Friday, January 27, 2023

Château Léoville-Barton 1986

Château Léoville-Barton Grand Cru Classé Saint-Julien Bordeaux 1986

Following the gala tasting at the UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour in Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2020 vintage release wines, I was inspired to reach into the cellar for a vintage Bordeaux Grand Cru Classe. 

Linda prepared an exquisite mushroom sauce for a New York grilled beefsteak, served with mashed potatoes and a Maryland Crab Cake following a wedge salad. 

The Union is the association of 130 members of the top premier estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations. 

I just met the always friendly and delightful Lilian Barton-Sartorius from Château Léoville-Barton at the tasting this week and enjoying sharing with her that I'd just picked up a shipment of a recent vintage release for our cellar. 

Lilian Barton-Sartorius - Château
Leoville and Langoa Barton
We toured the grounds and vineyards at the estate during our visit to Saint Julien back in 2019. 

Tonight, this proved to be an extraordinary, perfect wine and food pairing that complemented and amplified both. I write often in these pages about such a pairing, when properly done will indeed attenuate the enjoyment of both the food and the accompanying wine. 

Château Léoville-Barton Saint Julien Bordeaux 1986

I recently purchased several bottles of a recent release of this label and was replenishing my stock and came across several bottles from the OWC (original wood case) from the acquisition upon release of this vintage label. 

The 1986 release was much heralded and highly acclaimed but also noted to a vintage to lay down for long term aging. That said, I'm not sure holding 36 years was ideal and was a bit concerned about the state of this wine, despite its known provenance, having been in our cellar since release. 

Two of the bottles appeared to be in perfect condition with proper fill level, foil and labels as one would best hope for, given their age. This one bottle had a soiled label and a lesser fill level due to some seepage over the years that was a cause for alarm. The cork extracted intact using an ahso two pronged cork puller, although it was a bit saturated and showed signed of seepage. 

What a relief to get aromas of fruit and appropriate positive accents, and good color as I decanted the wine. Even with the slightly deteriorated cork and evidence of prior seepage this bottle was still very much approachable and within its acceptable if not most desired drinking window! 

Alas, this is the joy of having a deep wine cellar with many vintages across which to compare, over time, even across the decades!  

My Cellartracker records indicate we have more than a dozen vintages of this label dating back to this vintage and the iconic 1982 and 1981 vintage, which we're still holding as birth-year wines for son Ryan and daughter Erin.

After three hours of settling prior to pouring, the wine showed exceptionally. 

Dark garnet colored, medium to full bodied, complex yet nicely balanced and full round flavors of black berry and black currant fruits accented by very nice notes of all spice, tobacco and savory sprites of mushroom with hints of pain grille and touch of anise and cedar with smooth polished tannins on a delightful lingering finish - a perfect, almost magical match to the savory sauce accenting our grilled beefsteak. 

RM 94 points.

After tasting, and writing this up the morning after, I checked the reviews of critics and pundits and was delighted to see this post by Decanter as recently as May of 2019, "Anthony Barton had been running Léoville Barton for three years at this point, but in 1986 - the year that his uncle Ronald died (after a tenure that had begun back in 1924) - it passed fully into his ownership. Huge tannins are still evident in this wine. It was pretty backward and unforgiving for many years but it showed incredibly well during this tasting and is definitely ready to be enjoyed. It displays tons of liquorice and blackcurrant, exotic spice notes and a swagger through the finish. (JA)  (5/2019)". 

They gave it 97 points! 

And, Robert Parker last wrote of this release in March of 2012 about a tasting he did in November 2011, "Tasted with Anthony Barton at the Saint Julien restaurant, this behemoth of a wine is definitely starting to pump on cylinders. As before, it needs considerable decanting, but it unfurls beautifully in the glass to reveal blackberry, dark plums, a touch of sandalwood and warm gravel. Coming direct from the property, there is a touch more fruit compared to other bottles. The palate is medium-bodied with great depth and breadth: less masculine than before, mellowing nicely with layers of lifted blackberry, plum, wild strawberry and cedar that leads to an extraordinarily long finish. There is a sense of harmony and composure to this wine that makes it utterly beguiling. Top class. Tasted November 2011. (NM)  (3/2012)"

He awarded it 94 points in  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

Finally, Jancis Robinson cited similar notes in her tasting review back in 2008, " Still young-looking and – young-smelling. Very full and rich nose. Opulent. Slightly dusty. Even more robust than most other vintages. 17.5/20 points (JR) (1/2008)."

I will look forward to taking this label to our annual OTBN, Open That Bottle Night wine tasting to share with my fellow 'Pour Boys' wine group when we next meet in Charleston, the last Saturday next month. This is unless I find a more appropriate bottle to share, since I've already done this one! Can't wait to see what we present that night to the group. Stay tuned.