x
  • Country ranking ?

    2 264
  • Producer ranking ?

    18
  • Decanting time

    2h
  • When to drink

    now to 2040
  • Food Pairing

    Risotto and Asiago “Thumbprints”

The Tb points given to this wine are the world’s most valid and most up-to-date evaluation of the quality of the wine. Tastingbook points are formed by the Tastingbook algorithm which takes into account the wine ratings of the world's 50 best-known professional wine critics, wine ratings by thousands of tastingbook’s professionals and users, the generally recognised vintage quality and reputation of the vineyard and winery. Wine needs at least five professional ratings to get the Tb score. Tastingbook.com is the world's largest wine information service which is an unbiased, non-commercial and free for everyone.

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The Story

The result of rigorous selection at each stage of production, in both the vineyard and the winery, this great, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon wine is typical of the Saint-Estèphe appellation. Structured and tannic but with all the elegance and refinement of a Grand Cru Classé, with time it develops a delicate and complex bouquet.

The wines have considerable ageing potential and are exceptionally long-lived. Certain vintages (1921, 1929, 1982, 1990, 2009, 2016) are considered legendary. 

Matured for 18 months in 60% new oak barrels, the premium wine accounts on average for 55% of the estate’s total production.

 

The 95-hectare vineyard in one single block, extremely unusual in the Medoc, is located on a very well exposed gravelly land, by the Gironde. The vineyard hence overlooks the estuary. The proximity to this vast body of water locally called “river” has a very smoothing climatic impact on the vineyard. The river and its tide mitigate and moderate the climate’s rigor: by mollifying the frost and refreshing blazing summer heat.

60 % of new french oak barrels, supplied by several carefully- selected coopers are used in Montrose, and 40 % in one year old barrels. The average ageing period is 16 to 18 months.

For our second wine, DAME DE MONTROSE, the proportion of new french oak barrels reaches about 15 to 20 %. The average ageing is 12 months; so begins a long process of racking rhythm.

This is a very natural process of slow wine decanting, to isolate the fine particles still present in the wine. All the wines are finely racked every 3 months, a very traditional method.

The wine is moved from one barrel to the other by gravity. Once the barrel’s bottom is reached, the workers carefully view, with a candle, the lees coming off the clear part of the wine. The fining is made traditionally, in barrels, with fresh egg whites, in order to refine the wine and to soften the tannins.

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Vintage 1961

1961 - the greatest Bordeaux vintage ever?

I’m writing this during the en primeur campaign and notice that the Bordelais château-owners and négociants have been unusually quiet this year. I have followed this part of the market from a distance for close to 30 years now and have been told about a large number of “vintages of the century”. After the wines have been bottled and sold or the other way round, as the case is in Bordeaux, these claims tend to be modified.

Who are the serious contenders for the title “The Greatest Vintage Ever”?

During the 19th century there were a number of vintages with a great reputation made from pre-phylloxera vines. These include the legendary “Comet vintage” 1811, 1864, 1865, 1870, 1893, 1895 and 1899. Most are too old for anyone now alive to have tasted them at their peak.

During the 20th century claims have been raised for the vintages 1900, 1921, 1929, 1945, 1947, 1949 (by me), 1959, 1961, 1982, 1989 and 1990.In the present century already three out the eight vintages produced – 2000, 2003 and 2005 – have been mentioned by an overly excited wine press as candidates for the title, as well as the superb duo - 2009 and 2010.

In the book “The 1,000 Finest Wines Ever Made” 1961 is the Bordeaux vintage mentioned most often, with 22 châteaux. 1945 is mentioned 19 times, 1947 16 times, 1982 14 times and 1959 13 times.

What is the definition of a great wine?

It is a wine that has an extra dimension giving you an unforgettable drinking experience – in other words, a “Wow!” effect. It is a wine that has a long drinking span. It has to be good to drink young, but it must also be able to age for a long time without losing its attractiveness.A good vintage produces wines fulfilling these requirements.

A great vintage, however, is equally good in all major regions of Bordeaux, both on the left and right bank. It is also a vintage where something special was produced in all the different appellations, from the lowest Cru Bourgeois to the mightiest Premier Cru.

1961 fulfils these requirements better than any other vintage.

It was the vintage where the most incompetent winemaker just couldn’t make a poor wine and the wines drank very well at an early stage; in most cases they still do so to this very day.

Some extremely impressive wines were produced in 1945, but these were mainly from the left bank and a large number of the wines had excessively high tannin levels, which made them increasingly dry as they aged.

1947 produced the most stunning wines on the right bank but many wines on the left bank had problems with volatile acidity.

1959 produced a number of wines that are at the same level and sometimes even a bit higher than the corresponding '61s, and some experienced wine critics like Michel Bettane prefer 1959 to 1961. But 1959 doesn't have the same consistent quality at all levels.

