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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
LIBRARY TASTING 11 MARCH 2020,  at REGIONAL WINES,  WELLINGTON

  AN ‘ANNIVERSARY’ TASTING … WINES OLD AND NEW …


Geoff Kelly,  MSc Hons


Michael Broadbent MW,  2 May 1927 – 17 March,  2020:  not met,  but the ultimate mentor.


Conclusions from the tasting:
With 12 wines,  the oldest 1953,  half the wines 50 years old,  and just over half the wines meriting gold-medal scores,  this was a pleasing tasting to present,  in a young wine country where keeping wine cellars is becoming less frequent.  The scope of the tasting,  including matching venerable wines with a younger edition of the same domaine for three of them,  appealed to tasters,  the tasting being ‘sold out’ within 70 minutes of posting notice.  A measure of the enjoyment these wines engendered can be gleaned from the fact that of the 12 wines,  no less than 10 were at least one person’s favourite.  And on the night,  tasters went out of their way to express their delight in the way the wines presented themselves,  an unprecedented number commenting further by email afterwards.  Delightful.  

The top 6 wines,  all gold-medal level for several tasters.  From the left,  1990 Bollinger Grande Année Brut,  illustrating the concept ‘baguette’ autolysis complexity beautifully,  tasting like grand cru white burgundy,  19 +;  1970 Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou,  remarkably fresh from magnum,  classic fragrant claret before so many winestyles became Americanised,  19 +;  2010 Jaboulet la Chapelle,  a modern classic,  floral and fragrant,  dense,  great wine,  19 +;  2010 Ch Palmer,  amazingly concentrated,  oak noticeable and alcohol high for ‘classic’ claret,  but clearly a 50-year wine,  19;  1978 Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres,  at full stretch but still totally beautiful,  and still confirming the majesty of the 1978 vintage in the Southern Rhone Valley,  18.5 +;   and 1966 Ch Palmer,  also ‘classic’ claret,  the bedrock wine in my red wine education,  still beautiful from a cool cellar,  18.5 +.


One magical component of the tasting was:  not a hint of TCA.  Fifty years ago were still the days of pride in artisan work.  Another interesting aspect to the tasting was the extent to which several of the wines improved markedly with decanting and air:  in fact a number had more to say the following day,  than on the night.  This rather flies in the face of conventional wisdom,  that at 50 years most red wines are fragile,  and must be tasted fairly soon after decanting.  I vividly recall a tasting of the early McWiliams Cabernet Sauvignons with the late Tom McDonald,  where he was adamant that his Cabernets when older needed air,  referring to them quite gruffly as having been “locked up” in that bottle for all the intervening years.  Further comment in the individual reviews.

Invitation to the tasting:
Having been tasting wines formally for over 50 years now,  it is time to cast a look over my shoulder … and both revisit one or two wines that have helped set my palate,  and re-taste certain wines that have given me pleasure,  or seem particularly good examples of their genre.  I hope you might like to join me in this retrospective Library Tasting.

Often the question arises in Library Tastings,  but what did this taste like in its youth ?  One tangent on answering that question is to open a young bottle of the same wine,  from a vintage rated as well as the earlier one.  And the better the label,  the more likely is the wine to have been consistent over the years.  I thought therefore I would like to show people a wine that profoundly influenced me in my early days,  1966 Ch Palmer,  now regarded by many as the top bordeaux of that so-classical year,  and compare it with the highly praised 2010.  Ch Palmer is one of the bordeaux now nudging the First Growths … and its current price reflects that. 

Then (corks willing) there will be two older wines delighting for their beauty rather than their size … and maybe frail now … 1970 Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou,  and a respectable but not famous Chambertin bottling of the same year.  To accompany them,  it would be fun to include 1969 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon,  to reflect on where we have come from,  in New Zealand.  This famous wine from Tom McDonald and Denis Kasza was the first commercial red wine in the post-Prohibition era to unequivocally demonstrate that New Zealand could make international-calibre red wines.  I regret the case of the 1965 (the exact wine to achieve that milestone) is exhausted … sadly … but at the time the 1969 was generally thought to be the next in-line.

We also ‘have’ to have my latter-day favourite district,  some Rhone Valley wines.  First my introduction to great syrah,  the last bottle from a case of 1969 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle,  teamed again with the 2010,  to get a feel for the evolution of syrah wines,  over the years.  The 2010 is a very highly regarded wine,  now that the old Rhone wine firm of Jaboulet is owned by the Frey family,  of Ch La Lagune in Bordeaux.  Their highly-regarded young winemaker Caroline Frey is also in overall charge of winemaking at Jaboulet.  

And in the Southern Rhone Valley,  we will have the equally last lonely bottle of 1978 Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres,  which completed my introduction to the delights of that district.  With it,  we must have the 2016.  I say ‘must’ because John Livingstone-Learmonth says the 2016 vintage in the Southern Rhone Valley is the successor to 1978 … which (corks willing,  again) allows us to contemplate arguably the two greatest post-war years in that district. 

And no retrospective tasting of mine would be complete without one of the most beautiful red wines I have ever cellared (and like the 1966 Ch Palmer a constant reference-point in my subsequent wine evaluations,  including judging),  1953 Bodegas Bilbainas Pomal Reserva Especial from Rioja.  

