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Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du pape 2009 and 1995

January 28, 2013 12 comments

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I had dinner on FRI evening with friends at Veranda Casa Frumoasa and had the chance to enjoy this young Chateauneuf du pape. The location looks elegant and service is sharp. The food was all right, but beef could be better considering the prices, the wine list is rather good but I believe it loses points (and business for sure) by not having any Romanian wines listed. For a FRI evening the location was rather empty as, excluding our table, there were only 2 persons present at another table. And that’s how it remained for the entire evening.

We had several dishes for dinner but the one that stood out and made an impression was goose liver on waffle with red currant and two types of sauces. The goose liver on waffle was an unexpected but sensational combination that can be rated as a 10.

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With food we had the young 2009 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du pape that already has the attributes to become a great wine with more aging. I am a big fan of this wine from this reliable producer that makes excellent wines every vintage. It is one of the few sure things in Chateauneuf du pape.

2009 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du pape

The wine was decanted for about 20 minutes and then poured in larger volume in our glasses were we left it to aerate more for another 30 minutes. The color is deep red garnet. The nose is developed, not very expressive at the moment, but it scores big on the palate. Full bodied, well structured and so smooth and silky for such a young Chateauneuf du pape, good balance between power and elegance, fresh, with superb red and black fruits flavors on the palate, Indian spices, roasted herbs and a discreet touch of bacon. Long finish, smooth, fresh and, believe or not, overall such an elegant wine. This wine has typically 14% alcohol, but this one bears the mark of the ripe 2009 vintage, showing 14.5% alcohol, pure flavors and perfectly ripe tannins. It has a great aging potential and it can last 15-20 years easily. (92-93/100)

Just before last Christmas I had an older version of this wine that did not make it on the blog until now. It is a 1995 Vieux Telegraphe, a wine I know and I had also about 2 years ago. I believe the 1995 Vieux Telegraphe has the power to convert people into wine lovers.

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1995 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du pape

Plenty of sediment in this wine. I uncorked it and left it to aerate in the bottle for almost 2 hours, taking small sips at various time intervals.

The color is a saturated ruby red with no signs of aging. The nose is well developed, youthful and maturing, showing great complexity and serious depth. The aromatic profile is still dominated by primary aromas of red fruits in different stages of ripeness and red fruits preserves that have superb purity, Indian spices and, the only signs of a certain early maturity, a leathery aroma. In the mouth this wine is a symphony: smooth and silky, perfectly blended tannins, fresh ripe red fruits: red currants, raspberries, strawberries, spices, a bit of game, and each of this aroma comes in front of the stage in phases just like the acts and actors of a play as the wine aerates. There is a sense of absolute balance, with all components in the right places. Long finish, smooth and in the perfect drinking window. There is no problem holding it further, but if you are looking for the perfect drink at a very affordable price, this is your wine. (95/100)

Categories: France, Rhone Tags: , ,

An extraordinary culinary experience

January 21, 2013 1 comment

I attended a discreet private party last FRI evening organized by Mr Cristian Preotu and Le Manoir, that represented one the most decadent (in the most positive way) culinary and wine-pairing experience I enjoyed so far. The event had Mr Roland Birr as a guest chef that put up a mind blowing 8 hours cooking session called “Grill to Thrill” for almost 12-15 people present at the party. Mr Roland Birr is an international winemaker that produces wines in Languedoc, in Pays de l’Herault, and South Africa, and together with his Swiss company: Vive Group, specialized in events and special activities in the wine business, is touring the world cooking and introducing his wines in a unique pairing experience. Other special events organized by Vive Group are Wine & Spices, Ocean Feast, David & Goliath, Wine meets Chocolate, Meat to Steam. More information can be found here. Another similar event was held by Metro Baneasa on Oct 1st, 2012.

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Most of the wines served this evening came from Mr Birr’s properties from France and South Africa: Chateau Capion from pays de l’Herault and Saxenburg in South Africa. On the side we were served for appetizers a very satisfying Champagne Duval Leroy (89/100) that is clean, mineral and full of citrus fruit, with good tension on the palate. I also had an excellent 2004 Deutz Blanc de Blancs Champagne (92/100), delicate and elegant, with plenty of tiny bubbles, hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts, long aftertaste and mouth watering acidity.

