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    The Cat’s Whiskers: Bordeaux 1961

    Chairman Miaow is unhappy. The feline king of the house has been looking forward to a quiet evening prowling the dining room, stalking birds, cleaning his paws and seeking out his human underling for tummy tickles. Purr-fect. Then at six o’clock the doorbell rings and in comes a man sporting the grin of an overexcited five-year-old. Chairman Miaow thinks, “Not again.” The guest brandishes a bottle of wine, which is nothing new at this address, but why not proffer a proper beverage such as milk to show your appreciation of hospitality? To his great displeasure, within an hour the dining room throngs with a motley crew of dipsomaniacs jabbering on about – quelle surprise – wine. He surveys the bottles amassing on the sideboard, harbingers of a long and bibulous night, and repairs to the master bedroom to slumber through the soirée and then reclaim his territory after the humans have had their fun.

    Personally, I am sure that Chairman Miaow, a feline of impeccable taste, would have approved of the vinous fare. Had he observed carefully, he would have noticed that the aforementioned bottles were full of 1961 Claret (at least until the small hours of the morning). Focusing on one of the most lionized Bordeaux vintages of the century, the roll call of châteaux was impressive and heightened the expectations of the English, Antipodean and East Asian oenophiles eager to see whether 1961 delivers where it matters: in the glass. Before broaching the performances, let us investigate the reasons why 1961 remains such a fêted vintage.

    The Growing Season

    Whereas 1959 is the high point of postwar recovery, you might aver that 1961 was the starting gun of Bordeaux’s modern era, almost a “year zero.” I will explain why after I summarize the weather that growing season. 

    Following a wet winter, spring was unseasonably mild; at Latour they noticed the first leaves dappling the landscape green on March 10. Temperatures then began to drop, causing some localized frost on March 25 and 29, too early to inflict serious damage. April remained cold, retarding the vines’ progress, but that warm spell in early March had given them a head start and they flowered on May 20. This late in the season, surely the risk of frost was behind them? But on May 27 and 28 the mercury began to drop, and on May 29 they had their answer. Damage was severe, affecting the more precocious Merlot vines and consequently impacting the Right Bank more than the Left, which is advantaged by partial protection from the regulating effects of the Gironde Estuary. Even so, Latour still lost around 75% of their crop. One must also factor in that many affected vines were fledglings, replanted after the devastating frosts of 1956, particularly on the more exposed, colder clay soils of the Right Bank. 

    Unlike 1991, a year that also saw a late frost, the ensuing summer was perfect, July balmy with occasional showers nudging the disrupted vine cycle along and August much hotter with barely a spot of rain. September saw no respite from the high temperatures, which hit 30°C (86°F) on over half the days. August and September witnessed just 30mm of rain, the lowest between 1929 and 1985. Consequently, vines finally began to shut down, delaying the harvest from early September until September 19. The surviving grapes reached physiological maturity in healthy condition and were harvested in glorious sunshine, apart from a spot of rain on September 28 and 29. Alas, dry autumn weather meant that little botrytis developed in Sauternes, so it was a mediocre vintage for sweet wines. The continuing high temperatures meant that winemakers had to control the alcoholic fermentation in the vat. Fortunately, they were far more adept in 1961 than they were in 1947 at preventing the volatile acidity that spoiled some wines in the latter Indian summer.

    I return to my assertion that 1961 is a kind of “year zero.” This is because it marks the moment where modernity entered Bordeaux winemaking, specifically at Haut-Brion, where régisseurJean-Bernard Delmas oversaw the installation of revolutionary stainless steel vats that enabled far easier temperature control, as well as being more hygienic. They made an immediate impact upon winemaking and, of course, their use is still widespread today, even if some châteaux are returning to concrete vats or experimenting with foudres.

