I sometimes dream of a special edition of Robert Parker’s Hedonists Gazette. I invite the bard of Maryland to my house. Over a meal, I uncork vintage after vintage of wines that he has scored 95+ points, that are dying, drying out and if not unpleasant, at least difficult to drink.
Pop goes a cork from a bottle of Dead Arm Shiraz, pop goes another vintage of some over-priced Spanish flash-in-the-pan. I look at him intensely but not without humour as he tries to drink them. I can sense they are not slipping down easily.
He would turn to me, let out a sigh, and say, “You know Joe, maybe I was a bit over-enthusiastic about some of those styles” and I would pause, smile benevolently and say, “that’s okay Bob, we’re all human. I’ll open some Beaujolais and then we can head to the pub”. Hmm, it would be a great evening.
This was what I was thinking as we were sipping some 1998 Clos Mogador at a recent lunch. The only theme was the vintages had to end in 4 or 8. We sloshed out way through all of the below wines blind, and some thoughts below, including my guesses where I can remember them.
1988 Henriot Champagne Cuvée des Enchanteleurs Brut
Clearly Champagne, quite dark in colour, developed and very enjoyable without quite having the elegance or length to challenge the very best, possibly assembled in such a way where power was favoured over elegance. I guessed it was from the 1970s. Err.
1988 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile
This was, at least to my mind, clearly Riesling, and I also thought Alsace and Trimbach, so well done me. I also thought 1994 Clos St Hune, but close enough I guess. Had an interesting insight from one of the guests about how unreliable are the vintages of this wine, and CSH indeed, from the 1990s.
2014 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru Séchet
Loved this, and arrived pretty quickly at Chablis and at Dauvissat, or a similar modern imitator (Pico, Vocoret etc) – I actually thought 2008, but really good wine, quite understated, which I think is part of the appeal of Dauvissat, the wines aren’t that obvious, or at least at the 1er level. They are subtle, like a quality finish inside a beautiful coat.
2014 François Rousset-Martin Côtes du Jura Terres Blanches
Can’t remember what I guessed this as, but I think got close to Jura, a really good wine.
1964 Aloxe Corton (Grants of St James)
I’ve had a few 1964 Burgundies and god knows what’s in most of them. The neck collar read ‘Special Reserve’ so at least Grants had a sense of humour, cause there wasn’t much Pinot in this (and it wasn’t that special) I guessed old Chateauneuf du Pape, which was kind of embarrassing but the wine was beefier than slab of steak and had lost all of its Burgundian origins. If it ever had any.
1978 Red Burgundy
Apparently, this was from Gros Frere et Soeurs, although only the vintage was visible. A stunning, soaring Pinot that was exceptionally brilliant. It kept its pinosité so well – not a given in otherwise excellent old wines from the region.
1988 La Pousse d’Or Volnay 1er Cru Clos des 60 Ouvrées
The wines of Gerard Potel are tough to find, and well prized if not up to the heady heights of the Engel, Truchot, Jayer mob. Strange, someone reasoned, given he trained up half of Burgundy and was a quite brilliant pillar of knowledge and winemaking nous. Now, I thought this was good, but suffered a bit against the previous wine. It didn’t quite have the freshness that becomes so important a pillar in the foundations of great old Burgundy.
1994 Dominique Laurent Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes
What are you gonna get when you open a Dominique Laurent wine? You never really know. I’ve had stinkers, a case of 1988 Chambertin that needed to be poured down the sink. And some pearls, including a cache of 2000 that was just gorgeous and a steal. This was really good. When it works his new barrel to new barrel, minimal racking approach can make some sumptuous wines that have really detailed fruit but a luxorious texture and fruit profile.
2004 Prieure Saint Christophe Vin de Savoie Tradition
Well I guess this a Savoie, but that was about it. A lovely, invigorating alpine burst of purity after those older wines. Did not taste that old either.
2014 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard Arbois “M”
Very good also, still quite young, and more on the primary than developing the characters of an older bottle.
2014 Envinate Ribeira Sacra Lousas Viña de Aldea
Didn’t like this at all, I know these wines are well regarded, but they do that thing where they have abundant acidity but it seems to be grafted onto the wine, like putting vinegar into sugar. I don’t think this will age well, nor was it very nice today. A struggle to finish the glass.
1998 Clos Mogador Priorat
Which brings me to this one – see opening paragraph, I’ll leave you with the words of Robert Parker, which I would slowly intone to him whilst watching him drink this dying wine that probably tasted massive when it was young:”Perhaps the finest Clos Mogador to date, this inky purple-colored 1998 (40% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre and Petit Verdot) boasts a huge nose of blueberries, blackberries, minerals, and vanillin. It is a wine of great purity, intensity, and mass, with extraordinary richness, a blockbuster mid-palate, and a whoppingly long finish. This decadent offering requires a few more years to fully develop. Anticipated maturity: 2003-2020.”
2004 Domaine Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés
This was my wine, and I was sad to see it didn’t perform terribly well. There was some really nice tropical and secondary flavour, but it was so dominated by a vegetal milkshake, it was impossible to see past that.
2016 Alice et Olivier De Moor Le Vendangeur Masqué Vin de France “En si Belle compagnie Méridionale”
Reallly nice wine, but I do sometimes think that as good as they are, the fetishization of the De Moors production runs a little ahead of the wines greatness. They’re good right, but they’re not THAT good. This was a negoce offering so perhaps not the ideal specimen to take pot-shots at.
1971 Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers
I was out the door at this point, so just a little sip, but really loved this one. A kind of roasted character to it – really well balanced – seemed just perfect example of old Faiverleys wines after enough ageing being really quite brilliant.