This week for edition 13 of our ‘Vintage Pairs’ wine tasting series we went dead posh and fancy over it – all the wines in m-a-g-n-u-m-s, and accompanied by a fine dinner in the private dining room at Michelin-darling Tosca at the Ritz-Carlton.
The views from the 102nd floor as the sun went down were jaw-dropping (and knee-wobbling). What a city we live in!
'Vintage Pairs’ is my blind tasting format – ten wines served blind in five pairs. Each pair is the same wine from two different vintages. In theory its easy to work out what you are tasting because you have two examples to work on, but in practice it can be utterly perplexing!
If I can offer the major take away for the evening it is this: Buy magnums any chance you get, especially when the wine is mature. They often mature more slowly, and I would say unscientifically that reliability seems to be higher too. In any case they are just so much more Bacchanalian!
We began with a pair of Chablis, right at the top of the quality producer/vineyard pyramid – R & V Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos. The 2004 served second was benchmark classic, but the 2006, from a ripe, soft vintage, while delicious right now, is atypically almost tropical in tone. A fun start!
Next, textbook elegance and grace – Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Véroilles’ with a decade to divide the pair. The 2011, despite this being a precious year, was still very primary. The 2001 is fantastic drinking right now – just entering is apogee and offering that morish combination of fresh fruit and savoury development.
Then Ornellaia, which with its classic Bordeaux grape blend, freshness and complexity, you’d be forgiven for placing it in Bordeaux from a top estate. The 2008 is ripe and denser than typical cru classe Bordeaux – a great year, but one that would benefit from more time in the cellar. The 1995, in contrast, was cooler, very Médocain in expression, and fully ready to drink. In my experience, a vintage where magnums are now clearly out-delivering on the bottle experience – ’95 is a smart buy.
Quite a rare pair followed – Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This warm site in the northern Napa Valley near Calistoga is one of the most beautiful vineyard settings I’ve ever visited, nestled into the wildness that marks the end of the valley and beginning of the ‘mountain’ sites. Paul Draper put it on the map with his 1971 single vineyard bottling from here for Ridge (still on my wine-to-try bucket list). Joseph Phelps kept the single vineyard tradition here through the mid-70s and ‘80s – highly successfully in my view, before Bart and Daphne Araujo put their all in here from 1991, until 2013 when it was sold to Artemis (Château Latour, etc). Let’s see what comes next from this illustrious vineyard. But tonight we paired 1994 and 1993 – the former being the long-cellaring classic, the latter being a trickier vintage. In the glass I think they tied – both still so vibrant and primary.
Finally a pair from a vineyard I visited just a couple of weeks ago – Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’. The 1997 is now – even in magnum – fully evolved, soft, sweet, gamey, very drinkable. In fact, do not cellar this – buy it for your drink-now fridge. The 1982 – one of the great vintages for La Chapelle if not necessarily the northern Rhône in general – is simply outstanding, even in bottle. In magnum it is spectacularly complex, expressive, succulent, super long on the palate. A compelling wine. It has something of the charm of the ’79, ’66 and ’49 (rather than the structure and density of the ’78, ’72, or ’61), but I put ’82 amongst my favourite La Chapelles ever, if not right in the very front rank.
|2006||René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru ‘Les Clos’||1500ml||BH93|
|2004||René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru ‘Les Clos’||1500ml||BH93|
|2011||Domaine Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Veroilles’||1500ml||BH92|
|2001||Domaine Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru ‘Les Veroilles’||1500ml||BH91|
|2008||Tenuta dell’Ornellaia ‘Ornellaia’||1500ml||WA97|
|1995||Tenuta dell’Ornellaia ‘Ornellaia’||1500ml||WA95|
|1994||Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||1500ml||WA96|
|1993||Araujo Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon||1500ml||WA95|
|1997||Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’||1500ml||WA93|
|1982||Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’||1500ml||WA92|