    Nineteen sixty-one was a small harvest of just 550,000 hectoliters, tiny if you compare to the 3 million hectoliters produced during the 1980s. I am too young to remember the 1961s in their youth. David Peppercorn MW, writing in his Bordeaux tome, recalls the 1961s being “very supple from the beginning and possessing an extra dimension.” My friend Baz Philips tasted the 1961s soon after bottling, so I asked him for his own recollections. “A beautiful woman is a beautiful woman from the day she is born ‘til the day she dies,” he told me. (Presumably the same applies for men.) “The 1961s were full of character from the very first. They were big and rich, dry but sweet, promising and exciting. They were so full! I felt sorry for my father’s friends as I thought they would never see them fully mature. For the restaurant [Philips owned and ran the renowned White Horse] I used to ask for 24 hours to prepare any ‘61s as they needed air.” Their core of sweetness perhaps disguised the inherent structure of the 1961s and encouraged many to drink them early. Peppercorn also observed that quality shone through down to the lower levels of the hierarchy, and with that in mind, I dug up an older note for a 1961 Château de Villegeorge, a Haut-Médoc served blind, which you can peruse within the tasting notes.

     

    The Wines 

    A horizontal of a revered vintage is always something to look forward to. Over the years I have been fortunate to taste nearly all the major 1961s on multiple occasions at various châteaux, whereby numerous examples delivered on their promise. They tend to be aromatically intense with a trait that makes them quite easy to identify blind, even for this bog-standard blind taster: a distinctive marine/estuarine character that I discern in no other growing season. Perhaps, having grown up on the Thames Estuary, I am particularly sensitive to this leitmotif. So often a 1961 Claret has divulged its birth year by scents of seaweed (Japanese nori), brine, mudflats, cockle sheds and salty sea air. The palates tend to be concentrated and well structured, and less fleshy than their 1959 counterparts, with more black than red fruit.

    I have participated in plenty of 2005, 1996 and 1982 tastings; however, I recall only one 1961 tasting, in London many years ago. Sadly, it did not live up to its billing. Too many bottles were compromised by poor storage at some indeterminate time in their life. You can do your utmost to source wines this old, but unless they come directly from the château or were purchased on release, the likelihood is that they have been traded and transported more than other vintages. Add in the fact that these wines are now 57 years old, born at a time when viticulture and techniques were still rudimentary, and you might understand my trepidation.

    On this particular evening we were extremely fortunate. Nearly all the bottles poured were not only sound, but often equaled those I have encountered ex-château. This was in no small part because our host had acquired many from ex-château auctions. You pay a premium, for sure, but it’s worth the extra when you taste them. Remarkably, there were over 20 examples from the 1961 vintage, which I augment here with additional tasting notes from various other dinners and some at châteaux. As usual, I indicate where bottles were tasted at the end of each tasting note.

    We commenced on the Right Bank with an exquisite bottle of 1961 Magdelaine (of course, subsumed into Bélair-Monange since 2008; Jean-Pierre Moueix had acquired the property in 1952). Magdelaine epitomizes what might be called “traditional” Bordeaux, previously shunned during the vogue for high-octane, late-picked, heavily oaked wines, and too fey, too emasculated for some. This bottle was a salient reminder of how a more refined, delicate style of winemaking does not preclude longevity. It was as fresh as a daisy, quite deep and long, meliorating with aeration to the point where I almost wished we had decanted it. The Magdelaine was matched by a regal 1961 Figeac, a wine that I have been privileged to taste several times. It represents the end of the estate’s golden era, which had lasted since the postwar period. The late Thierry Manoncourt presided over Figeac at that time and created a wine with expressive Cabernet Franc and a sumptuous quality that is uncommon with respect to both Figeac and the vintage. Well-preserved bottles will offer at least another decade of pleasure. Both Figeac and Magdelaine surpass the 1961 Ausone, which felt frailer and offered less breeding by comparison; the decade was not a great one for the estate. Still, I appreciated the swarthy finish of the 1961, even if it does lack grace. There were just two representatives from Pomerol. As I wrote in my note, the 1961 Gazin was like a flightless bird. It is the product of a difficult era for the estate, Edouard de Baillencourt tending to focus on quantity rather than quality, and machine-harvesting by rote. Much better is the superb 1961 La Fleur-Pétrus. Purchased by Jean-Pierre Moueix in 1953, the property suffered appalling damage from the 1956 frosts, so much of the vine stock would have been barely out of diapers. But this disproves the idea that ancient vines are a sine qua non to make great wine. This is one of the finest bottles of La Fleur-Pétrus that I have tasted from the era, from its eucalyptus-tinged nose to its compelling earthy finish. Magnificent!