I have back-up bottles for some but not all (those last single bottles),  so here’s hoping,  re the corks.  TCA was less a problem then,  than in some following decades.  Two bubblies might be nice to start with.  Twelve wines altogether,  plus a few in reserve,  as listed below.

Layout for the Tasting:
As you will have seen from the Invitation,  the underlying thought for this ‘Anniversary’ Tasting is first to look back on wines that have influenced me in a career of wine evaluation,  and then also to look at a more contemporary younger (and good) vintage of three of them,  and see if we can find the links between young and old.  And can we find elements of the young in the old ?  Can we see past the warmer climates of today,  the riper  fruit and higher alcohols some latterday commentators have so heavily endorsed ?  Admittedly this evaluation will depend on how the bottles open on the night.

But it would also be good if we could maintain the essential format of these Library Tastings as presented nowadays,   and notwithstanding the wide age range,  have at least part of the tasting an opportunity to see if we can smell and taste our way to identifying which wines are which.  On the face of it,  it might seem a straightforward matter to tell burgundy from bordeaux or the Northern Rhone wine … but as the years go by … good wines tend to converge … and become more about the sheer beauty and enjoyment of old wine,  and less about their varietal or elevation characters.  

Accordingly,  the tasting is structured in this way:
#  Two champagnes,  the lighter Deutz first,  the weightier Bollinger second.
#  five old and maybe fragile wines presented blind / not in this order:  1970 Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou,  1970 Alexis Lichine Chambertin,  1969 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon,  1969 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle,  1966 Ch Palmer.  I urge you to to: 
(a)  try and complete all the identification steps on bouquet,  tasting just the minimum to confirm your thoughts … and thus conserving a good fraction to check again and then enjoy when we reach the identification stage.
(b)  make allowance for anno domini,  and the intrinsic delicacy / maybe frailty of the wines at this late stage of their careers.  The youngest of these wines is 50 years old and the oldest 54 … do they still display autumnal ripeness,  harmony and balance ?
#  then the three young and vigorous wines related to some of the older wines,  presented blind / not in this order: 2010 Ch Palmer,  2010 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle,  2016 Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres. These are wines still in adolescence,  but hopefully sufficiently together to show their provenance and intrinsic quality.  They have been marked in the range 90 – 97+ in the American media,  and up to 18.5 in the sometimes-conservative British wine press.  Again,  please see if you can sort them out solely on bouquet.
#  then finally,  the two which I hope will give us a glimpse of the sheer beauty,  softness and hedonistic / endearing appeal to be found in old wine (and why I love them),  again blind:  1978 Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres,  and 1953 Bodegas Bilbainas Pomal Reserva Especial. 

The wines I am hoping for,  documented  (i.e. subject to the corks,  and not necessarily in this order): 
1996  Champagne Deutz Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut,  Ay (+ spare)
1990  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut,  Ay
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1970  Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou en magnum,  Saint Julien  (+ spare as 750 ml)
1970  A. Lichine Chambertin en magnum,  grower Louis Trapet & Fils,  Gevrey-Chambertin
1969  McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon,  Taradale  (+ spare)  
1969  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle,  Northern Rhone Valley
1966  Ch Palmer,  Margaux  (+ spare)
-----------------------------------------
2016  Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres,  Southern Rhone Valley  (+ spare)
2010  Ch Palmer,  Margaux  (+ spare)
2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle,  Northern Rhone Valley  (+ spare)
------------------------------------------
1978  Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres,  Southern Rhone Valley
1953  Bodegas Bilbainas Pomal Reserva Especial,  Rioja  (+ spare) 

In Reserve,  not documented:
1996  Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill Brut,  Epernay
1972  A. Guyon Corton,  grower Hippolyte Thevenot,  Aloxe-Corton
1979  Jaboulet La Chapelle,  Northern Rhone Valley
1976  Jaboulet Vacqueyras,  Southern Rhone Valley   [ this will be frail ]
1991  Ch Tahbilk Shiraz 1860 Vines,  Nagambie Lakes,  Victoria  [ if all else fails,  to make 12 ]

References:
Broadbent,  Michael  1980:  The Great Vintage Wine Book.  Mitchell Beazley,  432 p.
Broadbent,  Michael  2002:  Michael Broadbent’s Vintage Wine.  Harcourt / Webster’s International,  560 p.
Broadbent,  Michael  2003:  Michael Broadbent’s Wine Vintages.  Mitchell Beazley,  223 p.
Cooper,  Michael 1984:  The Wines and Vineyards of New Zealand.  Hodder & Stoughton,  203 p.  [ Revised and reprinted 1986 (218 p.),  1988 (264 p.),  at least.]
Parker,  Robert M  1991:  Bordeaux.   Simon & Schuster,  New York,  1026 p.
Parker,  Robert M  2003:  Bordeaux,  Fourth Edition.  Simon & Schuster,  New York,  1244 p.
Peppercorn,  David  1998:  Wines of Bordeaux.  Mitchell Beazley,  248 p.
Read,  Jan 1973:  The Wines of Spain and Portugal.  Faber & Faber,  280 p.
Read,  Jan 1982:  The Wines of Spain.  Faber & Faber,  267 p.
Spurrier,  Steven 1986:  Guide to French Wines.  Willow Collins,  256 p.
ww.drinkrhone.com =  John Livingstone-Learmonth,  subscription needed beyond first sample
www.jancisrobinson.com  =  Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW,  subscription needed for reviews
www.robertparker.com  = Robert Parker and successors,  vintage chart,  subscription needed for reviews
www.winesearcher.com  =  the starting point for valuing wines – but NB:  only a guide for New Zealand
www.winespectator.com = vintage chart,  subscription needed for reviews.



