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Blinded: Ch Montrose 1995, Latour 2004, Leoville-Las-Cases 1985, 1986, 1995

December 15, 2015

Blind tasting is always a humbling experience but also one of the most effective ways to appreciate the character of a particular wine and its expression of terroir without the bias of open labels. A small dinner between myself, Hiok, Chee Wee and Philippe of FICOFI was organised on 07 Dec 2015 at Gattopardo where it turned out that we had the entire upper floor dining room to ourselves. The theme was Left Bank blind tasting without any further specification. All wines were decanted on-site and served in two flights to go along with some delectable antipasto and Irish ribeye which was the restaurant’s special for the evening, rounding off with a cheese platter.

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The first wine (courtesy of Hiok) had a peculiar medicinal note on the nose that became truly dominant throughout the evening, becoming almost port-like. Hiok was worried that the bottle may be corked but there was actually none of the dank staleness. On the palate, the wine was only medium-bodied, lacking the fullness promised on the nose, with notes of enamel, cedar and dense wild flowers with characteristic dryness, missing in voluptuousness and seemingly short at the finish. I deduced a Saint-Julien, which Philippe concurred, simply through the process of elimination although the overwhelming bouquet really obscured just about everything. When the wine was revealed to be 1995 Ch Leoville Las-Cases, I was surprised that it was so different from my previous impression of this wine nine years ago, which I recalled to be a tannic monster. Was it a flawed bottle? Will reserve judgement.

Tasted simultaneously, the second wine was a classic claret straight out of the box, dark with aromas of black fruits and a nose of snuff, cigar box and dark currants, open with an attractive dry quality on the palate, sappy and structured, displaying excellent linearity and concentration throughout its length, finishing with great persistence. As the evening wore on, it seemed to undergo some sort of reduction, becoming leaner in the mid-body and sharper at the finish. Philippe was ready to commit that this was a Pauillac, and I must say I would have concurred if I hadn’t brought this wine, with everyone agreeing that it was a mid-90s vintage. It was a 1995 Ch Montrose, not far from the soils of Pauillac, without much of the character of clay soils although, on hindsight, a Pauillac would have been even drier.

Within the same flight, the third wine displayed a deep garnet red with just a trace of vermillon at the rim, producing fragrant aromas of ripe dark fruits and blackcurrants, carrying excellent concentration and richness on the palate with supple velvety tannins that seemed to lack structure, fleshy yet soft, superbly integrated with just a vegetal or graphite trace at the finish. I thought this may be a Pichon Lalande with its higher balance of merlot and petit verdot, but it turned out to be the glorious 1986 Ch Leoville Las-Cases (courtesy of Chee Wee), a wine that I’ve always loved and treasured and, on this occasion, yet to truly hit its peak.

The second flight consisted of two wines contributed by Philippe that were sourced directly from the respective chateau. The first showed an impenetrable dark purple with fragrant aromas and notes of ripe dark fruits, currants and blueberries along with early secondary nuances and notes of cedar and graphite, soft and rounded, possessing richness, balance, sophistication, grandeur and structure with a certain aloofness. I thought it may be a 1999 Palmer, given its arresting fragrance and elegance. We were all floored when the wraps were removed: a 2004 Ch Latour. Outstanding!

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The second red was evidently an aged claret, displaying a certain evolution in color, dry with smoky characters, open on the palate with more red fruits in its balance, ripe but slightly austere, not in any danger of drying out, still fresh with a certain beguiling gentleness. We guessed a Pauillac, perhaps even a Lafite given the balance and mildly feminine character. A 1985 Ch Leoville Las-Cases it was, and what a beauty. As I have said, blind tasting is always humbling and this evening’s experience was no exception. But that’s I way to go, I feel. My thanks to everyone for their generosity.

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