    Though the Right Bank boasts incredible wines, the growing season slightly favors the Left Bank. (The Right Bank still had the 1964 to look forward to.) Let’s commence with the wine of the vintage – and no, it is not Latour. It is the 1961 Palmer. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of tasting with the indefatigable John Salvi MW. He worked for owners Maison Sichel when the 1961 Palmer was made, and he recalled rolling barrels of this legendary wine down the quayside, presumably to ship to merchants for non-château bottlings. (As an aside, these can occasionally be as good as the château bottling). I have drunk this spellbinding Margaux several times over the years, each encounter reaffirming that it is the vinous apotheosis of the 20th century. This bottle was as good as any I have encountered, in no small part because of the impeccable provenance: it was bought at an ex-château auction by our host and reconditioned at the property in 2011. Latour might be the most impressive 1961, but Palmer is more ethereal and refined. It boasts off-the-charts purity and finesse, an almost Richebourg-like texture and a breathtaking sense of symmetry. A genuine 100-point wine of utter perfection. 

    It is far better than the rather mediocre 1961 Château Margaux. The château conjured a much better 1959; their 1961 is a dropped catch, not unlike its fellow First Growth, Lafite-Rothschild. The one Margaux that approaches Palmer is the 1961 Giscours, born in a golden age for the estate that lasted until the early 1970s. This was the “Tari era”: first, Nicolas Tari, who ran the estate when the 1961 was made, and then his son Pierre Tari. Nicolas Tari had bought Giscours piecemeal between 1947 and 1952, when it was in ruinous condition, so the turnaround was evidently rapid given the 1961’s stupendous quality. Another factor is that it predates the period when they inadvisably began replacing the Cabernet Sauvignon with less ideal Merlot – a decision that was, thankfully, reversed under the current management. (For notes on Brane-Cantenac and Rauzan-Ségla, readers should refer to verticals published previously on Vinous.) I also include here a late entry from Moulis courtesy of a splendid magnum of 1961 Chasse-Spleen tasted just before filing this report. Venerable vintages of this estate often punch well above their weight, and this was no exception. It is almost decadent after 58 years, offering vivid red fruit and disarming joie-de-vivre.

     

    Moving to Saint-Julien, the standout has long been the 1961 Ducru-Beaucaillou. I have tasted this monumental wine, made by Bruno’s father, Jean-Eugène Borie, over a dozen times, and it never ceases to impress. This tasting note actually originates from a lineup served blind at La Trompette in June 2018. Always deep in color with black fruit and truffle on the nose, the Ducru-Beaucaillou is a Saint-Julien with immense backbone and arching structure that continues to exert real grip. This is one of the most aristocratic wines ever produced at the estate, and I always perceived it as the pinnacle of the appellation that year. However, I was astonished by the 1961 Léoville Las-Cases, which was by a long distance the finest of several examples I have encountered. Estate director Pierre Graffeuille subsequently told me that the grandfather of Jean-Hubert, Paul Délon, made this wine after taking over the running of the estate in 1959, with the valuable consultancy of Emile Peynaud, who no doubt had a hand in a number of the wines in this article. I have never encountered a bottle so vivacious and vivid, perhaps due to impeccable provenance or just sheer luck. It was better than the slightly turbid 1961 Léoville-Barton with its ash-tinged nose and marine-influenced palate, although Ronald Barton still made a very commendable, solid, stout Saint-Julien that is just a bit rugged compared to its peers. Another outstanding wine is the 1961 Gruaud Larose. Not unlike its 1982 counterpart, it combines complexity and sensory enjoyment in one irresistible package. Funnily enough, I tasted the same wine from both magnum and bottle, but it was the latter that showed the best, culminating in a gorgeous, blood tinged finish and perhaps more savory than its peers.

