Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gala Birthday Dinner Wine Tasting featuring Pauillac Bordeaux Duo Vintage Contrast - Classic vs Upstart - Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 and Grand Puy Ducasse 2008

Gala Birthday Dinner Wine Tasting featuring Pauillac Bordeaux Duo Vintage Contrast - Classic vs Upstart - Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 and Grand Puy Ducasse 2008

Fun and interesting comparison tasting of two neighboring wines - one young from a somewhat challenged but promising 2008 vintage against a mature aged bottle from the classic 1982 vintage. Drank at gala family birthday celebration dinner for #1 son Ryan. When Ryan told me he recently picked up a Grand Puy Ducasse 2008 I thought we'd do a comparison tasting, only to discover when I pulled mine from the cellar that I was holding a Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 - commemorating his birthyear! Never-the-less, the two Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé  wines of like terrior and style from vineyards separated by but a few kilometers provided a comparison tasting of two similar wines from different contrasting vintages.

Wine from any region varies from year to year due to different vintage characteristics shaped by the weather and the winemaker. The unique characteristics discovered in different vintages is partly what makes wines collecting interesting and fun. Comparing wines from the same producer or similar producers in different years allows you understand the chateau and vintage differences. Comparing wines from a selection of producers from the same region from the same year, reveals stylistic differences of the producers.

The 1982 Bordeaux vintage conditions were close to perfect from start to finish. Vine budded and flowered under warm, sunny and dry conditions. Ideal dry and hot weather growing conditions persisted through July giving way to a moderate cool down in August followed by marvelously ideal hot weather that lasted for 21 days leading to spectacular results. Interestingly, the 1982 Bordeaux harvest officially began on September 13, the exact same date as the famously spectacular 1945 Bordeaux harvest. Both historic Bordeaux vintages produced classic wines filled with layers of dense, rich, ripe, fresh fruit, opulent, sensuous textures and purity the likes of which only occur every few decades, wines that would also mature and age for decades..

The 2008 Bordeaux vintage faced a cool and wet Spring which included some late frost. Cool temperatures and pervasive rains, which brought mold and mildew problems, continued throughout May leading to uneven and delayed flowering. The weather began to improve somewhat June although the vine growth was about two weeks behind schedule. While July was dry and sunny, it was followed by a dull, grey August that continued halfway through September projecting a difficult vintage.

Because the vines flowered late, and July had been warm, the grapes began this period of Autumn sun in much better condition than in 2007, attaining full ripeness and acquiring better concentration of sugars, tannins and acid.

Finally, Indian summer began on 14th of September bringing sunny warm days and cool nights that lasted up to October 20th through much of the harvest. This, coupled with a drying north-east wind, saved the vintage. While the growing season was below average, the 2008 Bordeaux vintage was saved by the long growing season and ideal harvest conditions. The grapes were allowed a much longer hang time than usual allowing the fruit a better chance to ripen. Typically, the average amount of hang time in Bordeaux is about 100 days, the 2008 Bordeaux vintage saw hang times range from 135 days to as long as an amazing 160 days allowing late harvest ripening to save the vintage!

Although yields were in many places painfully low, overall quality was good to excellent. Most wines achieved good balance with ripe, fine grained tannins, refreshing acidity and a real sense of 'terroir'.

Viticulture in Bordeaux changed markedly over the last forty years for much improved results. Modern Bordeaux wine making and vineyard techniques, coupled with the willingness to perform the necessary amount of selection needed to produce the best wine possible, delivered improved outcomes in modest challenging years such as 2007 and 2008. While a wet, cool year like 2007 would have been a disaster 20 years ago, today, while diluted, some nice wines are still produced. Knowledge and technology have made it possible to produce better Bordeaux wine than ever before, especially in challenging years, but no amount of human intervention can alter the unique personality awarded by nature to each Bordeaux vintage.
A big difference between 1982 and one of the modern day great years is the number of truly great wines produced in current top rated vintages. While 20 or 30 stunning wines were produced in 1982 with perhaps five considered true legends, today, with modern vineyard techniques and cellar management, the number of classic or great wines would have probably doubled as we will see in the recent great vintages such as 2010.

Château Grand Puy Lacoste Red Bordeaux Pauillac 1982

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste is a 5ème Cru Classé ('Fifth Growth') wine producer. The Bordeaux Pauillac estate has for many years been consistently outperforming its classification. Grand-Puy-Lacoste is located a couple of kilometres west of the town of Pauillac and is owned and run by François-Xavier Borie.

The name Grand Puy comes from its treasured location. The vineyards are situated on the hill of Pauillac, "puy" being a topographical term designating the elevations rising from mostly flat landscapes that are found in Bordeaux wine vineyards. These small hills are vital for natural drainage. The highest point, or puy, at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste is close to 65 feet.

The second part of the estates name, Lacoste, is the name of the family who owned the property from the start of the eighteenth century until the conclusion of the nineteenth. They were forced to sell due to the devastation Bordeaux suffered when it was struck by phylloxera. Interestingly, the wine became one of the first popular, non First Growth Bordeaux brands to sell in Asia due in part of the name of the chateau, Lacoste, also called the 'alligator wine', due to the name being the same as the famous sportsware designer with the crocodile logo.