 

THE WINES REVIEWED:
The first ‘price’ given is the current wine-searcher value,  if available,  per 750ml bottle irrespective of the bottle-size in this tasting.  An approximation of the original purchase price is given in the text,  if evidence / best recollection is available.  In the reviews,  I try to contrast a British view with a United States one.  Where possible,  the cepage data provided are contemporary for the vintage,  not current.

1990  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut
  1996  Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs Brut
1953  Bodegas Bilbainas Pomal Reserva Especial
1970  Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou en magnum
2016  Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres
1978  Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres
1969  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
  2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle
1970  Alexis Lichine Chambertin en magnum,  grower Louis Trapet & Fils
1969  McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon
2010  Ch Palmer
1966  Ch Palmer

The 12 wines in the tasting:  two champagnes;  seven reds in the timespan 1953 to 1970;  and three young reds 2010 to 2016,  matching three of the old wines.  The 1996 Deutz Blanc de Blancs at position 1,  front left,  clearly fresher than 1990 Bollinger,  but both wines eloquent.  The 1970 Chambertin at position 3 clearly the lightest red wine,  but still lively.  The 1969 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon at position 5 not much deeper,  lacking concentration.  Compare it with the 1966 Ch Palmer in glass 6,  still a gold-medal wine.  Note the remarkable freshness of the 1970 Ducru-Beaucaillou ex magnum,  glass 7.  The three young wines are glasses 8 – 10,  the 2010 Palmer in glass 8 inky-deep.  Glass 11 is the very beautiful 1978 Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  and glass 12 the 1953 Pomal … both still pleasing mature colours.


1990  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut   19 +  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $434   [ Single bottle;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage: 97 – the best in the last 40 years:  Drink or hold, big, powerful and full-flavored;  PN 65%,  Ch 35,  BF and MLF,  base wine matured in all-old oak,  seven years en tirage,  dosage c.8 g/L;  Broadbent,  2002:  … highest mark of 25 top champagnes … in Copenhagen,  a well-nigh perfect wine with another 10 years to go, *****;  JR@J. Robinson,  2010:  Pale copper. Rich and mushroomy on the nose. Broad and firm. Quite a bit of evolution but it's much less evolved than Dom P or Krug 1990. This could be the perfect moment to drink this. Wonderful persistence, 19;  Wine Spectator,  1999:  A sense of opulence marks this highly concentrated, creamy-textured 1990 Champagne, with its ripe, generous fruit flavors complementing the toasty, honeyed nuances acquired from aging on the lees. Lingering finish. Drink now through 2004. 20,000 cases made, 95;  in Wine Spectator Top 100,  1999,  wine number 11:  Bollinger is at the top of its game … ;  www.champagne-bollinger.com ]
Straw with a gold undertone, appreciably deeper than the Deutz:  this bottle less CO2 pressure and bubble than expected.  A bigger,  softer,  deeper and more mealy bouquet than the Deutz,  clear baguette-crust autolysis plus cashew and even a hint of hazelnuts,  with a subtle but clear note of oak complexity from the barrel fermentation.  In mouth the wine is totally different in style to the Deutz,  being ample,  rich,  long,  the autolysis and baguette-crust grading to stonefruit,  cashew and hazelnut,  much more body,  still good acid but more in balance than the Deutz.  It is totally grand cru white burgundy in weight,  with subtle oak lengthening the flavour appreciably.  A great champagne in its style,  at the peak of maturity or maybe a little old for the more fastidious,  the oak perhaps to a maximum.  Will hold in this style for some years on the pleasing acid balance,  for those who treasure older champagne styles.  One vote for top wine of the night (in the 12),  one second place.  GK 03/20

1996  Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs Brut   18  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $290   [ Spare;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage: 96 – second only to 1990:  Drink or hold. Ripe and intense; firmly structured and potentially long-lived.  Little winemaking detail available,  all MLF,  no oak,  9 – 10 g/L dosage;  Wine Spectator,  2003:  Shows yeast, honey and nut flavors, then the acidity sweeps in, leaving a firm, tactile sensation on the palate. Great density and superfine texture and class. A taut impression today; just needs time. Best from 2006 through 2020, 92;  www.champagne-deutz.com ]
Lightest gold with a wash of lemon,  fine bubble.  Bouquet shows beautiful citrussy white stonefruit and clean brioche autolysis complexity,  with a hint of cashew.  After the volume of bouquet,  the initial impression on palate is of some austerity,  with high acid.  With further sips the flavour expands,  wonderfully pure autolysis,  considerable length of citrussy chardonnay and brioche … but still acid.  Dosage hard to judge,  against the acid,  but perhaps nearer 8.  Will hold this form for some years,  but as the fruit recedes the acid will become more apparent.  No votes as to place.  On the night I thought the wine a little disappointing relative to its promise at purchase,  not quite the body to cellar well – but it still looked pretty good against nv Lanson Black Label the next day.  Rob Bishop thought the Deutz typified the firm 1996 vintage,  particularly liking the 'white flowers' on bouquet.  No votes in either direction.  GK 03/20