    Now, Pauillac. It has already been mentioned, but the 1961 Latour is probably the most famous and revered wine of the vintage. Since the 1961 Palmer challenges its supremacy, we served them blind as a pair. Wouldn’t you have done the same? This was a pristine bottle, exactly as I have found previous examples from the château, offering graphite and crushed stone on the imperious, pixelated bouquet and astonishing structure on the seaweed-tinged, unerringly symmetrical palate. It is a magnificent wine. I just find Palmer endowed with more charm and comeliness, whereas the Latour demands, and deserves, respect.

    Perhaps the laudation afforded the Latour overshadows the 1961 Mouton-Rothschild. Now, this was a rare case of a vintage that had avoided my palate for two decades. Baron Philip de Rothschild oversaw the wine, which provided further ammunition for him to persuade the authorities to promote his Second Growth (though he would have to wait another 12 years). I must admit that I was bowled over by this wine. It was almost a hybrid of Palmer and Latour, picking the virtues of both and putting them together in one fantastic package. The bouquet is to die for, and the palate is endowed with incredible concentration, presenting layers of marine-tinged black fruit and a trace of wild mint toward the finish. Comparing it directly against the 1961 Latour, I could understand the baron’s feeling of injustice at remaining in the second tier.

    The 1961 Lynch-Bages was one of the few suspect bottles, although it has never been a top-tier Pauillac. Among the vintage’s dark horses is the brilliant 1961 Batailley. I have encountered this a few times over the years, and it continues to provide superb freshness and typicity on the nose and classic cedar and graphite notes on the palate. It is blessed with finer tannins than subsequent vintages over the following two decades – until recent years, when it has raised its game. The 1961 Pichon-Lalande was born two years after the death of proprietor Edouard Miailhe led to the division of properties between his children, a process that was drawn out over many years. The 1961 Pichon-Lalande is certainly superior to the 1961 Pichon-Baron that was languishing in mediocrity at that time. It has a lovely red- and black-fruit-driven bouquet displaying touches of cedar and brown spice. The palate is medium-bodied with a seductive silky texture, and while not as complex as its First Growth neighbor, the Pichon-Lalande has an admirable self-effacing, unpretentious quality that makes it thoroughly enjoyable.

    We had only one representative from Saint-Estèphe. The 1961 Montrose was made during the era of Jean-Louis Charmolüe, who had taken over from his widowed mother as proprietor of the estate only the previous year. It is essentially 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, since all the Merlot was burned by the late spring frosts. I used to drink this regularly in the late 1990s, when you could pick up bottles for a song, though it has since become pricier. I have noticed some variation among bottles, several displaying a malodorous Bovril-like aroma on the nose. This was clean and enticing, the palate vigorous and tertiary in style, although unlike many of its peers, it begins to flag after 30 minutes in the glass. Drink soon. I also include a tasting note for the 1961 Calon-Ségur that I tasted elsewhere, although frankly it comes from a period when the wines were rustic and lags well behind Montrose and, for that matter, Cos d’Estournel, which I reviewed as part of last year’s published vertical.

    We traveled down to Pessac-Léognan for the brilliant 1961 Haut-Brion, which I fortuitously tasted three times within a fortnight. As I mentioned in my introduction, this is a crucial wine, the first to be fermented in stainless steel vats. It delivers an enthralling game-scented bouquet of chestnut and truffle and a hint of scorched leather. This bottle was precise and focused. Maybe in this vintage it is just edged out by the heavenly 1961 La Mission Haut-Brion, but that should take nothing away from this awesome Graves. It was accompanied by a 1961 Pape-Clément, though this bottle had clearly seen better days. Last but not least, the 1961 d’Yquem. As mentioned in the summary of the growing season, this was not an outstanding year for Sauternes and many are eclipsed by the 1962s. Yquem produced a very fine sweet wine that is handicapped by a distinct lack of tension on the palate. It may well be in gentle decline.

