Rani at 50 (July 19, 2018)

Age is not important unless you're a bottle of wine
The half century mark deserves a celebration with with great friends and great wines. We got all that. And I finally got to drink a birth year wine.

Bollinger, R. D., Extra Brut, 2002

The R.D. (Recently Disgorged) is the marquee version of the Bollinger marquee label, the Grande Annee. I thought it was a Blanc de Blancs, as the character was very much dominated by chalk, but Chardonnay makes up for only a third of the blend (quite appropriate, Bollinger being an Ay house). My take on it is that this is more about complexity than power and, indeed, there's more depth and elegance than a single glass could have conveyed. There's a reason I prefer to drink my Champagnes alone at home.

Jos. Christoffel Jr., Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Urziger Wurtzgarten, Auslese ***, 2002

It's probably the specific bottle and not the wine or vintage, but I miss acidity here. There's a complex canvas of aromas and flavors, dominated by kerosene and dill, and it's fun to drink, but without enough acidity to propel it along, I don't find the vibrancy I expect from a three star.

Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanee Premier Cru, Aux Brulees, 2002

This a handsome wine, at its peak, combining autumnal forest floor and iron/blood, starting out as a very linear wine before it fills out. I don't get a lot of Vosnee character out of it, though (I guessed Morey or Gevrey), and enjoyable as it is, it only just scratches the complexity level of a Premier Cru.

Chateau Lafleur, Pomerol, 1999

After a Vosnee that played like a Morey, we have a Pomerol that most of us pegged as a Left Bank. I thought Pauillac, in fact. I got iron and smoke and blackcurrants out of it, and the combined for a Pauillac-like impression. A tad too smooth, with terrific acidity, it's a small scale version of the opulent hedonism that people think of when they think of Pomerol.

Chateau Latour, Pauillac Premier Cru, 1966

The greatness of Latour is in full evidence here, the greatness of the wine less so - a wine that got a perfect score from Clive Coates, yes? It's nuanced and mature, yet still robust. The nose, especially, is magical and captivating, the combination of fruit, iron and coffee grain aromas making for an effect that is beyond mere descriptors. The palate is still in such great balance that you have the final evidence, should you ever need it, of the validity of the 1855 classification, at least at the top end. What detracts from the greatness of the wine is lack of true first growth depth and power. It's not over the hill, but I feel like its profundity is either in its past or in another bottle.

Willi Schaefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Graacher Domprobst, Riesling, Auslese #14, 2006

What I consistently get from various encounters of top tier Schaefer wines is that the fruit is so multi-layered and deep that you can find profound nuances and depth at every stage of the wines' evolution. This is almost at the top of the Schaefer hierarchy (save for auction wines) and that boundless depth and complexity make it hard to nail the year. The apricots, underpinned by honey and minerals, seduce effortlessly. It's very likely that this wine will survive me, never mind more recent vintages.