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A month of outstanding Bordeaux

November 22, 2012

1999 Ch L’Evangile, at Prive, 6 Nov 2012. My third bottle of this particular wine over the past 18 months, and certainly the best example by far, largely in part, I suspect, because it had been aired in bottle for two hours prior, and extra pains taken to ensure that it was served slightly chilled at the restaurant, in my opinion an essential requisite in the Singapore context given the severe ambient heat. Evolved to a brownish red, the wine exudes a powerful complex bouquet of raisins, cedar, cinnamon, dark currants and sweet plums, medium-full on the palate, fleshy with good concentration and depth, shrouded in soft tannins that still wielded structure, sophisticated enough, just missing in outright opulence and lushness but otherwise caught at an exciting stage close to its peak. Perfect with the 220g striploin. Quite excellent.

1990 Ch Sociando Mallet (courtesy John), at Imperial Treasure T3, 8 Nov 2012. Decanted on-site and aired for another 30-45 monutes before serving. This is, by far, the best example of this particular vintage for Sociando, the wine still dark ruby in color and remarkably fresh, exuding powerful attractive notes of old leather, saddle, cassis and cedar amidst fresh notes of violets and blueberries and other savoury characters, excellent in concentration without any sign of drying out. And it just got better and better in the glass, becoming broader and more expansive, almost rich and opulent. Easily on par with second or third growths of Bordeaux. Some have claimed that it surpasses Mouton Rothschild for that vintage. Hardly surprising. Superb.

2001 Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, at La Barca, 9 Nov 2012. Aired in the fridge for almost two hours, followed by further aeration on-site. Noticeably more relaxed and fleshy compared to a previous tasting two years ago, revealing notes of violets, raspberries and dark roses tinged with a note camphor towards the finish (no doubt from the more-than-usual quantity of petit verdot that year), missing the richness and opulence of the best vintages. Became somewhat linear and non-descript after some time, the tannins gaining a bit of an attack in spite of 1.4 kg of wonderful wagyu littered with black truffles. A wine that hasn’t entirely settled. Best to leave it alone another few more years.

2009 Ch Croizet-Bages, shared with the wifey at Cotton Bleu, 10 Nov 2012. I know this wine has barely been bottled, but I was curious to find out how a 2009 would fare. Prior to tasting, I had it double-decanted for a couple of hours, followed by further aeration for another hour inside the fridge before bringing it to the restaurant. In spite of its youth, it seemed fairly approachable, possessing very tight concentration of dark fruits, slightly tarry and still coated with vanilla from the discernible wood, but the ripeness, definition, balance and absence of leafy notes were hallmarks of an outstanding vintage coupled with expert craftsmanship. If a lower growth could perform so well, I can only imagine that a premier cru would still be untouchable even 20 years from now. Be prepared to handover those to your next generation.

1996 Ch Pichon Longueville Baron (courtesy of Hiok) at his residence, 12 Nov 2012. Decanted for more than an hour by the time I arrived. There’s excellent concentration of dark fruits and currants, well balanced against the graphite minerality with plenty of tension and a hint of dryness at the sides, but this wine is still rather tight and backward within a narrow spectrum, yet to unfurl its secondary nuances. Consistent with most Left Bank 1996s which need to be left alone for, what, at least another 5-10 years?

1998 Ch Pichon Longueville Baron (courtesy of John), drunk side-by-side with the 1996 on 12 Nov 2012. I find 1998 to be grossly under-rated and it shows here. Compared with the 1996, this wine is a lot more relaxed and open with quite a generous bouquet of raisins, sweet meat, plums and a bit of burnt toast at the edges. Rounded, smooth and savoury on the palate with plenty of weight, but this is a wine that’s still yet to peak. Excellent.

1986 Ch Rauzan-Segla (courtesy John), decanted on-site at Otto Ristorante, 14 Nov 2012. An unstoppable powerful glow of a beautifully aged claret leapt from the glass with notes of sour plums, cassis, old leather against a background of perfumed violets and faint raspberries, totally seamless without any sign of dryness. Clearly still has the legs to last for many more years and, I dare say, preferable to the 1986 Gruaud Larose.

1990 Ch Rauzan-Segla (courtesy John), decanted on-site at Iggy’s, 16 Nov 2012. Still remarkably dark. Highly perfumed with notes of raspberries, dark cherries, red currants, shaded by age with violets, camphor and those indescribable aromatics of a beautifully aged claret, gentle on the palate, medium-bodied, still fresh and vibrant with superb presence, displaying the highest level of finesse and elegance, combined with power in a velvet glove. Wonderful.

1995 Ch Palmer (courtesy John) at Ruth Chris’ Steak House, Marina Mandarin Singapore, 18 Nov 2012. Decanted on-site. A powerful aromatic fragrance wafted over the table as the wine was poured, promising a fantastic experience ahead. However, it seemed rather unsettled on the palate, the fruit backward and obsured by a tannic spine, seemingly tight, lapsing into a withdrawn reticence for some time. Then, gradually, it opened up to reveal sexy supple tannins that danced with a quiet intensity with more of the glorious ripe fruit coming forward, displaying notes of violets, blueberries and dark currants from its layered depths, beautifully structured and perfumed, combining power and elegance effortlessly into a heady complexity. This wine blows away all expectations of a 1995, caught at a most exciting stage, still yet to peak. Superb. The perfect accompaniment to the perfectly done 430g USDA prime ribeye.

1995 Ch Leoville-Poyferre (courtesy Ben) at Ruth Chris’ Steak House, Marina Mandarin Singapore, 18 Nov 2012. Decanted on-site. Compared to the 1995 Palmer, this wine shot out of the starting block right from the first pour, at once more open and relaxed with highly inviting aromatics combined with great concentration and intensity with a trace of burnt and dryness at the edges, saturated with dark fruits and currants underscored by some degree of sweetness though without the ferrous quality of the Saint Julien terroir. It settled down without further development before being overtaken by the Palmer. An excellent wine, but I recalled the 1996 Poyferre being more preferable, with better definition and complexity.

1999 Ch Angelus, at Jade Palace, 22 Nov 2012. My third bottle from a half-dozen imported from London, and probably the best so far. Popped and poured. Deep in color, but somewhat unsettled, reticent and uneven at the beginning, rather mineral and ferrous. However, it eventually opened up very nicely, displaying broad swathes of surprisingly ripe fruit (for this vintage) with excellent weight and concentration, the tightly-knit tannins buzzing with a sweet intensity on the palate, the wine rounded and smooth with lively acidity. I note that both L’Evangile and Angelus of 1999 are excellent now. Is it time to call it a Right Bank vintage, coming right after 1998??

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