1970  Ch Ducru-Beaucaillou en magnum   19 +  ()
Saint-Julien Second Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $550   [ Spare,  but as 750 ml;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage: 91:  Excellent all-around vintage; structured, lots of fruit;  CS 65%,  Me 25,  PV 5,  CF 5;  49 ha,  17,000 cases.  One of the finest clarets I have ever tasted,  not big,  but very beautiful.  Broadbent 1980:  classic but undeveloped bouquet; concentrated, deep, stern and unyielding, but great potential, till 2010, ****;  Broadbent 2002:  [ on 1970 Bordeaux ] … leaving aside Latour, I rate Ducru and Cheval Blanc as the best wines. The most recent bottles at best superb, sweet-nosed, harmonious, perfect flavour and balance … drying, *****;  Parker 1991:  the best Ducru between 1961 and 1982. Impeccably balanced, smooth as silk, till 2000, 91,  and 1996:  It has always been an outstanding wine for the vintage - complex, rich, savory, and the quintessentially elegant Bordeaux. This beauty continues to reveal the fragrance and finesse that one expects from Lafite-Rothschild but so rarely finds. A fragrant, complex bouquet of cedar, herbs, vanillin, fruitcake, and coffee is followed by a soft, gentle, graciously-constructed wine with sweet layers of fruit. I am not sure how much longer the 1970 Ducru will keep, but from regular bottle, it is delicious and should be consumed. How nice it would be to have a stock of magnums of this wine in the cellar! 92;  www.chateau-ducru-beaucaillou.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  astonishingly youthful for its age,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet is equally astonishing,  nearly primary aromatic cassisy berry,  subtlest brown tobacco and cedary oak,  unlike the modern ‘spirity’ wines so favoured by American reviewers,  no alcohol apparent on bouquet,  lovely.  Palate is the same,  all the elegance and pin-point flavour saturation of a wine not dominated by alcohol,  the quality of browning cassis remarkable for its age,  the oak in equally perfect balance.  It is simply remarkable how youthful this wine is ex magnum,  relative to the 750 my last review reflects.  Classic west bank claret at the pinnacle of maturity,  delicate yet amazingly long and sustained,  very beautiful.  Parker sums this wine up perfectly.  Three votes as top wine,  five for second-favourite,  one of the three top wines.  Rob Bishop,  avowedly a pinot noir man,  thought it well-nigh perfect – particularly pleasing.  Nine tasters correctly identified this wine as old bordeaux,  with six favouring the Northern Rhone Valley.  In magnums,  has some years ahead of it:  in 750s in a temperate climate,  probably au point or agreeably fading a little now.  GK 03/20

2010  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle   19 +  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  14%;  $311   [ Spare;  original price $345;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage: 98:  Reds are racy ... even better defined than '09;  Sy 100%;  J. Livingstone-Learmonth advises Le Méal the main vineyard,  then Les Bessards,  some Rocoules,  average vine age 40 years,  the grapes destemmed,  cooled,  usually 22 days cuvaison,  some oxygenation,  for the 2009 and 2010 c. 20% new oak,  the balance 1 – 3 year oak barrique-sized,  c.12 – 15 months elevation depending on season,  then 3 months (presumably assembly) in vat,  at one stage some fining and filtering,  not clear currently;  production up to 1990 or a little later assumed to be less than 4,000 cases,  some years half that,  progressively through balance of century and till Freys took over increasing to a max known of 8,900 cases,  since purchase 2006 decreasing to historical levels again,  the 2009 (a reduced crop year) just under 2,000 cases;  JR@JR,  2012:  Very masculine, dense and convincing. Luscious and much softer than I was expecting; the fruit seems to overwhelm the tannins! But there is lots of acidity and freshness here too. Real density,  18+;  Parker,  2012:  It should be fascinating to compare the potentially legendary 2010 Hermitage La Chapelle with the prodigious 2009 La Chapelle over the next 30-40 years. … showing more weight and richness than it did last year from barrel, along with great precision, stunning minerality and enormous quantities of blackberry, cassis, beef blood and smoked game intertwined with hints of graphite and acacia flowers. With good acidity and richness as well as abundant, but ripe, well-integrated tannin, this great wine equals the titan produced in 2009. Forget it for 7-10 years and drink it over the following 30-50 years, 96+;  website not always accessible;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Rich ruby and velvet,  a little lighter and older than the 2010 Palmer,  but still clearly the second deepest red wine.  A wonderfully floral,  fragrant and aromatic berry bouquet,  more floral and less spirity than the 2010 Ch Palmer,  cassis predominant,  dark fruits,  astute tasters detecting some sweet black pepper,  subtle new oak.  Sensational purity.  Palate is immensely focussed,  intense aromatic cassis-led and dark plum berry shaped by cedary oak,  a lovely soft spicy lift from black pepper,  and the oak not dominating unduly.  Livingstone-Learmonth's concern that the wine is too Bordeaux-influenced in its styling will be solved with time in cellar.  The alcohol is at a maximum for delicacy,  but well contained.  This is going to make a very beautiful bottle,  in maturity.  Two votes for favourite wine,  two as second-favourite,  but in a curious result not explored on the night,  three as least wine.  In a conclusion which would please the spirits of chateaux proprietors past,  nine tasters thought this wine from Bordeaux,  and five Northern Rhone.  This is a glorious wine,  which will cellar 20 – 40 + years.  GK 03/20

