Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Médoc 1990s tasting: Pauillac & St-Julien

Last weekend I coincidentally spent both evenings with – different – expats. Amsterdam hosts many expatriates, but none of them are actually in my own circle of friends.

Holland may be an open society, with many foreigners living here, yet the various social circles around seem rather closed. A friend from New York noticed this fact long ago, and last Saturday the same conclusion was drawn by a guest from Bulgaria. In her eyes the Dutch more or less exist in quite static cliques, groups of people that know each other since long. I’m afraid her observation is correct.

Interesting though: we, the Dutch, say the same about the French. Perhaps it’s more of a (West) European habit, as opposed to the hospitality of the Americans.

Anyway, it was pure American hospitality that I experienced last weekend. In an expat setting. The American hostess has an interest in wine, loves wine, but is so to say not a wine geek. Her thing (let’s call her Angela) is to invite wine lovers, and wine geeks, at her house and taste great wines together, while enjoying great food that she cooks. Furthermore ‘her thing’ is the thrill of winning special wines at Christie’s wine auctions.

I did not have to think long to accept the kind invitation. A friend of Angela acted as the chairman of this evening, and he professionally guided us through the following wines, asking one after another to share his or her impressions. Below I will share with you my tasting notes.

Lagrange 1999, 3rd cru classé de St-Julien
A rather slender appearance this wine, unmistakable impression of classic Bordeaux, with old wood. Earthy, and quite ripened, with some iodine, or blood if you want. In the mouth the Lagrange is supple and à point. There’s good intensity, but I would say this lean Bordeaux ought to be drunk these days (8-/10).

Léoville-Barton 1998, 2nd cru classé de St-Julien
Powerful fruit, like a clenched wrist, and a certain freshness. Sweet cherries. Lively-powerful fruit, dark and fresh, energetic, good and explicit acidity (8,5/10 – fail to deliver a complete TN here).

Lynch Bages 1998, 5th cru classé de Pauillac
The wine starts off very modest, or closed, with just some sweetness. But then it gradually unveils itself, first some leather, and then also dark fruit and cookies. The wine is medium bodied, suave and accessible, but there is still a slight astringency in the finish. The wine is showing the first signs of seniority, maturity. Very pleasant Pauillac altogether (8+/10).

Lynch Bages 1996, 5th cru classé de Pauillac
Also closed at the start! But after about ten minutes the wine has woken up, the nose even showing roundness and fullness. And in a modest way, there’s some true seduction. Notes of leather again, and pencil shavings. In the mouth there’s roundness too. There’s softness and dark fruit. Very pleasant wine, 1996 can be so tough, but this wine is lovely. Perhaps only lacking some true distinction (8,5+/10).

Branaire-Ducru 1996, 4th cru classé de St-Julien
Classic and modest nose. Slightly edgy, slightly green. But with the word 'slightly' stressed. Plenty of intensity in the mouth, a fairly good drink but altogether not really impressive. Classic, modest Bordeaux (8-/10).

Pichon-Longueville 1995, 2nd cru classé de Pauillac
Striking difference with the previous wine, the Baron is very open, forward, and it exhibits an unmistakable oakiness. Black currants, and even some chocolate. Convincing wine. In the mouth a good intensity, some sweetness. A soft and sexy wine (8,5/10).

Grand-Puy Lacoste 1995, 5th cru classé de Pauillac
The winner of the evening. Why? Because this wine struck me (and not just me) with its contagious energy: there’s an impressive freshness in the (sweetish) fruit, this wine is very alive. Youthful, juicy, just some dryness in the finish (9-/10).

Furthermore we drank some whites, we began the evening with a pleasant Carbonnieux blanc 2006, and finished with the Sauternes Raymond-Lafon 2001 and 1990. The first is what you may expect from a good Sauternes, the 1990 is simply very special, orange skin intermingled with a hint of Sherry, but it was way past midnight, so no tasting notes any more.

The only other wine that I shouldn’t forget to mention is the Lynch-Bages 1975, served blind. All of us were very enthusiastic, all of us guessed it was an Eighties-Bordeaux. Unbelievable how youthful this 1975 still is! A velvet beauty, beautifully mature but not old, and balanced. A true surprise.

So, this was my introduction to expat life in Amsterdam. Not bad at all. I definitely should act un-Dutch and widen my offline social circle here...

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