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Single Evening Tasting, London: 1996 Claret. An Affordable Maturity?
12 March @ 6:45 pm - 8:45 pm
1996 MEDOC – AN AFFORDABLE MATURITY?
1996 Clos du Marquis, St Julien
1996 Reserve de La Comtesse, Pauillac
1996 La Dame de Montrose, St Estèphe
1996 Ch. Montrose; 2nd Growth, St Estèphe
1996 Langoa Barton; 3rd Growth, St Julien
1996 Léoville Barton; 2nd Growth, St Julien
1996 Ducru Beaucaillou; 2nd Growth, St Julien
1996 Pichon Baron; 2nd Growth, Pauillac
Two St Estèphe, two Pauillac, four St Julien. In delicious early maturity.
1996 was an excellent vintage for the northern Médoc (St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien), where a dry, sunny early October benefitted the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, the dominant grape in the wines we will be tasting, and each of these wines was a notable success at its level. These are fine, elegantly proportioned wines, classy examples of middleweight, beverage Bordeaux, classic claret in the best sense of the word.
Affordable? So much fine wine has recently become so expensive that many of us look at some of what we have in our cellars and wonder, can we afford to drink that? Even though we may have paid very considerably less for it originally. It is a question combining: ‘is this particular mouthful really worth what the current market will pay – at least for my pleasure?’ and ‘Or would I rather have the money and buy something else that seems to me to represent much better value per sip?’
Whilst these eight Médocs are not inexpensive (they range in retail cost from around £50 to £160 per bottle), they are a long way from the absurd prices of wines that may indeed be ‘better’, but often not by that much, yet at a price disparity which seems out of all proportion to the actual taste-quality differential.
Whatever the wine, maturity – in this case two decades of bottle age – may, indeed should, be worth a great deal in terms of seductiveness of bouquet, mellowness of texture, overall harmony. For all that I say (and I do) that we should relish wines at different ages for what they have to offer, rather than cavil at what they don’t, I also feel that today so many ageworthy wines seem to be drunk well before reaching the real peak of their potential pleasures.
Well, here are eight clarets, affordable in the sense that they are not ridiculously priced, and all sitting somewhere on their individual plateaus of perfection – early or late – offering a range of very satisfying claret pleasure.
And we will taste them in pairs which will be pleasurably illuminating and rewarding for the differences of commune style, quality and relative maturity they show. Always of particular interest too is to taste the quality difference between a ‘First’ and a ‘Second’ wine of the same property (Montrose and La Dame de Montrose), above all a question of selection, and that between two different classification levels where the vineyards have been treated and the wines made identically (Langoa Barton and Léoville Barton), a question of terroir.
All the wines have been aged under the same conditions, in our and The Wine Society’s cellars.