“Thrill to Grill” was prepared and started 4 h prior to guests arrival when the meat was placed on special barbeque devices brought by Mr Birr so it can be slowly cooked at lower temperature for almost 5-6 hours. Mr Birr’s aim was to prepare authentic food that reminds people of their childhood and the simple things in life. We started the evening with grilled coquelete cut in small pieces and served as finger food. A real treat paired by a fresh rose 2011 Capion Fiona produced by Chateau Capion.

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The menu continued with veal carapaccio with fresh marjoram and olive oil produced from the 200 olive trees they have at Saxenburg in South Africa; a hot and spicy salad prepared on a large frying pan with oyster and soy sauce; grilled rack of lamb and the star of the food menu: a huge paella made with prime ingredients: fresh King prawns, chorizzo, baby squid, rabbit, mussels, clams and plenty of other ingredients. I wish I would see similar ingredients used in restaurants that prepare paella.

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2011 Chateau Capion Le Colombier (90/100) blanc was served with the veal carapaccio and what a great combination it was. Spending big part of the night outside watching Mr Birr cooking while he was keeping a close eye on the 4 bottles of Colombier to remain untouched, I confess it was a real struggle to touch that wine before the carpaccio was served. I did however manage to have a few sips of the wine as a reward for resisting outside on the cold evening.

2011 Chateau Capion Le Colombier is produced in a limited quantity every year – around 9000 bottles, and is sold based on  allocation to the 58 partners that distribute Capion’s wine all over the world. A blend of Viognier and Roussanne this wine happily combines freshness and creaminess. I enjoyed a lot its pronounced white flowers character, its lemon and pineapple aromas, the mango spiciness on the finish and its freshness.

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With Paella, the options of red wines served were more than generous: 2008 Chateau Capion Le Juge (88/100) that comes from 25 years old vines from a plot in one of Languedoc’s Grand Cru’s – Terrasses du Larzac, predominantly Syrah (70%) blended with Grenache and Mourvedre, the wine is serious and is drinking well now. It has structure, soul and a medium long chocolatey finish.

2000 Saxenburg Pinotage Private Collection (91/100) was a superb surprise as the wine shows no signs of aging or being tired. It has a well developed nose, fully open and still on primary (fruity) aromas with beautiful spiciness, structure of smooth and ripe tannins, balanced and a long fresh finish. It is probably the oldest Pinotage I tried so far and I loved it. There was another red wine that I did not get to taste.

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To end this Gargantuan dinner, French cheese assortments, chocolate and cigars were served next to a 2000 Graham’s Vintage Port (93/100) that continued to open up in the glass for the rest of the evening. There is abundant richness both on the nose as on the palate for this wine, and it smells and tastes like the chocolate candies filled with dark cherries and rum that I used to eat in my childhood. Long finish, good balance and overall such a great wine. For me, this wine was a very close and personal experience as it had the power to take me back in time and bring back such warm memories.

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This type of event that brings together so much passion for cooking and wines, shared by the small group of people present deserves to be promoted, repeated and repeated again so everyone can sample it at least once. Every wine lover should look up for the next time it happens and do whatever it takes to be on the guests list. The question is not whether one will like it, but how ecstatic will one be after.

P.S. Mr Roland Birr will be back on February 10th to cook for a larger group of doctors at the Parliament’s House.

Wine-dinner with Billecart-Salmon

December 11, 2012 3 comments

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I attended a wine-dinner with Billecart-Salmon Champagne last week at La Bonne Bouche restaurant in the Old Center organized by Vinimondo (the importer). Mr Denis Roland-Billecart was present in Bucharest and presented four wines that are included in Vinimondo’s portfolio of imports. The event brought together about 10-12 people only and it was a lovely dinner filled with plenty of interesting information about the history and the wines made by Billecart-Salmon, but also fun and good joy.

Billecart-Salmon is a Negociant-Manipulant (meaning merchant-distributor), still family owned. They purchase the bulk of the grapes they need from dozens of growers. They typically blend wines from different vintages, and vineyards, to produce house style wines that consumers can be confident will be virtually the same each year. They also own a few Pinot Noir vineyards.

