Friday, 1 July 2011

Palmer, Leoville Barton, Cos and Mouton in three vintages, Roberson Wine, June 30th 2011


Last night we tasted a vertizontal (or hortical?), of Palmer, Leoville Barton, Cos and Mouton from 88, 89 and 90, at the best private wine club in town, Roberson Wine in High St Kensington. Mark Andrew’s tastings are celebrated and attract a classy clientele –you generally meet Jancis Robinson (all the way from NW3), Neal Martin, Julia Harding, Michael Broadbent, and of course Roberson customers, who are terrifyingly well-informed. A great couple of hours, the better for there only being 15 or so people.

The 1988s were disappointing, made more so by the wonderful noses the wines carry. The first sniff of the Palmer makes you think, ‘I’m in for a treat’, but that heady aroma just doesn’t pull through to the palate. As Roberson’s notes say, 1988, with a wet May and June, bringing mildew and rot, then unnaturally dry August, was a difficult year.  With Cabernet ripeness stalling in October, ‘it was never going to be a vintage that yielded rich or concentrated fruit.’ Bobbins, as Andrew put it: ‘That means rubbish, by the way.’ Drink up

The 1989s are cut from different cloth. Dense and deep, long and luscious. Leoville Barton a bit of a disappointment but only in comparison with the seductive rest of the flight. There’s something about Leoville B… in each of the years it seemed to be more classic, restrained, simply more old-fashioned than the rest. You can see why the English (and I mean the English) love it so much. A bit fogeyish, the lovable uncle in tweeds with a watch-chain, and a twinkle in his eye, can be peppery at times but charming. Now who does that remind me of?

The 1990 flight was mixed. Leoville Barton again slightly in the shadow of its neighbours, at this tasting, on this night. But how could it have any presence in the looming shadow of the Cos? Palmer lovely, Mouton disappointing. Here of course you have to say that the Mouton is simply resting, as great wines may, like a grand dame after luncheon, and that it will come back refreshed. I don’t know – there didn’t seem enough fruit, anywhere, for that.

Wine of the evening? Cos 90
Vintage of the evening? 1989

1988

Chateau Palmer, Margaux
12% alc
£205 bottle
Really lovely  deep chocolatey nose with pencil lead and dark plum fruit. Deep refreshing palate with less fruit than expected. Slightly hollow – tannins soft and chalky. Dry on the finish. not long

Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien
13% alc
£899.95 case
More refined than Palmer on the nose, conversely sweet palate with cherry and darkish fruit. Again falls off toward the end. No length

Chateau Cos d’Estournel, St Estephe
12%  alc
£125 bottle
More perfume hints on the nose. Much stronger tannins making themselves felt early on – but astringent and not massive. Falls off toward the end but more length than the others

Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac
12.5% alc
£455 bottle
Much deeper colour and superb nose with pencil lead and minerality. Lovely sweet fruit and dry tannins. Slightly astringent again. Length dry and falling off

1989

Chateau Palmer, Margaux
12% alc
£310 bottle
Superb nose with mint and minerality, raspberry and bright fruits – lots going on on the nose. Full bright palate – loaded with fruit sitting on lovely ripe acids.Delicious and very long. Goes on forever.

Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien
12.5% alc
£120 bottle
Very delicate nose with raspberry and mint. Palate lean and strong with developed tannins, bright and acidic with powerful end. Fruit needs time but long and powerful and fine. No idea if this will come through or will it always be like this? Jancis: ‘it cries out for food’. Indeed! Imagine it with rack of lamb

Chateau Cos d’Estournel, St Estephe
13% alc
£125 bottle
Dense dark nose with raisin and plum and herbaceous and licorice hints. Exotic – sweet with almost pear drop intensity. Superb palate with power and finesse. Long, intense, not massive but delicately powerful. Lovely delicate fruit – perfume, ripeness, bright plum and dark cherry. Lovely

Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac
12.5% alc
£455 bottle
The finest and most seductive nose so far. Deep and dark with wonderful minty blackcurrant and blackberry. Palate opulent, fresh, bright, tannins developing late on the palate. Fruit is dense and almost brooding, tannins dry at the end but that will calm. Superb wine. Couldn’t decide between this and the Cos 90 for my wine of the evening.

1990

Chateau Palmer, Margaux
12% alc
£245 bottle
Classic nose with bright berry fruit. Mouthwatering palate – lovely opulent, bright, sweet quite dense fruit. Really lovely wine until the very end when it falls off with a certain dryness. But again, it cries out for food. Lamb again

Chateau Leoville Barton, St Julien
12.5% alc
£185 bottle
Splendid exotic bright sweet nose with hints of pear drops, even, and luscious cooked fruit. Palate has earthy tannins, still somewhat dry towards the finish. Not long. Doesn’t live up to the promise of the nose

Chateau Cos d’Estournel, St Estephe
13% alc
£210 bottle
Massive, brooding dense dark fruit nose with forest floor and truffle. Bright mouthwatering very refreshingly acidic palate, with spicy dark cherry, blackcurrant, truffle, some mint. Dryish on the finish but  supported by this lovely integrated acid. A fantastic wine, the best of the evening (as everyone else thought as well – by popular vote).

Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac
12.5% alc
£460 bottle
The palate is lovely and delicate at first with nice mellow acids and a hint of rainy forest floor but then nothing else seems to happen. It’s fresh and bright but the fruit just doesn’t come out, and the tannins too shy . Disappointing

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