Saturday, August 10, 2019

Chateau Beychevelle St Julien 1988

Château Beychevelle St Julien 1988

Following our recent trip to Bordeaux, I was eager to dig into our extensive cellar collection and enjoy some vintage bottles from the producers that we visited. Such was the case with Château Beychevelle and the remains of this case from the 1988 vintage that I purchased on release. 

One of the learnings from our visit to Château Beychevelle, our tour of the estate, cellars, and library, was that the 1988 vintage was the last vintage release from previous owners, still practicing or making wine under the ‘old school’ techniques and practices. This added to the intrigue and suspense of tasting this bottle, now ‘vintage’ in more ways than just years. 

My recollection was that this was a bit uninspiring and perhaps lackluster on some of the earlier occasions, and perhaps it had surpassed its glory or optimal drinking days. I recall some what I suspected were its finer moments when I served it at wine dinners more than twenty-five years ago.

When I dug into the cellar exploring some of these older St Julien holdings, I found I had several bottles left, not just one, hence I was eager to try it. Much to my surprise, and delight, this was drinking very nicely, exceeding my expectations, and meeting or even surpassing my best recollections of early tastings. 

See my related experiencial tasting blogpost on drinking older vintage release wines.

Tonight's tasting was better than my two previous tastings which were in 2010 and 2016 when I wrote,"Medium bodied, slighly brickish color, nicely balanced soft earthy leather and tobacco tones predominating over the black cherry fruit on moderate, smooth tannin finish. Time to drink." Tonight this was showing a bit of barnyard funkiness on opening that burned off over the course of an hour, but still showing tangy tongue coating notes on the cherry fruit."

Clearly there was some bottle variation between the two earlier bottles and tonight, even though they were all from the same case with the exact same provenance.

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, black berry fruits with earthy leather and tobacco notes with a pleasant black cherry accented cedar finish with smooth tannins.

RM 89 points.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou 1989

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1989

Following our recent visit to Bordeaux and Château Ducru Beaucaillou, we opened a special birth year bottle of the top ranked Second Growth St Julien from our cellar. Fellow Pour Boy and wine buddy Bill, and Beth, were visiting from Charleston so we selected a bottle from their son Matt's birth year vintage of which we hold a case that we acquired back upon release.

Our visit to the historic Château was one of the highlights of our trip to the St Julien Appellation. We hold more than a dozen vintages of this label and consider it one of the stalwarts of our cellar, designated as one of the 'signature' wines that we collect for a vertical collection of our kids' birth year vintages. As such we're still holding bottles from the 1981, 1982, 1985 and 1990 vintages, and several in between and many since. We also hold some large format bottles in magnums and 3.0 liter double magnums of the label that should provide for longer term aging.

Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1989

Like our recent tasting of the 1985 release of this wine, a testament to the longevity of this wine. It is still available at K&L Wineshop in the (SF) Bay Area (for $179), and as Clyde Beffa on staff there notes, "Quite big for the vintage, but has softened up quite a bit in recent years. Good value."

Like the 1985 that we tasted recently, this is also drinking very nicely and doesn't come across as a 30+ year old in the least.

The capsule, label, and cork were all in perfect condition, like new. The fill was into the neck. No signs whatsoever of diminution from age. 

Tonight was consistent with my notes from a decade and a year ago. Garnet color - medium-light delicate body; floral perfume, black cherry and berry fruits with layers of anise, tobacco and black tea and a hint of leather, with floral continuing on a modest tannin finish. Still has some years left but assuredly not likely to improve with further aging.

RM 91 points.

Wine Spectator gave this release a rating of 92 points.