1982 undoubtedly produced many very impressive wines but I feel that the wines from the right bank lack structure and have not aged very well and only very few wines from Margaux and Médoc were a great success.The twin vintages of 1989 and 1990, or 2009 and 2010 may come closest in overall quality, but it is too early to judge their ageing abilities yet.

 

What made 1961 so special?

It was a very small crop, the smallest since the Second World War. This was partly due to coulure (cold weather at the time of flowering) and in some parts because of frost on the night between 30th and 31st of May, together reducing the yield per vine to about a third of the usual size at that time (which, compared to today’s harvests, seems miniscule). This concentrated the minerals and potency of the vine amongst the few remaining grapes and was the reason for the success of minor châteaux, which would normally produce much higher yields than would be good for their wines.

August and September were both hot and extremely dry. This drought caused the ripening to take longer than the usually mandated 100 days. The harvest was delayed until 22 September, but enjoyed perfect conditions. Because of better cellaring techniques the wine-makers avoided the hard tannins of 1945 and the volatility of the 1947s. The wines have a very deep colour, a seductive nose and full-bodied, concentrated mature fruitiness, with enough tannins and acidity to give the wines structure and freshness.

I arranged a major tasting of more than sixty 1961s in 1989 and all the wines were very good, even from minor châteaux or from more famous properties that had not produced anything worthwhile for a very long time and some that have not done it to this day.

I also arranged a tasting, together with Dr. Peter Baumann, of fifty wines in November 2001. I had expected a large number of these to now be over their zenith but was amazed to see that many had not seemed to age at all during these intervening 12 years. With very few exceptions they were still very much alive.

 

The wines:

Margaux and Médoc

This is usually the most variable and disappointing group at any horizontal tasting with a large number of underperforming châteaux.

The star of this group and a serious candidate for the wine of the vintage is Château Palmer.

It first reached fame in 1978 as it won the famous Dr. Taam tasting in Holland. It is a precocious wine that was drinkable before most premier crus had softened and many tasters have underestimated its longevity. I remember arranging a tasting for Château Palmer in 1995 where I decanted the wine just before the tasting, believing it to be past its best. It did not show very well so Peter Sichel, the co-owner of Château Palmer, suggested that we decant the bottles planned for dinner five hours before serving them. It had then fully opened up showing all its softness and warmth coupled with power and strength for a long life. One of the best wines after Palmer and Château Margaux, which will be covered in the group of the premier crus, is Malescot St. Exupéry. Brane Cantenac, Giscours, Cantemerle and La Lagune are all still good but need to be drank soon.

 

Graves

La Mission Haut Brion is a fantastic wine, more powerful and concentrated than the soft and charming Haut Brion. Other very good ones include La Tour Haut Brion, Domaine de Chevalier, Haut Bailly and Pape Clément.

 

St. Estéphe

Cos d'Estournel is very good, Montrose is now shedding its tannins, whereas Calon Ségur needs drinking, having given much joy over the years.

 

St. Emilion

1961 is one vintage where I prefer Figeac to Cheval Blanc; both are very good but Figeac shows more complexity and elegance. I prefer Cheval Blanc's '64 to its '61. Ausone and Canon are both lovely elegant wines but they do not have the concentration of a top '61. Two very underrated wines are L'Arrosée and La Gaffelière – both are very impressive and still bargains if you are lucky enough to find them.

 

Pomerol

The two rarest and most expensive wines from '61 both come from Pomerol. Pétrus and Latour-á-Pomerol. Both are tremendously impressive – Latour-á-Pomerol with great sweetness, richness and concentration. Pétrus with similar richness but with even more power and structure. I have never had the pleasure of drinking these two giants next to one another but expect Pétrus to have the longer life expectancy. Vieux Château Certan is a wonderful mature wine, as is Lafleur. A wine I have also found very good over the years is Château Gazin. It did then include grapes from a parcel of the best part of Pomerol, now belonging to Château Pétrus. I don't have any tasting notes on Trotanoy or L'Evangile, but both have a great reputation.

 

St. Julien

My personal favourite here is Ducru Beaucaillou, possibly the most elegant of all wines. I have drunk it twice this year, and it was not showing any signs of ageing at all. It is closely followed by Gruaud Larose and Léoville Las Cases, both very impressive. Léoville and Langoa Barton did not have a very good period then and are, like Léoville Poyferré, disappointing for the vintage. Talbot and Branair Ducru are good but need drinking soon.

 

Pauillac

Both Pichons are good but I prefer Pichon Baron as it has more structure and concentration than the slightly overripe Pichon Lalande. Lynch Bages is still very good just like Pontet Canet. Pontet Canet was bottled by several négociants, and the one to drink is the Cruse-bottling which was the unofficial château bottling at the time.

 

The Premier Crus

The star here is Château Latour. It is the most majestic of wines and the wine that will become the new collectors’ item for millionaires as Mouton '45 and Cheval Blanc '47 start to fade away.

It has great concentration of cabernet fruit with a firm tannic structure. Truly an iron fist in a silk glove, only now opening up to reveal its true greatness. It is also the wine that was ranked in first place in “The 1,000 Finest Wines Ever Made”.