Billecart-Salmon produces around 2 Millions bottles each year and 25% is sold on the domestic market in France. The rest goes out for export. According to Mr Roland-Billecart the Champagne consumption on the global level dipped 25-30% in 2008, but grew back about 40% the following year and has been on a positive trend ever since.

We had a 6 course menu prepared by an Italian chef that has a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Italy and is temporarily cooking at La Bonne Bouche. So, if you want to enjoy some interesting food you might want to have lunch or dinner at La Bonne Bouche as soon as possible, as it is not clear how long this Italian chef will cook there.

The menu consisted of: octopus with green asparagus, potatoes and balsamic reduction / tartar of tuna, salmon and seabass / risotto with seafood /  grilled tuna in white sauce / cold lobster salad / dessert: creme brulee, tiramisu and mousse de chocolat.

We started with Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, the NV Champagne that represents the house style. Medium color, citrus fruit and autolysis on the nose, yeasty, with citrus fruit, pear and minerals on the palate; medium body, low dosage, medium plus long finish, refreshing acidity. A very nice Champagne, balanced and rewarding. One of my favorites for the evening. (90-91/100)

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Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose is a Champagne designed for gastronomy. Light pink colored with good effervescence and tiny bubbles. This seems fuller in the mouth and tannins mark their presence. The nose shows yeast, roses, cherry, strawberry and raspberry jam but without the sweetness. Elegant and creamy on the palate, with long finish. This sparkling wine needs food. (91-92/100)

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Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois is fermented and aged 100% in 2-3 years old barrels. This is a massive Champagne. Medium yellow colored, it shows spicy oak on the nose, with roasted almonds and sweet yellow apple. Mouth filling, luscious flavors on the palate, showing tannins, bold, with firm structure. Long finish, spicy and ripe yellow fruit. A totally different style, opulent and restless at this present stage. (90/100)

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Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2004 is elegant and shows great tension on the palate. It has great potential to develop and has reserves of flavors, with sharp acidity, a strong mineral backbone and enough tension to make you imagine a constricted spring when you sip it. Long finish, fresh citrus fruit. 2004 was a great vintage in Champagne. My absolute favorite for the evening. (92-93/100)

It was a very enjoyable 4 hours dinner and the Champagne is great.

A winey weekend: Puech Haut, La Rioja Alta and more

December 4, 2012 2 comments

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I had a weekend full of wines. Started on FRI evening with this 2004 Chateau Puech-Haut Tete de Belier rouge that shows extremely well and reminds of a Chateauneuf du pape.

2004 Chateau Puech-Haut Tete de Belier rouge

Deep dark, red garnet color. A well developed and youthful nose, intense, it has the aromatic profile of a quality Chateauneuf du pape. It shows a freshness that I found in a 2004 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee Chateauneuf du pape. The nose has Grenache profile written all over it and is filled with liquorice, garrigue, raspberry and red cherry jam, nutmeg and game. Full in the mouth, ripe, structured and balanced, it has serious consistency and flesh, with a long spicy red fruit jam aftertaste. A wine that stays very well on its feet, showing good freshness, flesh and spark. No hurry to drink it on the short term. 14.5% (91/100)

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On SAT evening had dinner with a good friend at La Cantine de Nicolai and had a small bottle of Meursault by Drouhin and an old school 1997 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. The 2006 Joseph Drouhin Meursault from a 0.375 bottle shows a developed nose, with plenty of butter, roasted almonds and richness.

It is the second time I visit La Cantine de Nicolai after almost 2 years. I remember the first time I was there I was eager to try one of their desserts that looked so good on photos. Unfortunately it was not available on that day. It took me 2 years, but I finally got it.

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1997 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

Uncorked, decanted and left it to breath for 30 mins, which was probably not enough but we were really thirsty. Saturated ruby red color with minor brick on the rim. A well developed nose, intense aromas of dill and orange are dominant on the aromatic profile, and, as the wine opens up, cinnamon, bright red fruits and tobacco come out. A wine with great freshness, fresh acidity, structured, balanced, elegant, and a long finish, spicy and fresh. Everything seems to be in the right place with this wine, and at 15 years old, the wine feels ageless, a plateau where it will probably stay for a very long time. I like the freshness and the complexity of a well aged Old School Rioja. (91/100)

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We also had a Champagne Duval Leroy Brut Rose (89/100): clean, fresh, mineral, fine bubbles and so easy to drink at Le Manoir’s wine bar near Ateneu and finished the night with a Dessert Stirbey.