    Final Thoughts

    While I eagerly anticipated this 1961 Bordeaux horizontal, I feared that  these near-pensioners might have reached or passed their respective drinking plateaus. This evening proved the opposite: wines from the 1961 vintage were born with extraordinarily long shelf lives. The best deliver again and again, and show little sign of decline. Of course, provenance is paramount and anyone entertaining the idea of purchasing a 1961 should only buy from reputable sources. 

    At its pinnacle, the 1961 vintage is as good as it gets. Palmer, Latour, La Mission Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild deserve all the superlatives in the dictionary. The Right Bank does not possess quite as many superstars, although Petrus and Latour-à-Pomerol are fabulous, and hitherto my palate had not crossed paths with the renowned Lafleur or Trotanoy. The good news is that, as already mentioned in my opening paragraphs, 1961 is an equitable vintage that distributed quality throughout the entire hierarchy. I would rather spend my money on a lesser name with excellent provenance than a famous name with a little doubt.

    In the small hours of the morning, Chairman Miaow returns to the dining room to inspect the damage. He is not amused. He pads imperiously around the lubricated guests and considers lapping remnants of the 1961 Palmer, but decides on a saucer of milk instead. Whatever they have been imbibing tonight, it must have been the cat’s whiskers.

     

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    Me

    Neal Martin is a wine critic and author based in the UK. He reviews the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, South Africa, and New Zealand for Vinous. In 2012, Martin authored the award-winning book, Pomerol,  widely acknowledged to be the definitive book on one of Bordeaux's least known appellations. In 2013, it won the inaugural André Simon John Avery Award and the Chairman's Award at the Louis Roederer Wine Writers Awards 2013.

    He was born on 12 February 1971, in coastal Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, England. 

    After graduation, Martin worked for Lloyd's of London for two years before relocating to Tokyo in 1994 to work as an English teacher. In 1996, he accepted a position within a Japanese export company working with wine.

    When Martin found himself procuring such high-ticket wines as Latour and Petrus without knowing much about them, he enrolled in a WSET wine certification course. Four years later, he passed the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits, had traveled regularly to European wine regions and visited nearly all the major chateaux in Bordeaux several times; all the time recording tasting notes.

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    Pro Me

    In June 2003, he began writing an independent website, wine-journal.com, that quickly acquired over 100,000 readers. In 2006, he was approached by Robert Parker to join The Wine Advocate as a reviewer. In 2012, after three years of research, he published his first book, Pomerol. Comprising three main parts and totaling nearly 600 pages, one part deals with the history of the commune, another contains winery profiles organized alphabetically, and the final part considers every Pomerol cru ever made. Martin decided to publish the book himself because, he said, "I’m stubborn and didn’t want to compromise – I felt there were parts an editor would take out." Martin serves as an international wine judge in countries including the UK, South Africa, Japan, Bordeaux, Australia and at the International Wine Challenge as a Panel Chair.

    On November 20, 2017, it was announced that Martin would be leaving The Wine Advocate to join Vinous as Senior Editor.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  26 Wines  from  20 Producers 

