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Vintage Pairs Round 7, 12 Jul 2016

In this round of Vintage Pairs Blind Tasting, we served:

 

1998 Dom Pérignon & P2

Essentially this ‘pair’ is the same wine – both Dom Perignon Vintage 1998, both the same c50/50 blend. The difference is the disgorgement date. One is a very recent release from Dom Perignon, labeled ‘P2’, or second-plénitude. In Dom Perignon’s words P2 denotes when ‘the wine’s energy is at its peak’, typically 16 years from harvest. Reserve stocks of regular Dom Perignon 1998 were kept on their lees until disgorgement and release to the market in 2014.

The second bottle of 1998 Dom Perignon this evening, was disgorged and released to market in 2005. It has therefore had 11 years of bottle age off its lees. That’s it. Otherwise it is the same wine as the P2.

But, the results from these two methods of bottle ageing can yield different results. Some enthusiasts prefer one, and some the other. How about you?

 

Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Lavaux St Jacques’ - 2012 & 2008

One of the great family domaines championing Gevrey-Chambertin terroirs.

In the past ten years or so we have seen something of a cult grow up around 1er Cru ‘Clos St Jacques’. It is seen today as on par with the grands crus directly below Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze. It’s immediate neighbour – Lavaux St Jacques – has been left behind, I think unfairly. That is perhaps because of the style of Lavaux, which is quite mineral-driven, tight, and a little more red-fruit in the mix. To my palate it has more in common with Latricières-Chambertin and Ruchottes-Chambertin in style, yet still with some of that black fruit flavor found in Clos St Jacques. This combination can be understood when we consider that on the one hand the vineyard is in a sun-trap valley with excellent exposure, but on the other hand sits next to the combe that pushes cool air into the vineyard, slowing development.

In 2016, as we search for the sweet spot in style and value in Burgundy, wines like Mortet’s Lavaux St Jacques are worth considering.

 

Chateau Musar Red

2004 & 1964 are both legendary vintages. 2004 is 14% abv

Chateau Musar was established in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley in 1930 by Gaston Hochar, following a visit by him of Bordeaux. The Bordeaux-influenced style was further influenced by Major Ronald Barton who was stationed in Lebanon during WW2.

Gaston’s son Serge was one of the great vignerons and leading international wine figures of the past 50 years. He became winemaker at Musar in 1959. The ’64 we taste this evening is a rare, early example of his efforts from an exceptional vintage. The wines rose to fame in the 1980s after becoming enthusiastically supported by the UK wine trade. The Hochars became famous for their wines, and for continuing to produce them during the most difficult conditions imposed by the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990).  Serge, who passed away in 2014, was Decanter’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984.

To my palate the wines sit in a triangle of influences – Bordeaux, which provided the original model, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon; the South of France, which shares a Mediterranean climate, and which provided Carignan and Cinsault to the blend; and something irreducibly Lebanese – perhaps some combination of terroir (high altitude gravel over limestone) and vinification (cement; French oak, low suphur).

The young wines offer great value for money and loads of character.  The very old vintages have a reputation for having lasted, and are super rare, and so are quite valuable in today’s market.

 

Château Mouton-Rothschild - 1987 and 1975

I have tasted most the post 1940s poor vintages of Mouton. Very few, well stored, are undrinkable. There are no bargains among them, perversely because they were all drunk up back in the day and it is the label today that commands the premium for collectors vertical sets.

But amongst the middling vintages like these two, things can be more interesting. The ’75 is popular because of the Andy Warhol label. Also, it was the first very decent vintage since the pretty poor run from ’67 to ’74 (’70 excepted). Here, at last was solid fruit. But with it came even more solid tannin, somewhat dry tannin, from which in maturity the wine never quite escaped. However, this imbalance in favour of tannin also ensures the decline of the ’75 is a slow one.

The 1987 is more interesting in a way. In market ‘need’ it has almost the opposite problem. Mouton made very good to great wine in ’82, ’85, ’86, ’88, ’89. The ‘87s were much lighter, what the English called “luncheon claret”. They were never really overpriced either. Unlike ’75, whose reputation is inflated by the need of the market, the ‘87s were quickly completely forgotten. The label commemorates the late Baron’s 65th – and final – vintage.

I once served an ’87 Mouton blind amongst some famous Mouton vintages. It surprised the room, and me. So when a friend offered a bottle from a pristine case recently, the mischievous opportunity to serve one blind returned! Did tonight’s bottle exceed its middling vintage?

 

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann ‘Clos St Urbain’ Sélection de Grains Nobles.

Here’s a mouthful in more ways than one! It’s simple and precise once what is what is clear. Let’s work backwards… ‘Sélection de Grains Nobles’ is the Alsatian term equivalent to Germany’s “TBA”. This sits above (richer than) the normal late harvest style (‘Vendanges Tardive’s) – and denotes a wine made from individually selected late harvest berries (usually fully botrytis-affected).

‘Clos St Urbain’ is the single vineyard this wine came from – perhaps the domaine’s most prestigious one – located in the south-facing hillside of Rangen in the village of Thann. The soil type is volcanic with sandstone deposits. The bedrock is deep and fissured, allowing the roots to go deep. In my experience this seems to lend a spicy character to the wines that find its way into the style whatever grape is used (Riesling and Gewürztraminer are also planted).

The domaine is ancient (1620), but it is under the leadership of the current generation – Olivier Humbrecht M.W. – that the wines have shot to fame. For a time in the ‘90s and ‘00s they were the darlings of publications like Wine Spectator, garnering gushing reviews and super high scores. In the ‘90s a bottle like the ones we are tasting this evening would have cost you more than an Armand Rousseau Chambertin. Quality here has only improved since then (they are now biodynamic), but fashions have changed.

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View our past Vintage Pairs wine selection

Vintage Wine Bottle size Score
2003 Philipponnat ‘Clos des Goisses’ Champagne 750 --
1996 Philipponnat ‘Clos des Goisses’ Champagne 750 --
2012 Giant Steps ‘Sexton Vineyard’ Chardonnay 750 WA 92+
2010 Giant Steps ‘Sexton Vineyard’ Chardonnay 750 WA 92
2009 Clos de Tart Grand Cru, Domaine du Clos de Tart 750 BH 93-97
1972 Clos de Tart Grand Cru, Domaine Mommessin 750 --
2000 Chateau La Conseillante, Pomerol 750 WA 96
1975 Chateau La Conseillante, Pomerol 750 WA89
2004 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 750 WA 92
1978 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 750 WA 90

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