New Year, Old Year. Look forward, look backward.
I’m going to have a big 2011; this is already a given … I already have an interest in how the vintage turns out. I’m hoping for a blockbuster in Pauillac, Graves, Volnay and Piedmont, along with a collapse in wine prices that will make them affordable.
One of my pals has quite a head start on me on the children front. In his own words, vaguely recalled: “a conveyor belt for boys”. Eldest now eighteen, youngest four this year. And a man who shares my appreciation of years, of vintage. His cellar is pretty impressive in the first place, but the most important years aren’t 1961, 1982, 1990, they are 1995, 2003, 2007 and most difficult, 1992. Claret is a fairly easy one for the first, a risky but potentially brilliant choice for the second, and if you are cursed with an appreciation of the Southern Rhone then the last one is pretty easy too. But 1992: you’ve white Burgundy and vintage Port and that’s pretty much it for the conventional or those of the closed mind. So a night of 1992s is going to be interesting. It was.
1992 Pouilly-Fuisse, Clos des Petits-Croux, Guffens-Heynen
This and the next were the wines of the night for me. 642 bottles made and I had some (probably more than my fair share) of one of them. There is something unmatchable about old white Burgundy, a peerless quality that I find hard to describe: the combination of youth and wisdom. Development but life. Complexity with power. The best of rot with the best of the seed. You can see I’m struggling. And this wasn’t a Montrachet, this was a Pouilly. Quite, quite brilliant with a nutty and mature richesse to it underpinned with vivacious acidity. And the old lady and the young man weren’t just holding each other up: they were dancing and more. Quite brilliant. Truly brilliant mature white Burgundy is like truly beautiful mature women. And this was it. You still would.
1992 Chateau Valandraud, St Emilion (from imperial, as all good wine should be)
This wine ashamed me. I’ve slagged off Valandraud in the past (over-priced Parkerised fruitjuice) despite never having tasted it. But it’s second vintage (and it had a difficult start in 91, 92, 93 & 94), made in perhaps the trickiest year in recent history, was just lovely. Energetic fruit, a buzz that the modern style of St Emilion shows. Highly impressive. Jean-Luc Thunevin apparently can’t remember how many imps he bottled – somewhere between three and six – and they were done by hand on his kitchen table. Unpriceable class. And I am a fool.
1992 Chateau Latour, Pauillac (magnum)
Well, it’s Latour, which is the first growth that I know best and the one I rate most highly along with Haut-Brion. This is Kolasa Latour rather than Engerer Latour; my understanding is that John Kolasa didn’t quite have the funds or the backing that Frederic Engerer has. It doesn’t show. To repeat the words of my host: “first and foremost Latour”. Which is what it was. Excellent again.
1992 Dominus, Napa Valley
I’d had this before and it remains one of the best California Cabernets I’ve had. Opus One has never really floated my boat, and I am slightly wary of the Bordeaux-California, Bordeaux-Chile, Bordeaux-South Africa partnership thing, but this is just the nuts. Many California Cabs just taste like Lynch-Bages with peaches but this was a step up.
1992 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru, Les Cazetieres, Rousseau
Yeah I can say “serious vineyard” but it’s that last word that matters: Rousseau. I’m a very strong advocate of just how well the best growers can do in the difficult vintages, and this was maybe the wine that I was looking forward to the most. It was sadly the weakest of the lot (though this is relative). All fine here, just a little one-dimensional. VW instead of Audi.
Whereas most of the Port houses declared 1991, Fonseca & Taylor declared 1992. Yer cynics might point to the fact that coincided rather well with Taylor’s 300th birthday, though they (different wines, same company) will argue that this was serendipity. Whatever the reason, 1992 Fonseca is pretty exceptional. Even from half bottle I was arrogantly stating that it was about twenty years too young – this wine is youthful – but, despite its capacity to age it really was spot on. Outstanding. Big Bob gives this 97 points (the same as the Dominus) and I’d be inclined to agree.
So it would appear that even in perhaps the most difficult year of the past twenty, some serious kit can be found, and some surprises. Crap vintages and top growers has always been a tip from me, but I do rather hope for some sunshine in 2011; here if nowhere else.