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1996 Ch Ducru Beaucaillou

November 13, 2009

Leave it aloneI’d not planned on opening this, but when Wan Cheng wanted to meet up with me over business, it struck me that we should mix it with pleasure. And since I’d be dining at Brasserie Wolf, a French bistro, with someone so knowledgeable about everything French, I decided to mark the occasion with a 1996 Ch Ducru Beaucaillou, decanted at the restaurant and served in Osterreich stemware.

The initial impression of this wine, a deep garnet red, wasn’t exactly encouraging. There wasn’t much on the nose, rather muted, just a whiff of soy and marmite (it’s that graphite again) intermixed with dark flavours, but the overall impression was a wine that was still quite shut. This carried onto the palate, where the full-bodied wine was still rather tight and backward, underscored by unresolved firm tannins, finishing on an austere note. It loosened up after about 60-90 minutes, imparting more depth, with flavours of rich dark berries emerging whilst the tannins softened considerably, holding the palate in a velvety grip. It never quite reached the level of lushness a Ducru can achieve, however, perhaps due to the pecularities of the vintage but more, I feel, because of the suboptimal ambient temperature in the restaurant. I have noticed that Ducru Beaucaillou tends to evolve quickly into a difficult, dense plummy wine if it is left too long in the glass at ambient temperatures that aren’t cool enough. This was certainly the case here, and I found myself unable to finish the last pour. Pity. This wine, clearly, has a long life ahead, and it’d be wise not to touch it again for the next 5 years. But it served its function well this evening, and I think this is the beginning of a beautiful working relationship with WC.

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