I recently tasted some older Bordeaux with a few writers and Snoothers here in New York. Some words have already been written about the evening, in part by myself, but primarily by fellow attendees. A few people have communicated privately with me to ask about the wines and my impressions, so I figured I would take the time to write up my notes and add a few thoughts and impressions.
First off, this was a wine philanthropy tasting. It is my personal belief that those of us who had the means to buy great wines in our youths owe something for that privilege. This debt is paid off by sharing the wines with those who were not as fortunate or, even better, with those who will not be as fortunate. I came of age in a time when outrageously expensive wines were $50, wines that were great but expensive were $25 and wines of character could be had for $10.
Photo courtesy Megan Mallen via Flickr/CC
I recently wrote an article comparing the wine prices of 1986 and today to help illustrate the broad jumps wine has made in the intervening years. Today, wines of character may cost $20-30, great but expensive wines are $100-150, and those $50 wines often sell for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. We can’t expect the next generation of wine drinkers to have experiences that build the level of passion we share without providing a little help. In my mind, popping a few corks is the best way to go about helping!
So with that reason, I invited some fellow writers over to talk about wine, writing and the like. I chose a group of Bordeaux to taste because there was a good story among the bottles and because that was what I had on hand.
I am now getting ready for a second installment of this “Drink Greg’s Wine” philanthropy movement. This event is set to include wines from some of the premier wine producing regions and vintages in Europe. 1983 Bordeaux, 1989 Barolo, 1996 Burgundy, 1997 Tuscany, 1998 Northern Rhone and 2001 Germans. But for now, back to the Bordeaux at hand.
I chose the wines that I did so that there would be some overlap between vintages, appellations and styles. Three of the wines came from Ch. Meyney, the St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois producer that always over-delivered values back in the day. There was certainly a good story there, $7 wines that delivered typicity and great ability to age.
To contrast the joyous rusticity that Meyney expresses, I chose a pair of vintages of Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe’s grandest Chateau and one that vied for the appellation’s wine of the vintage nearly every year. Cos has changed much since the wine we tasted were produced. It now vies for top honors with the first growths in most vintages, and is sadly priced accordingly.
The final wine, a single vintage of Paulliac’s Ch. Lynch Bages, is a wine that straddles so many of the story lines that I find it fascinating. It’s from a different appellation to start, shares a vintage with one of the bottles of Cos, and is an over-performer of sorts, on the level of the Meyney. It’s from one of my favorite producers in Bordeaux for that same reason. “Over-performer” is a description ill suited for much of today’s Bordeaux, but one that still characterizes Lynch Bages. Despite my opinion, many people might argue just the opposite, that Lynch Bages is an under-performer as it rarely shows well in its youth. But with patience, this ugly duckling does indeed turn into the beautiful swan, as Bordeaux so typically did back in the day.
So there it is, layered story lines, all ready to be told with the mere uncorking of bottles. This, to a certain extent, is why I enjoy wine so much. So, how do the stories pan out?