Well, I must tell you that over the years I have wondered why some of the great wines sometimes turn out to be less than great to drink, and then, why also are some wines that are made in weak vintages, (i.e. years with not great or simply terrible weather) turn out to be completely good and sometimes absolutely great to drink, if not fabulous!
So, I have finally come to the conclusion that it is really about two things. Firstly it is mainly about the company that you keep, and the people you dine with and share the wine with. Frame of mind kind of thing? In a sense the human mystery that is so bound up so closely, as far I am concerned, with the history of wine and gastronomy. It is no longer a mystery to me, and I want to share this with you, so that when you read about the next one hundred pointer this, and the next one hundred pointer that, in the majority of these cases the wines are probably tasted in a laboratory type environment (that can of course include a musty old cellar somewhere, if you are so lucky), or a competitive wine trade lunch and has little bearing on the wine that ends up at home on your kitchen or dining room table, to be shared and enjoyed with family and friends, as wine was made for originally. The wine writers today whose reports you follow so closely, I think taste and tap away at the same time on a laptop to review the wine, and offer their advice as to when or when not to drink it. The gentle human element in it’s own right would appear to be missing here and the clinical tasting not is no more than an opinion of one person sitting in an isolated situation, scientifically (a bit?) going through the motions. I think the recipe, good or bad depending, is to taste these wines in a communal setting (two or more) and then give us your full honest report.
My current discovery, and case in point, is this miracle of an appalling 1973 Bordeaux vintage. Now, it is not everyday I get to taste and drink the famous Pomerol wine that goes by the name of Petrus, and yes it is still not a chateau thank goodness, but watch this space as a Colombian guy has just purchased 20% of this famous 2+ hectare unique, red clayed property, old vine patch of Pomerol. So, with this news anything can now happen really, including name change? For goodness sake.
So what happened? with me. Well, a dear olde chum of mine, who I get to see maybe once a year if that, and I got together for a bite of a Sunday rare roast Beef and Horseradish sauce lunch. Yorkshire pudding, Cabbage and lashings of gravy. To be honest I thought we were going to eat Grouse, but it turns out to be even a bad vintage for them this year, 2018. The bottle bought up from the cellar, after our slightly chilled starter white from the Friuli, was indeed a mid-shoulder level 1973 Petrus. It had been uprighted 24 hours before to allow any sediment to fall to the base of the bottle and it was opened carefully by what they call today a wine expert. Or in this case a top sommelier from 67 P-M. He gave us the thumbs up and I suggested we did not decant it but poured the wine from the bottle, direct. Revelation, revelation and yes a revelation!
Now, I am writing this bloogy bugga blog on the Monday evening following the lunch and I can still taste the wine and all it’s magic. Good God man, this is what wine, Claret! should be about, shouldn`t it?
Before banging on about this vinous surprise, I am also reminded of a 1984 Le Pin, back in the day, a 1987 Le Pin, and another 1987 Pomerol, this time from Ch.La Grave a Trigant de Boisset (was that really what it was called?) served in a magnum at a C&B dinner. These three Pomerols where all quite outstanding when I was lucky enough to drink them, and none of them from a vintage worth mentioning. I would go as far as to say the Le Pin 1987 was easily one my favorite wines in the Le Pin lineup at the famous Bibendum tasting back in 1999. We tasted all the vintages from 1980 thru to 1996.
In December 1984, our dear America friend, now retired wine critic, RP Junior tasted 1973 Petrus and wrote the following: ”For immediate consumption. Given the prolific yield in 1973 and the diluted, thinnish quality of many wines, the Petrus is sensationally concentrated, rich, supple, fat and so so flavorful. Ready to drink, it will keep for at least another 5-6 years” (in theory good until 1999/2000)
So here and now, in September 2018, I can report that this wine is a stonker. No signs of letting up at all. And all that beautiful dark ruby color, and really minimal browning for the age and vintage. The wine was warm, generous, of course ‘ripe’ Merloty fruit and no tannins. Just chunky unctuous Petrus soft, elegant magic fruit, that was such a great, great pleasure to drink and share with David who is not a wine freak at all, yet has the intelligence of palate to know that it was something special. I think that if I had drunk the wine with a wine trade friend or chums in a tasting group I do not think this bottle would have shown what it did to us during our lunch on Sunday. This is what I mean about sharing the right bottle with the right person or people. It makes me think that a bunch of wines today are solely produced to make points and prizes, and few and far between are really made just for the pure hellish pleasure of drinking a fabulous bottle of wine. Especially Claret.