Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Bordeaux Bombardment
November 1996

Subscribers can be the craziest people, as recent addition to the IVV family Melissa Chapman and her friends from MIT aptly demonstrated last weekend at their monthly tasting bash, this time of Bordeaux. The group included a couple of Brits, a half-dozen gorgeous young women, and a tall guy who cracked me up every time he opened his mouth. It was without a doubt the most freewheeling, unabashed and honest tasting I've been to in a long time. Everyone brought a bottle or two at random, and we ended up tasting through the best quality mid-range of Bordeaux in Boston.

We started out with a couple of whites: '90 Ch. de Birot ($11) and '92 Ch. Latour Leognan ($15). Both were nice and lively with plenty of sauvignon blanc fruit. I personally preferred the Latour Leognan over the Birot because it was more intense and creamier, and the Birot at 4 1/2 years old was just a little flat and starting to show its age. The crowd preferred the Birot overwhelmingly, and accused me of just being modest, since I'd brought it.

Next came a flurry of nine reds and 843 (approximately) quips from the tasters. These are my own notes, arranged from worst to best, and they pretty much reflect the feelings of the group. Since all the wines were in the mid-range of price and quality, we predictably moved as a herd, cutting a wide swath right down the middle of the road.

'90 Ch. Moulin de Du Hart ($17): My least favorite of the night, thin and metallic, short flavors, weak willed and flabby.

'90 Ch. Larose-Trintaudon ($10): The most disappointing of the wines, for a couple of reasons. First, Parker loved it, and at $10, it looked likely to win points on quality/price ratio. And second, it smelled great, with huge concentrations of fruit, but it failed entirely to deliver in the mouth, where it was thin and pointless. My general feeling: OK, but not OK enough.

'90 Ch. Greysac ($10): A candidate for the new beverage product "Crystal Bordeaux" or "Cab Lite." Very lean, very dusty, some perfume, not nearly as lifeless as I remembered it.

'90 Christian Moueix Merlot ($8): A runaway grade-B bargain at the price. Possesses good fruit and nice smoothness. Quite creamy tasting and true to its merlot-hood.

'90 Ch. Meyney ($15): Very fresh and young with a lot of acidity, zip and zing. The tannins were dense and soft. Except for the fresh-picked fruit, not that easy to love. Won points for youthfulness while strong tannins promise some longevity, perhaps.

'90 Ch. Rocher Bellevue Figeac ($16): Huge aromas of spice and white pepper dominated this intense and powerful wine. Very thick and smooth, almost chewy. Very good, and easy to recommend.

'88 Ch. Beaumont ($13): Almost an oldster in this crowd, the '88 showed very well with great concentration of red and black fruit. It smelled a little of dust and cellar life, but the funky aromas only contributed to its personality.

'79 Ch. Recougne ($12): Nearly ancient by modern wine's standards, the '79 was dry and prickly, a little short on fruit, but nicely mellowed out. Very different from the youngsters preceding it, the Ch. Recougne put me in mind of a faded red peony that's been smoothed out and bleached by the sun. I gave it a high score, tied with the Ch. Coufran that follows, but I didn't make it my favorite, in spite of having brought it.

'89 Ch. Coufran (price not available): Absolutely delicious, smelling of dried leaves, tea and tobacco, tasting of hard dried fruit and rain. The tannic grip was powerful but pleasant, promising to smooth out in a few years. Of the group, my own personal favorite. Still a little young, but nicely eccentric with some of the exotic earthy flavors that I especially love. I'll be looking to put this monster up against a rosemary stuffed leg of lamb anytime soon.

The tasting that goes on in daily life tends to be, like daily life itself, essentially chaotic and catch as catch can. A tasting like this, among friends and with a purpose, brings the world of wine a little more into focus.

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