Tasting Cos d'Estournel II

With Reviews of California Reds and Wine Pairings for Veal Saltimbocca

 


Chateau Cos d’Estournel will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Early on in my wine-buying career I made what many may construe as a newbie’s mistake. While the 1982 Cos was available on the futures market, I chose instead to buy the 1979 and 1981. Now my reasoning was pretty sound, the 1982 was about twice the price of both the 81 and 79.

Well actually I bought a case of the 1981 and a case of magnums of the 1979 for a little less than a case of the 1982, and I took possession of the wines right away, as opposed to having had to wait for the a year and a half for the 82’s.

In hindsight it may just look like I goofed. The 1982 vintage turned out to be one of the most important vintages of the past half century, and the Cos is one of the stars of that vintage, but I am happy with my purchase. Very happy indeed.

What to expect: Cabernet Sauvignon

Originally of French origins this versatile grape produces exceptional wines around the globe. Usually medium to full bodied with a fine structure that supports black and red fruit flavors with typical notes of olive, chili and herbs adding complexity.
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Tasting video of Chateau Cos d'Estournel
Chateau Cos d’Estournel will forever hold a special place in my heart.  Early on in my wine-buying career I made what many may construe as a newbie’s mistake. While the 1982 Cos was available on the futures market I chose instead to buy the 1979 and 1981. Now my reasoning was pretty sound, the 1982 was about the same price as one each of the 81 and 79.

Well actually I bought a case of the 1981 and a case of magnums of the 1979 for a little less than a case of the 1982, and I took possession of the wines right away, as opposed to having had to wait for the a year and a half for the 82’s.

Now in hindsight it may just look like I goofed. The 1982 vintage turned out to be one of the most important vintages of the paste half century and the Cos is one of the stars of that vintage but I am happy with my purchase. Very happy indeed.

While it’s taken me quite a few years to get over my initial disappointment at not buying the 1982; I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve looked at a few bottles and though, it’s just a little too expensive, maybe next year, only to see the wines even more expensive the next year!

The truth is that is I had bought that case of 1982 Cos I probably would still have at least half of in my cellar. That price that kept shooting up, along with the wine’s reputation, makes one pause when pulling a bottle from one’s cellar. The fact that the 79 and 81 continued, until very recently, to be down right cheap made them easy to enjoy, and learn from.

That’s really what I got from those two cases. Neither turned out to be particularly noteworthy in certain respects but both taught me more than those 1982s could ever have. By drinking the wines regularly, more so with the 81’s than the mags of 79’s. I learned both how a wine can express the nature of a vintage, and more importantly, how a Bordeaux evolves over the course of its life.

To me the 1981 Cos d’Estournel defines what Bordeaux once was. And what I wish it to be in the future. It has an elegance to it, and transparency that allows the terroir to speak in unison with the ripe, yet not over-ripe fruit. It is balanced, if on the austere side, yet vivid with a nervous energy that few modern wines possess.

Perhaps it’s just rustic. If so then we need more rustic wines, wines that speak to some of us, but not all, or even most of us. Be that as it may I became disenchanted with much Bordeaux in the later half of the 1990’s and have bough only sparingly since then. While I continued to hold Cos in high regard the wines did not affect me as they once had.

The style had undoubtedly changed and the wines spoke more of Merlot and winemaking than the terroir of St. Estephe (a bit hard, mean, and dirty) and Cabernet. Nonetheless I was very interested in tasting a flight of Cos d’Estournel wines at the recent Montreal Passion Vin. I was also excited to be able to interview the current generation of Prats to be making the wine at Cos, Bordeaux as a region, that I was sad to hear of the family’s sale of the estate in 2000. It was interesting to hear young Jean-Guillaume Prats.

Bruno Prats had been such a fixture throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s promoting not only the wines of Cos d’Estournel, but Bordeaux as a region, that I was sad to hear of the family’s sale of the estate in 2000. It was interesting to hear young Jean-Guillaume speak with the passion I had once heard from his father about Cos, and the winemaking in Bordeaux.

Now about those wines. Well the style at Cos has certainly changed over the years, as it has at virtually every Bordeaux Chateau, though not exactly on a linear path. Those Merlot heavy cuvees of the 1990’s that had turned me off were just a bump in the road while certain Cabernet vineyards were replanted and allowed to reach maturity before being included once again in the Grand Vin.

The wines of recent vintages are now back on form, and arguably better than ever. The 2001 is my Bordeaux surprise of the year. This is certainly as good as the 2000 from Cos and in many ways better than the more massive, dense, chewy and certainly long-lived 2005. Even the 2002, from a vintage almost forgotten by the media, was a delicious example of modern Bordeaux.

You know that 2002, while not a great wine in certain respects bear more than a passing resemblance to the 1981 at the same age. I hope a few of us might forgo the hyper expensive 2005’s and pick up some 2001’s and 2002’s instead. Maybe in a decade, or more likely 2, they’ll have quite a story to tell.


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