The half-bottle pair of 1945 Musigny Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru from Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé was part of an extraordinary private dinner that focused upon 1945 clarets. I did not mind the brief detour into Burgundy. Our generous host wanted to compare two bottlings of this legendary Burgundy, one bottled at the domaine and the second an “Avery of Bristol” bottling acquired at the auction of the much-missed John Avery MW. First and foremost, for all those half-bottle naysayers, after 74 years both showed extremely well, and according to a fellow guest they were as good as a 750ml bottle. They revealed no signs of fatigue, nor did they exhibit any excessive vigor that would have raised suspicions about their authenticity. The domaine bottling came with a neck label stating that the wine was bottled in August 1947 and the quantities produced, although I did not take a note at the time. It demonstrated bricking commensurate with a Burgundy of this age. It is blessed with a heavenly bouquet of astounding precision, extant red fruit laced with camphor, jasmine tea, loam and, with aeration, a splash of balsamic. The bouquet seemed to gently intensify with aeration but always remained somehow languid. The palate comes across as extremely harmonious, exuding that sense of Pinoté. I noticed some distant similarity to a mature Rioja Gran Reserva toward the finish, but if anything, with aeration it reverts back to quintessential mature Musigny, developing a discreet gamy note that I absolutely adore. This is a magnificent wine that lived up to expectations. 98/Drink 2020-2035. The Avery bottling was very similar in appearance to the domaine bottling. Likewise, the aromatic profile bore many similarities, albeit with perhaps even more precision. That sweet core of red fruit is present and correct, laced with similar tertiary and gamy characteristics. The main difference was on the palate, which was texturally slightly more honeyed by comparison and consequently shaved away a little precision on the finish. It is still a gorgeous wine, but in the end I decided that the domaine half-bottle just had the edge. 97/Drink 2020-2030.

1m 11d ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  19 Wines  from  7 Producers 

The Blandy's 2004 Malmsey is a clear amber color. It has a slightly backward bouquet for its type and needs more coaxing from the glass than expected. Dried honey, undergrowth, clove and smoky scents gradually emerge, although they never quite click into fifth gear. The palate is well balanced with a fine bead of acidity. Elegant and poised, this delivers pure marmalade, quince and clove notes mixed with white pepper and a dab of marjoram. Long and tender on the finish, it is a very poised and intellectual Malmsey that does not exude heaviness. Excellent.

3m 14d ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  34 Wines  from  1 Producers 

The 1870 Lafite-Rothschild is a magical wine, without question one of the finest Clarets that I have ever tasted. It has a deep colour that you would ascribe to a wine just two or three decades old. The bouquet not so much seduces the senses, but almost overwhelms them with intense scents of cedar, coniferous forest, vestiges of black fruit and juniper berries. The 1870 actually grows in stature with aeration. The palate is perfect, absolutely perfect in every single way. It is intense just like the 1953 Lafite-Rothschild, utterly harmonious with pitch-perfect acidity that lends this so much tension – remarkable after so many decades. This is a regal Lafite-Rothschild with layers of flavor: black and red fruit intermingling with a plethora of secondary notes of brown spices, molasses and a touch of tobacco on the long finish that never seems to stop. As I wrote before, it immediately puts every Claret you have ever drunk in the shade – a monumental wine that will rank as one of the finest I have encountered to the end of my days.

5m 7d ago

Lafite-Rothschild 1875, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1870, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1928, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2000, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1945, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2001, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1955, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1982, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1996, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2003, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2015, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1986, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2007, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1983, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2010, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1962, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1988, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1998, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1868, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1920, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1976, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1949, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1985, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1989, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1966, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1902, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1934, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1990, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1994, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1924, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1905, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1912, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 1961, Château Lafite-Rothschild
Lafite-Rothschild 2009, Château Lafite-Rothschild

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  26 Wines  from  12 Producers 

The 2017 Quinta do Noval Nacional, which was trodden under foot in lagares and matured in wood for 18 months, demands considerable aeration in the glass even after extended decanting. Eventually it offers an enthralling kaleidoscope of aromas of blackcurrants, clove, thyme and very subtle truffle aromas (not scents that I often find in young Vintage Port.) It is a mercurial bouquet that constantly shape-shifts in the glass. The palate is full-bodied with perfect balance. This is a faultless Vintage Port whatever way you look at it. From start to finish it conveys a sense of beguiling symmetry, a leitmotif of the 2017s, then astonishing energy and persistence towards the finish with cracked black pepper and clove liberally sprinkled over the vivacious black fruit. Sixty second after the wine has departed you can still feel its presence. This is an astonishing Nacional. Period.