Château Margaux made its finest wine since the legendary 1900 and it is still wonderful to drink. Mouton is a luscious wine on a par with its wonderful '59.

Haut Brion is soft and lovely but not as great as its '59. Lafite shows big bottle variation as it was still bottled from cask to cask at the time and over a long period. At its best it is very fine and delicate with little power but great elegance, at its worst it is a tired wine with no body or fruit left.

Unfortunately great quality coupled with small quantity always leads to high prices, and this is particularly the case with the 1961 Bordeaux. However, all true winelovers should have at least once in their lifetime have drunk a good '61 to know what a perfect claret can taste like. 

Jan-Erik Paulson

READ ALSO NEAL MARTIN*S ARTICLE ABOUT 1961 VINTAGE

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Average Bottle Price

2017 2015 2013 2010 2005 2000 1995
775€ +7.5% 721€ +14.1% 632€ +42.7% 443€ +13.9% 389€ +46.8% 265€ +26.2% 210€

This data comes from the FINE Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions in 20 countries. The average prices from each year have been collected since 1990. This chart plots the index value of the average price of the wines.

Latest Pro-tasting notes

23 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Medium and Brick red

ending

Flavorful

flavors

Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Blueberry, Plum, Toasty and Chocolate

nose

Intense, Seductive and Round

recommend

Yes

taste

Warming, Perfectly balanced, Well-Integrated, Developing, Medium-bodied, Harmonious, Perfumed, Refined and Silky tannins

Verdict

Impressive and Well made

Written Notes

It had a very vegetal nose at first with lots of that 1990 horse, animal and barnyard action. Michel was quick to point out that 1961 may be a 'legendary vintage, but bottles are not always legendary.' I started to work the wine in my glass a bit, and the earth of St. Estephe emerged, but the wine had a bit of a mildewy edge that was bothersome, and it was not cork or bottle taint. The wine was much better on the palate, where it was rich, smooth, satiny and round. Almost fully mature, there was still vigor and life here, but it was not the impression that most '61s give me on a regular basis. There were solid leather flavors, and the wine was certainly very good, but not great. I wondered about the bottle being affected somehow

  • 92p

Full, deep red-ruby. Classic St. Estephe aromas of smoky red fruits, minerals, olive and bitter chocolate. Flavors are fully mature, but this powerfully structured wine has elevated acidity and grip of steel. Slightly decadent marzipan sweetness on the back. Classic old-styled claret. Drink now through 2025.

  • 93p

The 1961 Montrose is a wine I drank regularly when I was learning about Bordeaux, so I have plenty of experience over the years. It is a great Saint Estèphe, although readers should note that I have found considerable bottle variation with some displaying unwanted Bovril-like aromas. This was a perfectly sound example. Blackberry, graphite, Japanese nori and light sandalwood aromas furnish the nose, good vigour and intensity, but it does lose some of its initial impact after 30 minutes. The palate is medium-bodied with firm tannin, distinctly earthy in style, especially compared to the 1961 Cos d'Estournel but with a clean, fresh, classic tobacco infused finish. Excellent. Tasted at the 1961 dinner Chairman Miaow’s in Hong Kong.

  • 93p

Perhaps not a great ’61, but this was a lovely wine overall. Smoky red fruit, olives, minerals and chocolate all abound on the nose. It opens with cassis and dark berries accented with enticing fresh acidity. Then the eucalyptus and mint emerge, and I suspect this is still young. Herbs, spices and cherries past the mid palate, it has smooth texture and a graceful richness that laps away on the palate on the fairly distinguished, enticing finale -- not emphatic, but eminently appealing. 94 Points+

  • 94p
In neck fill. Ruby, broad brick rim. Tobacco, exotic spices, plums, figs and some cassis. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, fresh, lively, fruity, red berries, detailed, nuanced, playful, lovely balance, refreshing. Long. Ever so slightly dry at it's very end. 94
  • 94p
Still some brickish color that hasn't gone totally brown. Really got cherry blossom in the nose with some cedar , and smoke. A tad bit dirty on the palate with some tar , cherry , and leathery nuances. Some chewy tannins mid palate but didn't detract from a gracefully aged wine
  • 95p
A bit strange nose with loads of coffee and some forest floor and tobacco (positive way). On palate spicy and hot with aromas of old dark berries, little straight forward wine. Long and nice finish, but lacking something.
  • 92p
D 2 h / G 2 h Medium-intense brick red colour. Round and very toasty and seductive nose with sweet cocoa and dark chocolate aromas. Medium-bodied palate is intense and round with mellow tannins and ripe dark fruits. Harmonious wine with great appeal. The wine is peaking now and will evolve most likely another 4-6 years.
  • 94p
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Information

Origin

St. Estephe, Bordeaux

Vintage Quality

Extraordinary

Value For Money

Very good

Investment potential

Below Average

Fake factory

None

Glass time

1h

Drinking temperature

16

Highlights

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