2010  Ch Palmer   19  ()
Margaux Third Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.5%;  $600   [ Spare;  original price $490;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage: 99,  best since 1961 – Ripe … structure … definition of fruit … long-lived:  Me 54%,  CS 40,  PV 6,  average age 35 – 40 years,  planted @ 10,000 vines / ha,  typically cropped @ c.6  t/ha = 2.4  t/ac (but surely less in 2010);  time spent in barrel in better years c.20 months,  45% new,  light toast;  now rated as one of the undoubted 'super-seconds';  8,500 cases in 2010;  JH@JR, 2011:  So inviting on the nose: rich dark fruit but so fragrant, it is almost a little floral and just a hint of oak's vanilla sweetness. Finely aromatic and alluring. Then much more serious on the palate. Dense and rich and savoury. Tannins are dense but polished to perfection and the finish is fresh and dry. Great stuff. Not in the least showy but very impressive, 18.5;  NM@RP,  2015:  the estate team regard the 2010 Château Palmer as their best since the 1983 ... It offers stunning precision on the nose: incredibly fresh and vibrant with the same spine-tingling level of mineralité as the 2005 ... there is a beguiling symmetry here, more focused and linear than the sumptuous 2009, yet with sensational length that makes you wonder what on Earth it will taste like in another 10-15 years, 96+;  www.chateau-palmer.com  ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a remarkably deep colour,  by far the deepest in the set.  The bouquet is spirity for Bordeaux,  sadly in the modern idiom,  but one can still detect floral hints of violets and dark roses,  on darkest plum and cassisy berry,  with new oak more noticeable than for the La Chapelle.  In mouth the wine is still almost painfully youthful and not together,  almost 'too powerful' for Ch Palmer,  but (alcohol aside) you can also see considerable potential for elegance and harmony,  in this velvety richness of berry and oak.  It is just let down a little by the alcohol.  I would love a dry extract for this remarkably rich wine:  this is still the key dimension in red wine viticulture and elevation that New Zealand winemakers refuse to pay attention to – well,  too many of them.  2010 Ch Palmer was the most obvious ‘favourite’ wine of the night,  five first-places,  and one second-place,  but interestingly,  seven tasters thought it Northern Rhone in origin,  versus six Bordeaux.  The 1966 Palmer just managed to be a 50-year-old wine:  this 2010 will undoubtedly achieve that goal in cellar … and easily.  Cellar 25 – 50 + years.  Sadly however (in that context),  in catering to the modern generation,  the corks now are 50 mm,  vs 54 for the 1966.  And how much more subtle and fine the wine would be with a degree less alcohol.  GK 03/20

1978  Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres   18 ½ +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $306   [ Single bottle;  original price c.$24;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  Notable older vintage;  Broadbent:  the best vintage since 1911;  Gr 85%,  Sy 15;  12 – 18 months in big old wood;  Parker considers 1969 the last fine Les Cedres,  but Jaboulet were still so serious about this wine from the fabulous 1978 vintage that they bottled it with 54mm corks;  JR@JR, 2013:  Sweet, spicy and fully mature but a bit muddy by now, 17;  R. Parker, 1997 does not seem to have had bottles with the quality the New Zealand supply of 1978 Les Cedres showed in earlier years:  medium body, some sweet fruit, and a lean, attenuated style, 83;  I have not tasted it for some years,  but I hope its more burgundian side can still be seen,  in this tasting;  website not always accessible;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Glowing ruby and garnet,  tip-toeing towards full rosé in weight,  clearly below midway in depth of colour,  but beautiful.  Bouquet is soft,  sweet,  nearly floral,  totally burgundian,  wonderful fruit and subtlest oak,  equally beautiful.  Its immediate stylistic partner in the tasting was Le Chambertin,  Les Cedres being of similar weight but not quite as old,  fading savoury red cherry and raspberry fruit in better ratio now to the very light pure oak,  the wine supple in style,  and amazingly long and pure for its present richness.  And unlike the Southern Rhones of today,  the alcohol is invisible.  Contrary to the views of New Zealand winemakers still bottling under cork in burgundy-shaped bottles,  the result of using 54 mm corks was that after 42 years,  the ullage in this bottle was 7 mm,  the least of all the bottles,  truly amazing.  Like the Chambertin,  this wine is fully mature to being on the brink of fading,  but in a bottle in as good condition as this one, more sweetly-fruited and sustained than the Chambertin (even ex magnum).  The wine was even better the next day.  1978 was certainly an elegant year in Burgundy and the Southern Rhone Valley.  Eleven tasters correctly located this wine in the Southern Rhone Valley,  seven thinking it Rioja.  Absolute treasure,  but sadly the last bottle in the case.  One first place vote,  but three second-places.  GK 03/20