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SUN was calm and quite, how else could you spend the first day of cold weather and rain of this winter. Cooked at home some fresh pasta with tomato sauce and shrimps that were highly appreciated by my companion. Also tried a 2011 Ceptura Rose by Davino, a deep rose colored wine that sits very well in its price category and delivers. Even if it shows 14.4% alcohol, the wine is balanced, with intense small red berries aromas and some residual sugar that provides body and consistency to its medium finish. This is a rose suitable for this cold weather.

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Mondavi and Chapoutier

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

If it’s MON, chances are you might receive a call and get a new invitation to attend a new session with the very special Wine Club. I used to hate MON, but recently I discovered that I started to look forward to it. A call from this club is synonymous with a successful night out.

So here we are: I got invited once again. I did not know what’s going to be served but the surprises were at least very interesting and provided enough material for constructive discussions. We met at Casa di David and I have to say food was exquisite. Matching the wines with the food was smartly picked so the overall experience was flawless.

We had a seafood assortment containing Carpaccio of Dentex, sea-bass, shrimps, octopus and tuna served with a white from Languedoc, pasta with tomatoes and basil with an Australian Shiraz and a juicy magret de canard with a perfectly roasted crunchy skin on the outside with citrus fruit and sweet sauce pairing a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Chateau Capion Le Colombier Terrasses du Larzac Languedoc

Blend of 65% Viognier and 35% Roussanne. Yellow straw color. A well developed and sweet nose, reminding more of a sweet wine, showing lavish aromas of honey and linden mixed with dried stone fruits. Full, ample and unctuous on the palate, low acidity but still gaining credits by showing richness. Medium plus finish, a bit spicy. (88/100)

The salty flavors of the sea food dish paired extremely well with the sweet aromas of this white wine.

2008 M. Chapoutier Domaine Tournon Lady’s Lane Heathcote-Victoria Shiraz Australia

Decanted and left to breath for almost 2 hours and it still did not open up completely. This is far away from the unpleasant Australian fruit bombs. Deep red color. The nose is well developed and tempered, but showing good complexity and depth. It is ripe but there is more than just fruit behind it. Full bodied, rich and powerful, well balanced, the wine remains velvety on the palate, with sweet ripe tannins that feel completely integrated and flavors of dried figs, liquorice, black pepper, blackberry and bilberry jams. The finish is long with spicy, pure blackberry essence. The wine is big but it is elegant and well contained. 14.5% (90-91/100)

It paired pretty well with the pasta dish.

2008 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley

This one was decanted and left to breath for about 2h and a half. Opaque, deep red-purple color. This is an absolutely amazing wine. It has 15.5% alcohol, but it is perfectly balanced and you wouldn’t guess the high level.

A well developed, intense, elegant and complex nose, it has depth and it shows layers as it opens up. The aromatic profile shows sweet cassis, liquorice, smoke, leather, prunes, bilberry, cedar and sandalwood. Remarkably well structured, balanced, rich and elegant, this full bodied wine displays intense flavors complexity, which makes it rather difficult to describe, but it is the reason why it is a success. It is rich in tannin and from the first sip you can feel it is a manly wine, supple, showing distinguished flavors of prunes, blackberry, cedar and dark chocolate. The finish is long and rich. A wine that is perfectly enjoyable as it is now, but also with tremendous aging potential; it can evolve further and develop even more complexities. 15.5% (93/100)

It matched very well the duck breast’s juiciness, while the sweet sauce brought freshness to this wine.

Have I mentioned I love some MONDAY’s ?

