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Pauillac 1990: Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lynch-Bages, Pichon Lalande, Pichon Baron, Clerc Milon & 1990 d’Yquem, 1990 Dom Perignon, 1990 Dauvissat…

November 12, 2014

One look at the line-up above and you will realise two things: it is outrageously expensive, and only one group of like-minded individuals locally is capable of going great lengths to stay on theme: Bacchus. When Kieron first proposed a 1990 Pauillac horizontal and proudly proferred a Latour, nobody took a step back. In fact, with less than two weeks to go before we were to meet at Les Amis on 18 July 2014, everyone pulled out all stops to procure their own offerings. In one instance, an OWC of Lafite Rothschild was specially imported from London via express freight just for this dinner. Tim Goh, Director of Wines at Les Amis, had secured for us its private dining hall with a customised menu and we were set.

As usual, we kicked off with a 1990 Champagne Dom Pérignon (courtesy of Daniel) that was still very fresh and lively, sporting lifted aromas of nutmeg, toast and exotic fruits with a mild yeasty overtone, coating the palate with very fine gentle bubbles, slightly minty at the finish. It broadened and grew in intensity over time, displaying great depth and sweetness and developing notes of white pepper and high-toned glycerine and graphite, ensuring a complex sophisticated finish. A wonderful and complete wine, although it took a while to get there. All PauillacNext up was also a white, a 1990 Dauvissat Les Clous Grand Cru (courtesy of David), lighting up with a luscious gold, low in acidity with notes of seared caramel and pistachios that contributed to a burnished tone. Though lowish in acidity, unsurprisingly in light of its age, it blossomed over time to produce a powerful complex of lychees, crème de la crème and chalky minerality with just a hint that, perhaps, the fruit was beginning to dry out. Like the Dom Perignon, this wine requires patience on your part.

We drank the reds in three flights, beginning with a trio of estates from the northern part of Pauillac. The 1990 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste (courtesy of Uncle Hsu) displayed the most evolved bouquet of the entire line-up, a powerful complex proposition with its ripe plummy glow on the nose, promising an abundance of rich velvety red fruits and blueberries that came through on the palate, medium-bodied but incredibly complex and seamless. One could go on sniffing the whole night. A complete wine. The 1990 Château Lynch Bages (courtesy of Victor), another perennial favourite, was considerably deeper and darker with its forward fruit characters and powerful bouquet of cedar and violets overshadowing the usual Pauillac dryness, undeniably attractive and correct in every way, growing in intensity over time with further sweet tannins. Unlike the GPL that has peaked, the Lynch Bages is still evolving at a glacial pace, still incredibly fresh with so much more potential in store, consistent with a previous tasting note from last year. Fascinating. The 1990 Château Clerc Milon (courtesy of Chris) stood its ground in the face of top-flight competition, displaying a classic Pauillac fragrance and dryness, saturating the palate with a lovely rose-tinted intensity and a tinge of salty minerality, tapering towards a spicy finish. It morphed into seamless whole towards the end of dinner, its minerality more earthy over time. Like the GPL, this wine is at its peak, offering much of the attractiveness of this outstanding vintage without breaking the bank.

Next flight was the classic pairing of the two Pichons. As expected, the 1990 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (courtesy of Pipin) was distinctly feminine, highly seductive with a predominant bouquet of red fruits and violets, possessing impressive depth and charm, dry and earthy, defying all previous criticism this estate has had over this vintage. Perhaps it could do with a little more definition on the palate but it really is very lovely, perfect for drinking now. Across the road, the 1990 Château Pichon Longueville Baron (courtesy of Hiok) was considerably darker and more masculine than the Comtesse with notes of ripe dark berries and blackcurrants that complemented the distinctive Pauillac signature perfectly, displaying great structure and integration, justifiably more inspired than the Comtesse.

1990 Pauillac lineupWe arrived at the pinnacle of Pauillac (and perhaps of all Bordeaux) with the First Growths, sans Mouton Rothschild (its reputation for 1990 probably irreversibly damaged by negative press reviews). Surprisingly, the sommeliers at Les Amis opted not to decant both wines, a debatable move. The 1990 Château Lafite Rothschild, glowing in deep ruby, was still shut at the first pour, probably the result of it not being decanted, although one could discern floral notes of red fruits amidst the depths of darker fruits, waiting to burst forth. When it finally did open up after another hour of persistent coaxing in the glass, it was a quintessential Lafite that greeted the senses – feminine, full of elegance and immaculate composure, absolutely harmonious with understated power beneath, rising towards a lifted, long lasting finish. One is left with the feeling that it could have been even better had it been decanted, but it still stood heads and shoulders above all the reds that had come before it, even putting the 1990 GPL in its place. Such is the power and allure of Lafite Rothschild in a great year. Side by side, the 1990 Château Latour (courtesy of Kieron), radiated absolute power and beauty from its glorious unfathomable depth of ripe rich tarry black fruit, beautifully integrated with the wood and velvety tannins amidst a sprinkling of red plums. Truly remarkable. And as if we needed anything more to cap such an outstanding evening, David offered a 1990 Château d’Yquem, the perfect counterfoil after all those reds with its rich, intense layers of concentrated lacquer, nectar and apricot, neatly balanced, perhaps just a tad more impressive on the nose than on the palate but who cares? This had been an evening to match any of Bacchus‘ best. I dare not think how we can better this. Thank you, everyone.

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