1966  Ch Palmer   18 ½ +  ()
Margaux Third Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:   – %;  $1,312   [ Spare;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage: 89 … too ‘classical’ and firm for the American palate,  so Broadbent:  an excellent long-haul vintage;  original price $6.35;  CS 55%,  Me 40,  CF 5;  cuvaison up to 28 days,  up to 24 months in barrel,  up to 12,500 cases;  I will never forget my first tasting of 1966 Ch Palmer,  in assessing the 1966 clarets for cellaring.  We were in a caravan in Canterbury (for those were the days when Christchurch was the hub of fine wine importing in New Zealand).  It smelt of violets and cassis,  and tasted like velvet.  It was beautiful from day one,  as so many great wines are.  Few young clarets have seemed better to me,  over the years.  Accordingly,  1966 was the first vintage of fine Bordeaux I invested in quite significantly,  and those 1966 cabernet / merlots have formed the measuring stick for my entire subsequent wine life,  including judging.  It was a good year,  a very ‘classic’ year.  That means the wines had all the bouquet and aromatics and vinosity of the berries themselves,  shaped by oak,  but not dominated by it,  as so many over-ripe Austro-American-styled wines are these days.  To modern tasters,  the 1966s at release would have seemed somewhat austere,  but then,  remember,  that was in the days when the dictum for Bordeaux was:  It is a sin against the spirit of the bottle to open fine Bordeaux before its tenth anniversary.  Not a thought the instant-gratification generation readily identifies with.
My liking for 1966 Ch Palmer is not all the romanticism of fuzzy memory.  The wine is now rated (in Parker's 2003 edition of his definitive text Bordeaux) as:  
a great Palmer,  one of the three or four best wines of the vintage.  Elsewhere he says:  When Palmer has a great vintage,  no other left bank growth is as aromatically seductive to the nose and palate ... Palmer consistently made the best wine of the Margaux appellation between 1961 and 1977,  but with the resurgence of Ch Margaux in 1978 …  it is now often runner-up.  The style of Palmer’s wine is characterised by a sensational fragrance … the richness of great Pomerol but the complexity of a Margaux;  Peppercorn:  The reputation of Palmer has soared in the last 30 years … one of the first ‘super-seconds’.  The wine is characterised by an opulence and richness that are almost burgundian in the best years,  combined with real finesse and breed.  Coates,  1999:  Magical fruit here. Very ripe and lush. Soft yet full. Impeccably balanced. Fullish, intense, silky-smooth. Almost sweet. Marvellous concentrated, quality fruit. Totally brilliant, 19;  By 2002 Broadbent had tasted the wine 22 times (lucky man),  and had upgraded it to: *****,  not quite the ’61,  but superbly balanced.  Latterly:  a fabulous – no other word – bouquet,  sweet,  lovely flavour,  balance,  and finish, *****;  www.chateau-palmer.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  above midway in depth,  three times the depth of the 1969 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon.  The bouquet on this wine expanded remarkably with air,  still nearly floral in an autumnal way,  browning cassis,  elegant pure brown pipe-tobacco complexity and cedary trace oak,  no alcohol apparent,  great purity.  Once breathed,  the palate has an exquisite harmony of cassisy berry browning now,  integrated with cedary oak.  There are those who aver that old wines collapse soon after opening,  but this wine expanded dramatically.  Freshly opened it tasted ‘austere’ my notes say:  24 hours later it is supple and very harmonious,  beautiful browning berry fading now,  but the whole wine smaller,  subtler and finer than the loud and often non-floral wines favoured by Austro-American reviewers today.  Three first-places,  but seven second-place votes,  12 correctly locating it in Bordeaux,  versus five in the Northern Rhone Valley.  The third of the very highly-rated wines.  Lovely old claret,  once breathed just hanging on to its peak,  from 750s.  GK 03/20

1970  Alexis Lichine Chambertin en magnum,  grower Louis Trapet & Fils   18 ½  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Cote de Nuits,  Burgundy,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ Single bottle;  original price as magnum,  $16.10;  a modest year for red burgundy;  no info,  no reviews,  but Lichine was well regarded for his burgundy selections at that stage,  as can be judged from his access to Louis Trapet,  and also Henri Jayer (Linden Wilkie of The Fine Wine Experience,  Hong Kong,  tells me).  Will be pale and frail now – but the wine has always been delicious;  successor website bears no relation to activities of Lichine himself at the time of this wine;  www.alexislichine.com ]
Limpid rosy garnet and ruby,  full rosé in depth,  the lightest of the reds.  Bouquet is strikingly floral in an autumnal way,  extraordinarily so for its age,  on red cherry fruit naturally browning now,  intensely fragrant.  And total purity.  Flavour is a little shorter than the bouquet promises,  the berry clearly browning,  and fading / drying a little,  sweet new very subtle oak just noticeable to the tail.  Twenty-four hours later the wine was magnificent,  expanded somehow,  seemingly sweeter but not richer than the Pomal Especial,  neither quite as harmonious as the exquisite 1978 Les Cedres.  It would still be wonderful in a light main course setting.  One vote for wine of the night,  one second,  but also one least,  and clearly burgundy to nearly all tasters.  The wine starting to retreat in magnum – 750s would be lesser,  now.  Simply a joy to drink.  GK 03/20