A memorable tasting with a very special Wine Club

November 6, 2012 4 comments

Last night I was invited, as a guest, to attend a wine dinner organized by a special Wine Club that will remain undisclosed at this moment. The session was dedicated to Italian wines. I had no idea what will be served, but the surprise was overwhelming. The dinner took place in a prime restaurant and the food was fantastic: veal carapaccio, spaghetti pomodoro basilico, grilled Black Angus entrecote and a very special dessert: truffle, white chocolate and truffle ice cream served with a very special wine: Chateau d’Yquem 1981.

We were six people so there was plenty of wine to taste and drink for each of us. We started with a very young Barbaresco.

2007 La Spinetta Barbaresco Vigneto Bordini

This is an extremely young wine but it is so approachable. Dark red garnet color. A youthful and developing nose, intense, refined, showing beautiful aromas of flowers: dried rose petals and violets, tar, ripe black cherry and raspberry, cocoa, with hints of spices: anise and cloves. This is super concentrated on the palate, balanced and well structured, bone dry tannins and as much as a Barbaresco is known to be hard to enjoy when young, this wine drinks very well already. Long finish, with a velvety feel. Youthful but so good. (91-92/100)

One of the participants at the dinner used to work for about 7 years in Toscana at Poggio di Sotto during the summer vacation, so not only did he make a contribution with the next wine, but he also explained the story of this interesting winery. Poggio di Sotto is fairly small in Montalcino with only 12 ha of vines, making around 30.000 bottles of Brunello and Rosso din Montalcino every year. The wine-making process is traditional, with long maceration, extensive maturation in large 30 hl Slavonian oak barrels – for each wine there is an additional one year of aging in the barrel aside from the minimum imposed by the Regulators. Poggio di Sotto was recently sold to a large Italian wine company that has properties all over Italy, but wanted to own a premium, cult-like winery.

2005 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino

Medium red garnet color. Complex, deep, profound, refined, showing fine spices, cocoa powder, leather, red fruits preserves and a citrus fruit freshness on the nose. Silky mouth-feel, amazing structure and balance, ripe tannins, extremely fresh with a feather like texture, long finish, fresh all along the way. Exquisite, long black cherry aftertaste. So young but so open and such a pleasure to drink it. (93-94/100)

Next wine comes from a legendary traditional producer. I guess anybody that inquired at a certain moment about Brunello di Montalcino knows this producer as being a pioneer of quality driven wines.

1971 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino

Good fill level. The bottle was uncorked and left to slowly breath for about 3 hours. Red ruby color with a brick rim, a bit cloudy as it comes in contact with air. A maturing bouquet, with initial volatile acids that blew off after another 20 minutes in the glass, still showing discreet red fruit preserves, autumn forest floor, tobacco, balsamic notes, saline, leather and black olives. Medium bodied, initially looking like fading away but with more aeration in the glass opening up more and more. Mature, fresh, mint and black olives on the palate, acidity keeps everything in place and, as it aerates, it shows discreet tannins. Medium finish, fresh and earthy. (88-89/100)

After this line up of amazing wines I found out that dessert will be paired with 1981 Chateau d’Yquem. Life can be full of good surprises sometimes.

1981 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes

This came from a small 0.375 cl bottle and was open for more than 8 hours but that did not alter the quality of this amazing wine. Deep gold-amber color. A complex bouquet, very intense, combining aromas of mandarins, botrytis, apricots, white pepper and brown sugar. Medium bodied, it has a wonderful balance, elegant, delicious flavors of dried apricots and sweet lemons and amazingly lively on the palate. Long spicy-cardamon finish, with pleasant bitter-sweet orange peel flavor. (93-94/100)

It was a wonderful wine dinner.

1990 Chateau Beau Sejour Becot & 2000 Mas de Daumas Gassac

October 22, 2012 4 comments

It is still a warm autumn in Bucharest, yesterday we had around 20-22 Celsius degrees and it was probably the last weekend this season when we could stay outside in the yard and enjoy a home cooked lunch. As I haven’t had a burger in a while and the topic came into a discussion with a friend this week I decided to prepare my own and invite him over for a complete cooking session.

I lowered the amount of meat I am eating for some time already – and already lost about 5 kilos so, to keep up the same spirit, we prepared a low fat beef and turkey burger greased just with some mild amount of goose fat. We went through the whole process of mincing the meat ourselves and then spiced it up with salt, pepper, sweet dry red bell pepper powder, minced fresh garlic and finely cut red onion, greased with 3 small table spoons of goose fat for almost 2 kilos of meat. The final blend resembled more sausage aromas than a regular burger due to the garlic and red onion.