5m 17d ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  25 Wines  from  25 Producers 

The 1961 Palmer is a wine that tends to deliver upon its gargantuan reputation and we were rewarded with an exemplary bottle here. It has a clear colour with modest bricking on the rim. The bouquet is difficult to encapsulate into words – utterly ethereal. Heavenly definition, almost Burgundy-like in purity with traces of pencil box and pressed violets. It grows in stature with each swirl of the glass and leaves you transfixed. The palate is bestowed beguiling balanced, almost symmetrical, framed by filigree tannin and pitch perfect acidity. Like the aromatics it coheres with aeration, the fruit undiminished by time even if it is no blockbuster. Quite the opposite – this 1961 Palmer is the apotheosis of finesse with just a hint of balsamic on the aftertaste. This Margaux can bring you to tears of joy. Tasted at the 1961 dinner Chairman Miaow’s in Hong Kong.

6m 10h ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  29 Wines  from  4 Producers 

The 1961 Petrus is a legendary wine, although bottles are now extremely scarce and there are plenty of fakes. Upon close examination of the bottle and cork, with evidence of provenance and verifying with Jean-Claude Berrouet, this is the real deal. It is quite deep in color with just a touch of turbidity, though nothing to fret about. What distinguishes the 1961s is a marine-like trait and this is certainly evident here – a whiff of a cold northerly sea, touches of kelp and crustaceans. It has bewildering delineation. The palate is quite structured, perhaps more so than the 1964 Petrus, quite “serious” and masculine, almost Left Bank in style thanks to its cedar-infused black fruit. With aeration, shade becomes light. There are more red fruit in evidence, all with wondrous detail on the sweet finish that suggests a discrete Cabernet Franc influence. It is an awesome Pomerol, not perfect, certainly of its time. To repeat a phrase I used previously: ‘tis a wine of staggering beauty. Tasted at the Petrus dinner at the Épure restaurant in Hong Kong.

6m 24d ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  27 Wines  from  13 Producers 

The 1985 Léoville Las Cases is not just one of the finest vintages from this Second Growth, but one of the high points for the entirety of Bordeaux in this decade. Here it eclipses the 1985 Lafite-Rothschild with ease. It has an exquisitely defined bouquet of red berry fruit infused with crushed stone and pressed rose petals, just like before. Ethereal. The palate is medium-bodied, a perfect marriage of structure and a degree of elegance that maybe the property has not matched before or since. It’s so, so harmonious on the finish. An absolute beauty. Tasted at Hameau de Barbaron in Burgundy.

9m 8d ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  20 Wines  from  15 Producers 

The 2016 La Tâche Grand Cru was picked on September 24–25 at 31hL/ha (the highest of the five crus). It has an utterly sublime bouquet of blackberry, briar, crushed limestone, a dash of cracked black pepper and a little oregano. This is extremely complex and displays exquisite focus, to the extent that you could just sit and nose it all day. The palate is beautifully balanced, the spicy red fruit framed by filigreed tannin that belies its backbone. There is a gentle crescendo from start to finish, though being La Tâche it retains complete control. The precision and detail in the final third are deeply impressive. Less fruit-forward than the 2015, and lightly spiced, with an insistent grip. There is a captivating sense of completeness that will ensure longevity through three or four decades. 1,814 cases produced. Tasted at Corney & Barrow’s annual in-bottle tasting in London.

9m 21d ago

Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  had a tasting of  20 Wines  from  8 Producers 

The 2016 Lafleur is a deeply serious Pomerol that is going to need considerable cellaring. Almost opaque in the glass, it has an almost overwhelmingly intense bouquet of blackberry, oyster shell and touches of graphite; quite strict, just as it showed at en primeur, and utterly compelling. The palate is medium-bodied with edgy tannin. A typically masculine Lafleur delivering firm grip, a lot of backbone and depth, wonderful mineralité and a persistent saline finish with the length of War and Peace. Cellar this Lafleur for at least 15 years if you want to witness it firing on all cylinders. Drink 2030-2080.

10m 13d ago

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