1953  Bodegas Bilbainas Pomal Reserva Especial    18 +  ()
Haro,  Rioja,  Spain:   – %;  $378   [ Spare;  original cost c.$3.75,  1966  Ch Montrose at the same time $4.35,  so relatively expensive;  vintage comment follows;  latterly related Bilbainas wines are 100% tempranillo from the Rioja Alta,  but earlier they were likely to have included graciano at least;  aged in both large American oak and then American oak barrique or puncheon-sized barrels perhaps including a little new even back then,  for an unknown time but probably exceeding four years.  Then aged in bottle for much longer.  It was seen as a burgundy-style,  contrasting with the Vieja Reserva in claret bottles,  and released latest 1960s.  No tasting notes found from established writers.  1953 highly regarded in parts of Spain,  but for Rioja Jan Read rates the vintage 3/10 in a classic sense,  contrasting with 10/10 for 1952,  but also noting that exceptions abound in the Spanish climatic milieu.  Certainly the 1952 was a lovely wine,  but in my experience not so very different from the 1953.  Characterising great old rioja is not easy,  so it is worth quoting someone long-experienced in the wines of the region.  Jan Read, 1973 quoted the Spanish oenologist Don Victor de Zuniga as saying of Rioja wines: ‘independent of the conditions of the harvest and quality of the crop,  they present quite distinct properties of nose, flavour, alcoholic content, colour and extract.’  Read went on to say:  ‘Anyone who has drunk the wines will recognise and enjoy those qualities.  A highly perceptive connoisseur like André Simon may differentiate between the bouquets of Lafite Margaux and Latour, describing them as being evocative of violets, wallflower and verbena; and such descriptions sometimes seem justified ... In the case of the Riojas, they do not seem helpful. Of the old Reservas, all that can honestly be said is that they are glorious and individual old wines, with a roundness and intensity of flavour, a characteristic acidity and a bouquet entirely sui generis and of the Rioja’;  www.bodegasbilbainas.com ]
Garnet and ruby,  a hint of amber to the rim,  yet remarkably rich.  Like the 1970 Ducru,  in the middle for depth.  This old Pomal freshened wonderfully with air,  the berry expanding to overtake vanillin oak,  which initially dominated.  The wine clearly shows the characteristic citrussy complexity factor for tempranillo raised in old American oak,  reminiscent of the days when Jamaican grapefruit were shipped in slatted wooden bushel boxes.  Once one of the grapefruit developed blue-mould,  there was this very distinctive,  slightly piquant yet sweet,  citrussy smell through the whole box,  utterly characteristic of traditional Rioja.  As with blue cheeses,  this aroma is far from unpleasant.  The quality and purity of fragrant,  supple,  red-fruited berry on bouquet and palate is amazing,  even though the fruit is browning now,  a hint of raisins,  at 67 years of age.  Once breathed,  the fruit / oak balance is good,  the wine a little richer but drier than the Chambertin.  Two first-place votes,  one second.  Twelve tasters correctly located this wine in the Rioja,  while five thought it Southern Rhone Valley.  Remarkable wine,  in remarkable condition,  just starting to dry,  but will hold for some years yet … if the 47mm corks hang on.  This wine was much better 24 hours later.  GK 03/20

1969  Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle   17 ½  ()
Northern Rhone Valley,  France:   – %;  $1,444   [ Single bottle;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  Notable older vintage;  Sy 100;  original purchase price c.$5.50;  see 2010 La Chapelle notes also;  when it comes to syrah,  for many years after the war Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle was regarded as the pre-eminent example of the grape in the world,  fully ranking with the top grands crus from Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Decline set in after the 1990 vintage,  exacerbated by the untimely death of Gerard Jaboulet in 1997.  The reputation for Hermitage excellence passed to J L Chave.  But now,  with the purchase of the house of Jaboulet (early 2006) by the Frey family,  owners of Ch La Lagune in Margaux (and linked with champagne-house Billecart-Salmon too),  there is every sign with the 2009 and 2010 vintages,  that La Chapelle will soon be restored to top or top-equal billing.  1969 and 1971 were attractive years in the Northern Rhone and Burgundy,  more so than Bordeaux;  J.L-L,  1992:  … some damp leaf, prune smells and capable of greater complexity. Palate has a lovely, lasting richness, and great depth, very thorough flavours, showing some evolution. Delicious - everything an old Hermitage should be and in stronger shape than a bottle drunk in Feb 1991, ***** (out of 6);  R. Parker,  2000:  ... a solidly made, monolithic, foursquare example with plenty of peppery, cedar, leather, and coffee characteristics in the moderately intense bouquet. A sweet attack is followed by a lean, austere wine with a dry middle. Medium-bodied, the 1969 is a fine La Chapelle that has been mature for more than a decade, 89;  website not always accessible;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Maturing ruby and garnet,  just above midway in depth.  A little bottle stink initially,  breathing up to slightly phenolic / leathery and browning cassisy berry,  subtlest oak,  a little brett.  Palate is in a similar vein,  clearly a lesser bottle than the one in our La Chapelle vertical (in 2014 – not yet published).  The still-cassisy berry is surprisingly rich,  given the bouquet,  but as can be expected of wines at this age with trace brett,  it is also faintly medicinal.  The ratio of savoury fruit to oak is admirable,  and alcohol modest by today's standards.  It would still be good with food,  noting there are better bottles than this one.  Surprisingly to me,  three first-place votes,  no seconds.  Eleven tasters located this wine in Bordeaux,  rather than the Northern Rhone,  which will please the spirits of those nineteenth-century proprietors then freshening their bordeaux blends with Hermitage.  The unusual thing about this bottle,  from Jaboulet of that era,  was the 45 mm cork (as was the previous bottle).  The wine fully mature now / some bottles fading.  I cannot pin-point when Jaboulet standardised on their admirable 54 mm corks for their top bottlings.  GK 03/20