Grand-Puy-Lacoste's 90 hectares of vine plantings are 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is in one block surrounding the substantial 19th century château, lies on deep gravel beds of pebbles and stone over limestone. 

Grand-Puy-Lacoste reveals its classic terrior, it combines marvellous cigar box and floral perfume with cedar, tobacco and truffle scents and a juicy mouth full of flavorful blackcurrant fruit and cassis with velvety power - the epitome of top class Pauillac at its very best. This traditionally styled Bordeaux wine is aged in 70% new oak barrels resulting in a classic Pauillac style, full bodied, tannic, concentrated Bordeaux wine that ages well.

Château Grand Puy Ducasse Red Bordeaux Pauillac 2008

Château Grand Puy Ducasse is a frequently overlooked Pauillac 5ème Cru Classé property that after years in the doldrums, now produces great value fine quality claret at very reasonable prices. The change was brought about by its acquisition by the négociant firm, Mestrezat who extensively replanted the vineyards, and built a new cuvier and chai. Grand Puy Ducasse has 45 hectares of well-sited vineyards, one parcel on a gravel plateau near Batailley, and another adjacent to the famous Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild. The wine is a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot - matured in oak casks (30% new) for 18 months before being bottled.

Grand Puy Ducasse is a mid-weight Pauillac that displays good depth of fruit and is usually drinkable 5 years after the vintage - the best examples can last for 10-15 years.

The 2008 release showed vibrant bright dark garnet color, medium to full body; aromas and full forward flavors of bing cherries and slightly tart black raspberry and black currant fruits, a layer of cassis and hint of cedar on a forward lingering tannin finish. Needs time to settle.

RM 89 points.

Robert Parker wrote - "This suave, lush, opulently-styled 2008 exhibits a dark ruby/purple hue, medium body, and attractively forward, sweet notes of creme de cassis, licorice, and earth. Like many of its peers, the purity of fruit and ripeness of the tannins are admirable. Consume it over the next 10-15 years." - 90 points. Robert Parker. - Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse

Rating results for Château Grand Puy Ducasse Red Bordeaux Pauillac 2008: The Wine-Searcher score of 87/100 is calculated from the following wine critic scores:

Critic Score When to drink
CellarTracker 90/100 (11 notes from 11 users)  
Wine Spectator 88/100  
Jancis Robinson 16.5/20  
La Revue du Vin de France 15.5/20  
Vinum Wine Magazine 15/20 2016 to 2022
Decanter 3/5 2014 to 2022
 Rick M                               88

Château Grand Puy Lacoste Red Bordeaux Pauillac 1982

Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar said about this wine; "Still amazingly youthful,this intense classically cedar-scented wine is a joy to drink.It is rich,powerful and marvelously harmonious. Delicious now and will keep for another 20 years." 91 pts.

My views are in line with another fellow reviewer who wrote - "Starting to show its age with a medium ruby color with some garnet hues. The wonderful nose is very complex and evolved: cigar box, pencil shavings and a lot of minerally steel along with red fruits. The palate is somewhat of a let down. Slightly hollow mid palate, lacking more fruit than I would like and with a higher acidity than I find pleasant. The tannin is resolved, but the finish is slightly clipped. this is not nearly as good as last I tried it. I suspect there may have been some heat damage and/or oxidation as the cork was completely saturated in wine. 92 for the nose and 87 for the palate. (89 pts.)"
My notes - The Lacoste cork was soft and moist but still intact. The wine was starting to show its age with the color starting to show a brackish brownish rust hew.. Medium to full bodied;
Predominant aromas of floral and violets and tobacco overshadowed the fruit; flavors of floral, black berry, tobacco, cassis and a layer of leather and creosote on the moderate tannin lingering finish. Amazing life left for a 29 year old but certainly has reached maturity and will not improve further - ready to drink. RM 90 pts.

Full, deep red. Reticent aromas of plum, currant, mint and cedar. Dry, penetrating and stylish, with very primary flavors and noteworthy vinosity. Classic claret intensity and grip without any excess weight. The flavors build impressively on the firmly tannic, youthfully tough finish. This bottle was still a few years away from full maturity and should last for another 20 years.

Other Expert Ratings

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: 96 points
Wine Spectator: 82 points

Before dinner, Ryan served Robert Stemmler Napa Valley Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2008. This was great with olives, artisan cheeses, shrimp, and oil with herbs and sourdough bread.

I'll go with the winemakers's notes - "This Pinot Noir offers many layers of beautiful ripe strawberry, raspberry and intense black cherry and plum aromas mingled with hints of cola, forest floor and earth. The wine is fleshy, sleek and spicy, with copious wild berry, black cherry and strawberry flavors, good grip and a sustained, well-balanced finish." 
RM 90 points.

The Bordeaux wines were enjoyed over dinner - a great accompaniment to the beef tenderloin, fingerling potatoes and green beans with chanterelle and shitake mushrooms. 

For desert we feasted on Linda's fabulous flowerless chocolate cake with red raspberries (picture left). 

 To accompany the desert, we served Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha Vintage Oporto 1995 a perfect match!

RM 92 points.

MORE to come...