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TN: 1998 Red Burgundies and California ringer

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Current look at nine red Burgundies from 1998, an uneven vintage that when young seemed sometimes well structured, sometimes (as an experienced observer summed it up) blunt. Tenth wine was 1998 Rochioli West Block Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley). Wines furnished by participants who bought them when new on the market circa 2000-2001 and stored them well. These wines are from good producers, and many proved to be drinking very well now.

Tasted blind after siphoning (11 experienced tasters). Below is from my tasting notes in descending group blind preference. (Each person does a rough ranking; these are combined, which can cause ties, as in 5th/6th and 8th/9th places below. None of these wines was found defective or unpleasant -- the rankings are relative preferences.) "T" marks my taste impressions, following smell impressions.

1998 Groffier Bonnes-Mares. (Group's and my 1st favorite.) Firm red color. Aromas open slowly (as with several of these). Coffee suggesting high toast. T classic Nuits structure, high toast, anise, tannin partly resolved, fine fruit with still young touches. Drinking very well.

1998 J. Rochioli West Block. (Most of us detected this as the ringer, but also liked it.) Unusual nose in this company. Intense spicy cherry. Impression of relative youth or fruit. Wood spice. T mouthfilling fruit, young raw wood. Low acid. A candied or concentrated fruit impression. (Some said they caught Brett.)

1998 Méo-Camuzet Clos Vougeot. (My 2nd favorite.) Distinct pitfruit smells [plums/cherries]. Young impression. Bright fruit. T fine classic structure, mature flavors, agreeable. Coffee, chocolate.

1998 Anne Gros Richebourg. (Group 4th but I didn't like it as much -- my 8th.) Very faint at first. Sour apple smells. [some said "floral."] Strange. T coffee, aldehydes, well mineraled, relatively low acid. (Note that this was the most expensive wine tasted.)

1998 Roumier Chambolle-Musigny "Les Cras." (Group 5th/6th choice, my 3rd.) Sulfurous truffle impression. T aged flavors, herbality, well made. Concentrated, classy.

1998 Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin "Clos St. Jacques." (Group 5th/6th, my 4th.) Very faint at first. Toast. Anise comes out after a while. T tart edge, solid core, orange peel.

1998 de Vogüé Bonnes Mares. (My 5th, group 7th.) Very faint nose initially. Almost brewer's-yeast smell. T surprising firm acid and tannin, hot, impression of less development than some of these. Good structure.

1998 Rouget Echézeaux. (Group 8th/9th, my 7th.) Young color. Plummy and orange smells. Odd barnyard, musty. T hot, strong acid.

1998 Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Séléctionées. (Group 8th/9th, my 10th or least favorite.) Very faint, sour cherry, almost mildewy smells. T solid structure, youngish, sour cherries. ($40 at purchase with tax, least expensive of these wines.)

1998 Jadot Bonnes-Mares. (Group 10th, my 9th.) Savory/truffly and Cherry Heering woodspice nose. Pickles. T gamy note, mushrooms, anise coating the mouth faintly, mature flavors. Less concentrated than some of these.

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I'm very surprised that the grands crus from 98 are already drinking well. Reading between the lines on your notes, it seems like some of the wines have room for further development, while some need drinking up. Sound about right?

--- Lee


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Reading between the lines on your notes, it seems like some of the wines have room for further development, while some need drinking up.  Sound about right?

Yes. I think we were pleasantly surprised at the general state of these wines. (Note that the wines were ideally stored and the tasters were experienced, most with 25 or more years evaluating and buying such wines.)

Some wines seemed to me maybe near peak drinkability, though I recall none in urgent need of it. The de Vogüé displayed youthful tannin and acid, I'd guess it has years of life. In my notes I marked the Groffier, Méo, Roumier, Rousseau, and Rochioli especially enjoyable right now (a thesis we confirmed afterward with some food and the leftover wines).

It's gratifying to see a wine (the Groffier, which I provided) deliver what it seemed to promise when young. I believe the same tasting group evaluated these 1998s and others, 6-7 years ago when first available.

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