2016  Jaboulet Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Cedres   17 +  ()
Southern Rhone Valley,  France:  15%;  $51   [ Spare;  original price $72;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  99 – a new benchmark … laden with fruit, yet extremely racy and fresh;  understood to be Gr 80%,  Ci 10,  Mv 10,  but the Jaboulet website is down.  Vine age is said to average 50 years;  elevation may be 12 months in French oak, some new,  but there is extraordinarily little reliable information;  J. Czerwinski@RP,  2018:   It is nice to see the quality of this cuvée rebounding. This tank sample of the 2016 Chateauneuf du Pape les Cedres shows impressive levels of black cherries, which are joined by hints of espresso and black olive. It's full-bodied, creamy in texture and lush, lingering richly on the finish, 90 – 92;  website not always accessible;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the third-deepest wine.  A fragrant,  very primary wine,  looking out of place in the set.  A pure alcohol lift on slightly cinnamony raspberry and boysenberry fruit makes the wine seem a bit one-dimensional.  Light oak.  Palate confirms the lack of complexity,  surprisingly little contribution from elevation,  as if a significant part of the wine has been raised in concrete.  Fruit weight and dry extract are reasonable,  but the wine seems simple in its berry flavours,  and all made aggressive by alcohol.  In the remarkable 2016 vintage in the Southern Rhone Valley,  there are better Cotes du Rhone-Villages wines than this.  In complexity and ‘magic’ terms,  I do not think this will ever come close to the 1978,  in maturity,  even though it is very pure / high-tech.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  Two first-place votes on the night,  and three second,  over half the group correctly locating it in the Southern Rhone Valley.  GK 03/20

1969  McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon   15 ½  ()
Taradale,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ Spare;  a good vintage,  from memory;  original price c.$2.75;  the fifth commercial vintage of the 'first' New Zealand semi-commercial cabernet (though that rather downplays the role of Alex Corban at Corban's,  and Dudley Russell at Western Vineyards,  with their Henderson Cabernet Sauvignons),  overseen by one of the great New Zealand pioneers,  Tom McDonald,  later joined by Denis Kasza.  The 1969 was considered second-only to the 1965,  in its day.  Tom,  Denis,  and the label long since deceased.  At least some American oak.  No website. ]
Ruby and garnet,  light,  but clearly deeper than Le Chambertin,  and redder,  the second-lightest red.  Initially the wine shows a soft,  warm,  lightly cassisy and clear mulberry note,  on vanillin oak.  With air a slightly stalky undertone crept in,  but the wine is still pure and vinifera.  In mouth,  the first thing that jumps out at you,  in this tasting of international wines framing the main red wine styles,  is that the wine tastes dilute:  there is just not the body / dry extract to be internationally competitive,  and keep the wine ‘sweet’ over the years.  This was long before the 1983 amendments to the 1980 New Zealand Food & Drug regulations,  as they apply to winemaking,  which finally required that New Zealand wine must be made from at least 95% grape-juice.  [ See the section 'Water in Wine',  page 67,  also page 29,  in the original edition of Cooper,  1984.  Pagination varies in later editions.  I am grateful to Michael Cooper,  with his prodigious knowledge of the New Zealand wine industry,  for correcting my earlier statement.]  But the berry that is there tastes surprisingly good,  fresh and refreshing,  still an interesting bottle of very light and now too oaky claret-styled wine,  with just a hint of stalk on bouquet and palate.  Acid balance is just acceptable,  for its old-fashioned style.  You get the impression this 1969 was either more heavily cropped,  or watered a little,  relative to the benchmark 1965 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon.  Certainly after the 1971,  the ‘70s examples of this label were dilute.  Not competitive in this company,  13 votes as least wine of the night,  and clearly the New Zealand wine for everybody.  Fading now,  but as a wine on its own,  still quite acceptable with food,  for those who are interested in old wine.  GK 03/20