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Slow lunch with 1985 Leoville Las Cases, 1982 Leoville Barton & 1982 Ducru Beaucaillou

August 11, 2009

amuse bouchesWhen a friend suggested that he’d host a long slow lunch, tied to a superb mini series of St Julien wines from outstanding vintages in the 1980s, we couldn’t refuse. Hence, at 1230h on 10th August 2009, we gathered at his residence and wasted no time ploughing into an excellent bottle of 2000 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru champagne to get things rolling. We got off to a good start; this was light-golden, fresh, lively, medium-bodied, maintaining a sense of delicacy amidst its sweet floral notes. Quite the perfect aperitif.

A couple of whites from Domaine Leflaive accompanied the first 3 courses of scallops, salmon, and angelhair marinara pasta. The 2004 Bourgogne, light-golden, gave off a huge fantastic nose full of minerality and vanilla that hinted at a wine of great complexity and body. Quite unbelievable, coming from a generic bourgogne, again emphasising the dictum that producers matter most for burgundy wines. However, this wine didn’t quite reach up to its promise on the palate, being medium-bodied and soft, with less than the anticipated level of complexity.

Scallop TrioSide by side, the 2003 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Combettes”, darker hued, was lighter in texture, more fragrant, more floral and delicate. Nevertheless, it put on more weight after an hour, the slick oily character so typical of Leflaive becoming apparent. Definitely more complex, with that extra layer of depth missing from the generic bourgogne. A more complete wine that showed up the bourgogne’s deficiencies, although the latter, on its own, would have been very satisfactory.

Then came the highly-anticipated trio of reds to go with the braised oxtail and black angus ribeye. The 1985 Ch Leoville Las Cases, brownish red with a tawny rim, had the sort of nose found only in top-flight aged Bordeaux, although this was somewhat stern and less exuberant compared to what a Pauillac can offer. But once on the palate, it exuded its class and impeccable breeding with notes of blackcurrants and bit of plum in the background, possessing great depth, seamless harmony and focus, gaining a velvety feel with time with only just a slight hint of oak remaining. I was reminded that this was the third time I’ve tasted this wine – initially in late 2006 at Iggy’s, then sometime in 2007 at a private function. A wonderful wine at its peak, and still there. Having had the 1986 four years back (Hiok), which was still very backward, I fully agree that 1985 is the best vintage to drink now from that decade.

Salmon!Compared to this, the 1982 Ch Leoville Barton, showing a similar red but just a tad lighter, was initially less powerful and leaner in texture with a shorter finish, although the wine was absolutely harmonious with great purity of fruit, without any wood. It gained weight in the glass, to its advantage, eventually turning very delicious. Definitely much better than the bottle we had at the SMA Dinner in May. Great stuff, but it goes to show why Las Cases remains at the top of the pecking order for the three Leoville estates.

The piece de resistance for the afternoon was, without doubt, the 1982 Ch Ducru Beaucaillou. Absolutely magnificent, and it was not difficult to tell why: of the three St Julien wines, it had the deepest red, the liveliest nose, great entry, and that extra dimension, depth and grip that even the Leoville Las Cases didn’t possess (albeit from a different vintage). Great delineation and focus from start to finish. Rich, intense and luxurious. Still packed more than adequate power, though mellowed by time. It recalled memories of the 1982 Ch Leoville Poyferre, but the Ducru is even better. Definitely has the legs to last another two decades; in fact, I feel it still hasn’t peaked!!

Lunch finally ended after 5PM with a 1994 Ch Rabaud-Promis, a Sauternes that easily stood up to more well-known estates. By then, we were all done in by the food (2 full helpings of pasta!!) and the preceding wines to fully appreciate this, which was a bit of a waste. Discounting this, it was 6 bottles for 4 persons. One would have thought that would be really excessive (it was!) but with these beauties, there wasn’t the slightest bit of fatique on the palate. I dare say the reds that we’d drunk will be irreplaceable. But what’s the point of keeping these purely as trophies? Great wines must go with great food and great company. I’ve come to realise that such opportunities are scarce, and so when they arise, one must push the boat out. I’m glad we all did. I must really thank the host for the time, energy and generosity that had gone into making this lunch possible. Knowing us, there’ll probably be more of such decadence to come in the near future.

A distinguished lineup

One Comment leave one →
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