December 6th, 2021

Lots of our recent postings have lauded the pleasures to be enjoyed from drinking older wines. Last week your scribe was looking forward to experiencing another one with a bottle of that iconic red Burgundy vintage 1962 from Charmes-Chambertin by Joseph Drouhin. As is my normal practice, I placed this bottle upright a few days earlier to
settle the sediment into the punt for better decanting upon opening. Noticed at this time an unusual amount of swirling red clouds in the bottle. Days later when I checked the bottle again just before opening all of the thick colouring matter had settled to the bottom of the bottle from standing up and it looked like a white wine through the glass. The cork was stuck in the neck and difficult to extract even using the always dependable The Durand on older bottles. Obviously there had been some leakage earlier on resulting in mid-shoulder level ullage (gap between the cork and the wine) but the wine after all was nearly 60 years old. Nonetheless La Tache 1962 is legendary and Allen D. Meadows and Douglas E. Barzelay in Burgundy Vintages A History from 1845 says “62 reds are the best wines produced in Burgundy during the half century between ’49 and ’99. And have stayed the course far better than anyone predicted.” Naturally we were looking forward to this celebratory bottle with great anticipation.

It was decanted by me and immediately tried blind as is our usual routine by my wife Joan (a brilliant taster) who remarked at once “surprised you served an orange wine with my original Ottolenghi inspired vegetable stuffed baked Acorn squash dish”. On smelling and tasting it she changed her mind to “a strange oxidized Oloroso sherry with less alcohol or a top Jura wine Vin Jaune from 100% Savagnin”. Interesting but both of us were surprised that this was a red wine and a top red Burgundy as it sure didn’t show like one. Obviously the anthocyanins (the main colouring pigments in red wine) had completely dropped out from age and oxidation leaving something unique but
entirely different. Bottle variation. Lesson learned. Not always a good idea to leave wines aging too long but much safer and more dependable to enjoy them much earlier on!

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November 29th, 2021

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (D-B) is a long-time favourite of this scribe. A top Second Growth St. Julien in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification they celebrated via Zoom on October 24, 2020 their 300th anniversary over six families from 1720-2019 featuring present proprietor Bruno Borie toasting with vintages 2016, 1996, & glorious 1982. The property has a really fantastic terroir right on the Gironde River with those “beautiful stones” of the name an important contribution to the quality and long aging ability of the wines. My first visit was over 50 years ago back in 1970 which initially impressed me. Early exposure to their wines continued intensely over the next decades starting at the 4th International IWFS Convention held in 1974 in California where location was split first in LA followed by San Francisco. At Dining Out night in LA at Scandia on October 1, 1974 your scribe was in charge of tasting before serving each bottle from a case of both 1961s from Pontet-Canet & Ducru-Beaucaillou. An outstanding vintage as shown by the P-C but disappointingly all twelve of the D-B bottles suffered from “cooked hot storage”. A good experience learned about storage even from wines that were only 13 years old at the time. Subsequently many great bottles including on March 25, 1976 a marvellous aged subtle toffee 1934 from the Heublein auction held on May 23, 1972 in New York of the Delor collection. Later on several vertical tastings in the eighties confirmed the magical fruit character with amazing harmony this site can produce which usually improves with longer aging. On May 23, 1987 D-B blind from 1982 to 1966 included a lovely very St Julien 1978 and tannic backward 1975 but the stars were the older bottles of rich 1970 and elegant 1966. A year later on April 5, 1988 another blind vertical of 13 D-B from 1983 to 1959. Fourteen years after 1974 poor showing this well stored 1961 this time was all complex spices and concentration. 1959 was a tad musty but 1962 was beautifully balanced and also outstanding yet younger stars still in development were 1982 & 1970. At this tasting 1978 was more herbaceous and 1975 with a hard tannic finish.

