot Summer weather resulted in a unique vintage somewhat similar to current global warming. Result is better than you would expect and though ripe thicker black currant jam is voluptuous and rather good. Delicious with the amazing lamb course prepared by talented Chef Roger Ma and brigade. 2002: LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Quite dark and deep. Unheralded difficult year so much less ripeness than the 2003 but shows good fruit on a plateau of enjoyment now and was the surprise of the night.
2000: LEOVILLE POYFERRE: Lauded year and delivers bright lovely forwardly drinking quality. More new oak at 80% and appreciate the figs with olives in an admirable opulent texture. Easy to like. Group fav of second flight though your scribe prefers the potential of 2005.