Prepared a barbecue outside and we grilled the burgers on a low fire for about 15 minutes enough to still preserve some juices on the inside. Used some slices of home baked bread, that you usually find on the country side if you still have relatives there, toasted a little bit on the grill. Put some home pickled cucumbers, onions, ketchup and green salad and: Boy, were they good !! Could not stop only after the third burger was gone in my belly and I was completely full.

During the whole cooking we had a very nice dry Italian sparkling: 2007 Millesimato Contrato, just to warm up the spirits.

The wine pairing was a classic that proved to be a happy choice. Happy in the sense that the wine was so good that it did not actually need any pairing and it simply shinned, just like gold in the mud, by itself. Uncorked the wine and left it to slowly aerate in the bottle for about 1h 30 min.

1990 Chateau Beau Sejour Becot St-Emilion Grand Cru

1990 was a stellar vintage in Bordeaux, it was a combination of both a larger crop and excellent quality. Most of the wines are maturing and a pleasure to drink now, while the Premier Grand Cru’s will still benefit from further aging in the bottle. Chateau Beau Sejour Becot saw a huge increase in quality over the last decade, the 2006 bottling being highly acclaimed by the Decanter tasting panel.

The 1990 has a beautiful deep ruby red color with no signs of being tired. From the first moment you uncork the wine the fruit manifests its presence grandly – for a wine at the age of 22, and the bouquet seduces you. The nose is well developed, really intense, maturing and exhibits refreshing aromas of fully ripe red and yellow apples (the same aromas you get after you peel off the apples), sea weed – saline aroma, smoke, a layer of black currant and cassis, black cherry, coffee, tobacco and tea leaves. Medium to full bodied, the texture is seamless, the tannins perfectly blended, the acidity is top notch and together with the left over tannins create a structure that will keep this wine on tip top conditions for longer time. The flavors of coffee in different levels of roasting and preparation mixed with delicate sweet fruit produce a very pleasant sensation on the palate. The finish is long, fresh, showing the same delicate red fruit and coffee flavors. This is a very nice wine, maturing, but still young, preserving the fruit very well and a great testament that older Bordeaux can be sometimes dead gorgeous and you do not have to pay big money for it. 12.5% (92/100 for the wine and 93/100 for the over all experience)

We had another wine after the 1990 Bordeaux and I initially intended to mention it in a separate post, but I believe it is worth mentioning here just to make parallels with the older red.

2000 Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge Vin de Pays de l’Herault

This is another great classic of the Languedoc and a pioneer for quality driven wines. I already tasted a 1998 Mas de Daumas Gassac that I enjoyed a lot in the recent past. This is a typical 80% Cabernet Sauvignon blend, the rest being other 8 different grape varieties. The wine was not decanted, and perhaps that was not the best move, and did not breath more than 30 min. When the wine is good the sipping happens at a quicker pace.

The 2000 vintage was excellent almost everywhere in France. The color is dark red, almost garnet and, again, young and missing any signs of age. The bouquet is well developed, intense, young and still developing. The initial nose exhibits an unusual, but nice aroma, of freshly baked and just taken from the oven Christmas cake, a sensation of warm dough crust mixed with hints of vanilla and ripe cherries. As it aerates, it shows more Cab Sauv typicality, with black currant, hot minerals, dry red bell peppers, spices, but overall it remains a classic wine. Fuller body in the mouth, the tannins show more nerve and grip, well structured, balanced, with plenty of fruit, black tea, spices, always following a classic style. The finish is slightly shorter than the 1990 Beau Sejour Becot, but still medium plus long, with assertive tannins. There is a tremendous aging potential for this wine, it will probably need at least 3-4 more years for the tannins to loosen up that grip. However, the wine is very good already. It will easily match the present age of the 1990 Beau Sejour Becot. (90-91/100)

Both wines have a lot of sediment, so be careful when you pour the last drops. This was both a great academic exercise and a fully rewarding drinking experience. It was a good Sunday.

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