Last week your scribe carrying all this baggage looked forward to studying aged bottles of 1978 D-B with braised duck leg and 1975 D-B with freshly home-made pasta for lasagna. Recently on this Blog we have referenced how exciting old D-B have shown from 1970 on November 1, 2021 here, 1966 on June 18, 2018 here, and vertical on May 8, 2017 here where the 1975 was creamier than the current one. Nonetheless continue to be impressed with how these older D-B have changed and improved for drinking with what might be too much bottle age. The 1975 now has lost those hard tannins and though finishing a tad too dry is excellent with food. Neal Martin in Vinous awarded 93 points to 1975 back in May 2018 with these comments:

The 1975 Ducru Beaucaillou is a vintage that I had not encountered for 15 years but my God, what a wonderful wine! Surely the best between 1970 and 1982, the 1975 is beautifully balanced with ample fruit on the quite precocious nose that is more akin to a 1982 or 1985. Certainly unlike some of its more esteemed counterparts, this
1975 shows no signs of drying out or hard tannins, one of the best I have encountered for some time. (NM)

The 1978 was truly sensational with still a lot of fruit left and combining the inherent herbaceousness of that year from the foreground into the background as a freshness. It is now integrated beautifully into the more prominent defined terroir of cedar, cigar-box, minerals and undergrowth. A treasure.

Confirming earlier comments on 1978 D-B by Neal Martin and John Gilman:

Neal Martin’s Wine Journal in 2010: “Served at the Ducru offline in London. One of the highlights of this vertical, this is a classic 1970s Saint Julien that is aged much better than one would presuppose. The nose is leafy, unashamedly austere with cedar, cigar box and a touch of peppermint, yet there is still agreeable clarity and
precision. The palate is medium-bodied, very well balanced with sturdy but fine tannins, an “unbending”, conservative Ducru Beaucaillou that has great focus and vigour. Lively dark cherry finish with hints of tomato and even some toffee/creme-brulee notes lingering on the aftertaste. Very elegant and poised, this is the kind of mature claret I adore. Lovely. Drink now-2020.” 92 points

John Gilman in May 2012:

The 1978 Ducru is one of the unequivocal successes from this vintage. The wine shows just a bit of the overt bell pepper tones of this year, which was “saved” by a brilliant Indian Summer that brought late-arriving ripeness to the grapes in what had looked for a long time like a vintage that was not going to be successful. I have drunk more than a case of the ’78 Ducru over the years and have enjoyed each and every bottle, but have noticed that the slightly “weedy” nature of the vintage has increased a bit in the last few years. The bouquet is deep and complex, offering up a tertiary blend of cassis, bell pepper, tobacco leaf, gravelly soil tones, a touch of coffee, fresh herb
tones, cigar smoke and cedar. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely balanced, with a good core, lovely complexity, melting tannins and a long, tangy and beautifully focused finish. The wine these days has a “cooler vintage” profile that I very much enjoy, as the slight weediness from the not quite ideal physiological
ripeness of the ’78 vintage provides a character that is very much in keeping with claret from this and earlier epochs. Today, some palates may find this lovely wine just a touch “green”, but I find it absolutely enjoyable and it is a great success in the context of the vintage. (Drink between 2009-2030) 90 Points.

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Ask Sid: When were dark green glass bottles first used for wines?

November 24th, 2021
Ask your question here

Question: When did they first start to put wines into dark glass bottles? 

Answer: Yes containers for wine go back to biblical times with wineskins that were conveniently light weight and easy to transport. Lots of different materials including jars of earthen ware, terracotta, and amphora were tried over the years in various shapes and sizes. Wooden casks and barrels were developed and eventually glass bottles. Port bottles evolved from a short squat shape to elongated with corks making them easier to store on their sides. An Englishman Sir Keneim Digby (of fine china fame) in the 1630s is credited with inventing the modern dark green bottle with stronger glass (helped by the bottom punt design) that is still commonly used in various forms today. Excellent vessel for storage and the aging of wine.

