Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Lineup (Popina, Nov. 2, 2017)

This will forever be known as The Lineup
(not pictured: Vilmart Cœur de Cuvee,2006 and Bonneau du Martray 1993)
Vilmart & Cie, Cœur de Cuvee,2006

The (quite expensive) flagship of one of the best grower houses in Champagne. This is a magnificent distillation of everything that makes Champagne great: the brioche, the mushrooms, the minerals, the fruit so lively and fresh despite its ripeness and fullness that it feels the grapes had just come off the vines. If you need a frame of reference, think vintage Krug, not just because the quality level is the same, but because both have a multidimensional presence that feels as though you're watching 3-D for the first time. 

Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 1993

When I started exploring Burgundy, most of my forays were basically books and the internet. The word on Corton-Charlemagne was Bonneau du Martray. And, no matter many books and articles I read, no matter what changes had transformed the Cote, Bonneau du Martray was still considered the epitome of Corton. The Big Name, The Name and, some would have you think, The Only Name. Out of five different bottles I've had over the years, only one lived up to the hype, a magnificent bottle drunk at ten years of age. And now this. While I'd still open my white Burgundies  at around ten years post vintage, depending on the appellation and vintage, I can't argue that this bottle passed the test of time and provides a unique experience by showing a mellow version of the classic formula of minerals and nuts.

And on to Bordeaux. Saint Julien is supposed to be the elegant AOC, Pauillac the tougher one. Yet the two Leovilles below showed a rough facade while the Pauillacs oozed sex and sensuality. It doesn't hurt that one of them is a strong contender for the best wine in the world.

Chateau Leoville-Barton, Saint Julien, 2me cru, 1998
Chateau Leoville-Les-Cases, Saint Julien, 2me cru, 1975

As every Bordeaux nut knows, the latter day properties Leoville-Les-Cases, Leoville-Barton and Leoville-Poyferre used to be a single house until the eighteenth century. Still, it surprises me to see how alike these two came off, despite the different years and winemakers, not to mention the difference in winemaking approaches that are the result of new technologies and philosophies that started to assert themselves in the nineties. But to actually get that, you first have to get past how fuckin' closed they both are, even the Les-Cases, bottled all of four decades ago! Both are really elegant and complex when they finally open, the black fruit laced with cedar, but despite that elegance, both are proud field marshalls, gruff and muscular and ready to rumble.

Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac 5me Cru,1982

I don't much like brett these days, and neither do my buddies. yet we all swooned for this wine. I guess sometimes brett works, but it took me a while to figure out why. The reason is, here it doesn't come off as poo or dirty socks, but rather tastes and smells like prosciutto! Besides, the frame is very elegant and friendly and the lovely currants and lead pencil ensure you won't be able to put it down.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac Premier Cru, 2002

No surprise that this is the winner. Crafted from the same cloth as the Lynch-Bages, it manages to top that incredibly sexy wine by dint of an almost ephemeral elegance.

If a wine like the Lynch-Bages is why we age Bordeaux for decades, Lafite is the best reason I know to work your ass to become a wolf, conquer the world and make lots of money.

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