Some old Burgundies: ’70, ’85, ’86 and a 1969 Brane Cantenac
A good friend invited me to celebrate his birthday. As he is also a wine geek just like me, he organized a really impressive line-up of old wines. As he honestly said it himself, and I totally agree with this statement, the best restaurant is at your place. Especially when you have high quality products and you are passionate about cooking. It was certainly not a vegetarian based meal, but the foie-gras with truffles, the smoked duck breast, the Bellota Iberian ham and the wild rabbit cooked in a vinegar based sauce were truly delicious. The food complimented the wines in a happy manner I would say.
My friend called me yesterday around 5:00pm and told me that he opened a bottle of 1970 Gevrey-Chambertin from Joseph Drouhin in order to let it breathe for a few hours. His first impression was that the wine was dead. I am a fan of Mr François Audouze’s writings and I find very useful his tips on how to prepare a bottle of old wine for drinking. Therefore I advised my friend to Audouze the bottle: put a clean cork back just after uncorking to let the wine aerate very slowly. Not being sure that this method will work and just to be on the safe side, my friend opened another bottle also: a 1969 Chateau Brane Cantenac from Margaux that had a very low fill level. His first impression on this bottle was of a dirty nose of pickled cabbage. Not a good sign either. I advised him to do the same for this bottle: Audouze it, hoping that by the time we meet for dinner at 8:00pm there will be signs of life again.
My wife and I arrived around 8:00pm at our friend’s house and to my surprise there were additionally two more bottles of old Burgundies open – I guess you can never be too cautious – that my friend feared to be gone as well: a 1985 Vosne Romanee du Chateau by Bouchard and a 1986 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru by Champy Pere et Fils. The bottles were recently uncorked and none was decanted. The 1986 seemed initially odd on the nose, while the 1985 had an interesting one. It is important to mention that the fill level for the 1986 was pretty low, but no problems for the perfect fill level on the 1985. We decided to decant the 1985 Bouchard Vosne Romanee du Chateau as, while uncorking, big parts of the cork fell into the bottle. It is important to mention that most of the corks on the bottles did not go out easily and only one went out in one piece.
After decanting this wine, we went back to taste the 1970 Gevrey-Chambertain and the 1969 Brane Cantenac. Total surprise: the wines completely changed, came back to life and no longer smelled bad. They actually started to slowly open showing very nice tertiary aromas. Notice the color of the 1970 Gevrey-Chambertin:
We started the meal with this wine, then put half of the bottle in the fridge and resumed drinking it at the end of the meal.
1970 Gevrey-Chambertain Joseph Drouhin
Light red-copperish, mature, a bit oxidized color, that evolved during the evening and got darker as we finished the bottle. A mature nose, discreet at the beginning, with gentle aromas of orange peel confit, figs, a very light shade of wild strawberry jam, musk and a light touch of earth. Overall a sweet nose. Light to medium bodied initially, it gained more in body as we drank it. With sustained acidity and already mature, it has light flavors of orange peel, with almost no remaining fruit, being more earthy and gamey. The finish is medium with a sour aftertaste and fresh. There is still structure maintained by the lively acidity, but the tannins are completely dissolved. It is on the downhill already, but it still offers drinking pleasure. It opened more after 5 h and gained more gamey aromas: the animal fur mixed with the orange confit were really nice. (87-88/100)
1986 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru Champy Pere et Fils
The wine opened nicely after being uncorked and left for about 2 h in the fridge. A pale red color with a brick meniscus. The nose is mature, with a damp cellar dominating aromas initially, than revealing mixed aromas of cough syrup, smoke, light strawberry, earth and interesting wax. Medium bodied, very lively on the palate, the tannins completely dissolved, earthy, with discreet red fruit flavors and a bit mineral. Medium finish with lingering earthy red fruit. Already feels on the downhill and it should be drank sooner than later. (85/100)
1985 Vosne Romanee du Chateau Bouchard Pere et fils
The only wine that was decanted this evening and kept in the fridge for about 45 min. Red ruby with an orange-brick colored rim. The nose is well developed and mature, expressive, with baked red fruits, fig paste sweetness, orange peel freshness, smoke, earth and tobacco. Medium bodied, with lively acidity and still youthful on the palate, with flavors of fig and cigar ash in the mouth. Dissolved tannins, but the acidity keeps everything in balance. There is a touch of heat but nothing disturbing. (87/100)
I believe that the 1985 Vosne Romanee du Chateau needed more time to aerate, as it felt there was something more still hidden underneath that waited to be revealed. Unfortunately the bottle was gone too soon.
1969 Chateau Brane Cantenac Margaux
While it had a low fill level, the wine had no fault. Red garnet with an orange meniscus, slightly oxidized. A well developed and mature nose, showing plenty of tertiary aromas, but still preserving some of the primary red fruit. There is a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon typicality, with big green vegetables aromas: asparagus and green bell pepper mixed with cigar box, burnt charcoal, truffles, subdued red currant, earth and coffee bean. Medium bodied and well structured, with dissolved tannins and red currant flavors mixed with mocha, tobacco, graphite and a lively palate. Medium finish, with pleasant light green coffee bean bitterness. The wine is not a blockbuster, but has charm and elegance. While it already had its peak and is now going downhill, the wine can still go on in this phase for more years. It should however be drank sooner than later. (89/100)
As a conclusion on the wines: the stars of the evening were undoubtedly the 1970 Gevrey-Chambertin and the 1969 Margaux. I would place the 1969 Brane Cantenac as the Wine of the Night as I really enjoyed its preserved Cabernet Sauvignon typicality.
It was a really interesting experience from the old wines point of view – it is important to know how to prepare an old bottle of wine before drinking it -, a very entertaining evening with good friends and a delicious culinary experience. Thanks a lot C. for sharing this wines and Happy Birthday again.