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November 22nd, 2021

Another wonderful dinner opportunity arose last month to both assess and enjoy the quality Chablis (mostly Les Clos) from the past decade of Domaine Christian Moreau Pere & Fils (DCM). This is an old property but has reached new amazing heights since 2002 through the dedication of Christian Moreau (after more than a decade of the lumber business in Canada) and winemaker son Fabien (6th generation) utilizing 12.5 hectares (30+ acres) of choice aged vineyards. This educational Chablis event followed an earlier one (reported here July 29, 2019) that spotlighted a William Fevre vertical (six vintages Les Clos 2009-2002) and horizontal (four 2008 including Valmur, Vaudesir, and Vaulorent). Both were organized by my brother Ken, held at Nightingale in Vancouver, and well orchestrated by the talented Chris Rielly – Wine Director for the Hawksworth Restaurant Group. Perfectly thought
out and executed food dishes as shown on the menu and in the photos that enhanced these fresh complex white wines. Also a delicious mag of Bollinger Special Cuvee to start, killer vintage still young 1999 red Burgundy Beaune top vineyard Teurons 1er Cru Albert Morot in mag, and finished up with 1988 classic balanced acidity always dark colour Rieussec Sauternes. Some brief impressions on these eight excellent Chablis served oldest to youngest a good option but personally would prefer a reverse order as listed here:

  1. 2018 DCM CHABLIS AC – A large crop of older vines early picked where the hot Summer weather puts more focus on the exotic ripeness of the resulting vintage than the terroir. 2019 longer hang time & 2017 frost lower yields show off better the different distinct vineyards. However DCM captures this feature so well in this delicious drinking outstanding value AC wine. Always really like the insightful tasting input from my brother Ken, a highly skilled wine & food aficionado! He drinks this Chablis often as a table wine and describes it accurately
    as “Delicious, full, very rich, almost buttery, Cote de Beaune like compared to 2017 more austere typically Chablis like chewing rocks.”
  2. 2017 DCM CHABLIS LES CLOS – Large choice parcel of nearly 3 hectares (7+ acres) compared to even larger Fevre holdings in Les Clos of 4.12 ha. Described this smaller crop vintage here on September 18, 2019 as “very fruity, elegance with minerals”. Shows that with lighter fresh crisp more classic style. Young but so refreshing on the palate with food. Seek it out.
  3. 2016 DCM CHABLIS LES CLOS – Troubled by double frost and rains leading to an inconsistent vintage. Here it looks starting to maderize but presently is OK though best for forwardly drinking. Lovely now.
  4. 2015 DCM CHABLIS VAILLONS CUVEE GUY MOREAU – Remarkable Left Bank vines planted in 1933 on the steepest slopes for best exposure and drainage. Hailstorm just before harvest affected some vineyards. This one shows the rich powerful depth of the old vines and riper vintage to good effect with extra dimensions. Underrated but 2014 is even better for aging.
  5. 2015 DCM CHABLIS LES CLOS – Grand Cru is even richer than the older vines of Premier Cru. Can start to revel in this successful beauty where hail affected some vines but no rush. So intense.
  6. 2014 DCM CHABLIS LES CLOS – My favourite vintage of the decade. First year since certified organic in 2013 by Ecocert. Still hints of green colour there. Outstanding structure with balanced acidity hiding the amazing weight and body underneath. Great textbook fresh so young aromatics but this needs more time because it’s still austere now. Classic with longevity that will age forever. A rare priceless treasure. Wait for it.
  7. 2012 DCM CHABLIS LES CLOS – Mid September start of harvest was delayed a week ensuring better fruit. Rich, full, solid yet a bit softer and less minerals. Start to enjoy it. Chris Rielly really liked the “more aromatics with savoury approachable flavours”.
  8. 2010 DCM CHABLIS LES CLOS – Wrote up here on May 31, 2021 about a sensational bottle of this! Bottle variation perhaps as this one is a bit lighter than earlier one with less weight maybe backward but still is truly superb. Chris Rielly opined that “surprised it is so bright and seems so much younger”. Such amazing complexity with energy and minerally typicity.

Hats off to DCM and to my brother. Congrats on another wonderful showing on how uniquely magnificent Chablis can be. Still a wine region that IMHO is not rated highly enough for the reputation it deserves.

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