Three bottles III. Clive Coates.

I miss Clive Coates.  Or rather I miss his publication “The Vine”.

There has only ever been one “critic” whose palate has really chimed with mine.  I admire Robert Parker, for example, and read his notes, but I know that he likes a bit more sweetness and power than I do.  And I don’t think he does Burgundy the way I do either.  Others?  Neal Martin is still on trial, I’m often miles away from Jancis and, whilst I’m very much pro the wine media Marmite that is James Suckling, there’s no great confluence of taste/opinion/whathaveyou.

This is not confined to the wine media.  Colleagues and friends too: I totally understand, I think, Clarethound’s palate (and trust it too), but this is a man that still rates Ch. ——  ——, which is just silly.  Likewise Big Phil, whose taste is fairly similar to mine, and whose palate I trust more than most – but he just can’t stand fruit in a wine.  If my tastes are “old-fashioned” then Big Phil’s are B.C..

Back to the point, and the subject.  Clive Coates (M.W.).  In the days of The Vine I couldn’t wait for the reviews of the latest Burgundy vintage to see how they fell in with mine.  They invariably did.  At the time this was honey for my ego; looking back it’s just what it is: confluence of taste.

What I really miss about Coates (n.b. his notes; he’s alive and well) was the style.  Concise, no frills and I understood them.  Others may have wanted more “honeysuckle and acacia notes” etc, etc but I understood what he wrote, plain and simple.  And there was something very English about them.  Herewith Clive Coates vs Mike D. on 1991 Nuits St Georges, Clos de l’Arlot.  For those that don’t know, Mike D. is one of the Beastie Boys.  You can tell which one is which, I think:

“Good colour.  Lovely soft, quite intense fruit on the nose.  This has plenty of depth.  A fat, ripe wine.  Very good grip.  Seems just about ready at first, but there is a backbone here, a reserve which needs to soften.  Very finely balanced.  Long.  Here I prefer the 1993.  It is more elegant.  The tannins are finer.  Very good plus.”  Now-2005.

“This is the real, real, booty unk, unk funk. We’re talking the sole of Isaac Hayes’ shoes while recording Hot Buttered Soul with the Bar-Kays in 1971 at Stax studios. This is just a magical point in time on this wine’s arc. This is that elusive experience in taste that us Burg freaks live for. While 1991 La Tache might need another two decades, this has all the pleasure right now, minus a little weight of a grand cru. But in terms of purity and expression of fruit and terroir, this shit is money! Light in color, so exquisitely balanced, earth, horse, fruit, and FUNK!!! Bring it. 96-97 points.”

I think the fatness and ripeness that Mr Coates alludes to might be what has so seduced Mike D..

So – I thank Mr Coates for his answers.  As concise as one would expect:

1) What was the first wine that got you into it?

Can’t remember as it was so long ago, but perhaps a Palmer or a Ducru of the early 1950s. Certainly a top (not First Growth) Bordeaux.

2) What was the first wine that took you closer to your maker?


3) What’s the best wine you’ve had this year?

1983 Le Musigny from De Vogüé thanks to (sadly now the late) Norman Kinsey in Shreveport USA.

As I say, I really miss Clive Coates, and thank him again.