I've been beating my brains out trying to figure out the best way to introduce this tasting. In the end, I've decided to cut short the theatrics and keep it simple.
It was close to the end of the year, not yet New Year's Eve, but close enough. The order of the day was to bring out the best, most expensive wines we'd all been hoarding and we all obeyed the call. Luckily, we wound up with six great red wines, the pick of all the greatness France has to offer, and a terrific desert wine. No bad bottles, no TCA, no duds, no premature grey hairs.
Thanks for the friendship, people. And special thanks to Ran Shapira for midwiving the evening.
Leoville-Les-Cases, Saint Julien 2me Cru, 1989
Embodies elegance from the nose to the last, lingering caress of the aftertaste. The nose is fresh and fruity, albeit fruit that has been gently sauteed by nineteen years in bottle. I found an appealing hint of mushrooms as well. The palate is very balanced but the most direct compliment I could pay this wine leapt to my lips almost uncontrollably: "this is a very delicious wine!" I told my friends and this would not be the last delicious wine of the evening. All the wines, ranging from excellent to great, were gorgeously yummy.
Latour, Pauillac 1er Cru, 1986
Forward and sexy where the Les-Cases was regal and contained, the Latour flatters with an exciting nose full of red druit, tobacco leaves, coffee and exotic spices. As succulent and fresh as the palate is after twenty-two years, it fails to live to all the aromatic beauty and complexity. But then again the nose had set the bar at stratospheric heights.
Mouton, Pauillac 1er Cru, 1989
The Les-Cases' regal aromatic tapestry is matched here. Matched before the Mouton spins off to greater complexities. But the Mouton's best trick is played out on the palate which is absolutely perfect, being balanced and complex enough to win 95 points by my taste but then offers such mysterious charisma to take it as close to 100 points as any wine I've ever tasted.
Lynch-Bages, Pauillac 5me Cru, 2000
What is this youngster doing here? Discoursing on evolution. Very youthfully fruity and New World-ish at first, it overwhelms with black fruit. But its synthesis of succulent acidity and brooding tannins properly points to its origin and in time it embellishes the fruit with refined notes of tobacco. Will be an excellent wine one day but that is no surprise, considering the property and the vintage.
Chapoutier, Hermitage, Le Pavillon, 1996
The palate is sweeter, broader and less structured than any of the clarets, yet once again here is a wine that quickly achieved an intimacy with my taste buds. The nose needs no introduction and simply moves in with its red fruit enveloped by leather and mild notes of barnyard. For all that forwardness, the aromatics are not significantly less nuanced than the Bordeaux. Both the Pavillon and the l'Ermite, about to make its entrance, are so elegant they almost belie the usual perception of Syrah as a full-bodied wine by deftly cloaking their size.
Chapoutier, Hermitage, l'Ermite, 1998
Goodness! Tight, yet even now this is a fascinating wine. The similaraties to the Pavillon are obvious, yet this wine just has more to offer. Greater complexity, more structure, greater length and power that never detract from the wine's elegance. Greater finesse in the sneaky way it flutters a veil of mineral notes. This will really be a great wine someday and like many of the evening's wine, left me feeling ennobled to be sharing it with my friends.
Fritz Haag, Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese #10, 2006
A sherbert of ripe yellow fruit dripping with sweet spices and morning dew. As sexy as the nose is, the palate wows even more with its succulent acidity. A fine ending to the evening and to the year.