Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
bills

Ducru Beaucaillou 1970 - 2000

Recommended Posts

I always enjoy vertical tastings. Some people find them tedious – too much of the same thing – I find them fascinating. Tasting several vintages of the same wine is the only way to determine for yourself if there are certain attributes or common elements that persist from vintage to vintage, that typify a wine. In this dinner tasting we had the opportunity to answer the question “What makes Ducru….Ducru?”

Ducru Beaucaillou was historically a part of the larger Beychevelle estate until around 1680, when it was split from the parent property. It started to produce wine in 1760, although not under the Ducru name until1795, and by 1855 it had enough of a track record to merit a 2nd growth rating in the great classification that year. The wine has always been produced in a style at the elegant end of the spectrum, well to the opposite extreme of such more rustic St. Juliens as Talbot and a little further toward the elegant than the Leovilles. More like Beychevelle in fact, and most people would say that Ducru was the best portion of that old estate in terms of quality.

We tasted 15 vintages from 2000 back to 1970, and found a bit of a watershed in the early 90s in terms of style. The traditional version seems to mature and hit plateau at age 20 or so (opinions will vary). The younger vintages drink well much sooner and I question what this means for their future.

We started off with a palate cleanser/taste adjustment of:

1996 Fleury et Fils Brut Champagne – crisp and clean, decent value. I have been pleasantly impressed although not exactly wowed by the 1996 Champers I’ve been tasting recently.

The right into the main event, all served in reverse chronological order.

With essence of oxtail consommé

2000 – youthful colour, a nose still a bit primary with berry fruit and cassis, a sweet entry, medium body smooth feel, soft tannin and very good length. This wine is very good and quite drinkable now. It is certainly not made in the same style as older vintages and I question whether it will still be as good in 15 - 20 years, much less better, as one would expect from older vintages.

1998 – the berry nose on this one was a bit subdued but the wine showed good weight on palate, more elegant than the 2000 and showing soft tannins only at the end.

1996 – big sweet cassis nose and some anise in there as well and even a lead pencil element, quite enticing. The tannins are still quite firm but the wine is very harmonious and I don’t see that changing. Patience will be rewarded in this case!

The next course was a nine-herb ravioli filled with ricotta in a lemon beurre blanc.

1995 – This wine was tight and the nose reticent to show itself. Although unyielding at this point, it was promising as we could see a sweet fruit core and excellent balance. Needs time.

1990 – in contrast, the big nose of this wine leapt out at you with vanilla and cassis featuring. The tannins are now soft and the length was excellent. Lovely wine

1989 – less fruit in the nose and although still elegant the wine failed to impress after the other two in this flight. Medium body, pleasant but not special.

Next course – breast of quail in savoy cabbage topped with seared foie gras.

1988 – the nose was compact and this wine possessed ample tannin and acidity but like the 1989 failed to really impress us.

1986 – infanticide, but I was certainly a willing accomplice! Dense purple colour with a sweet berry nose, a nice flash of fruit on palate just before the tannins clamped down signalled wonderful things ahead for this wine. Patience, Grasshopper! I wouldn’t touch this for another 10 years (but then I am renowned for my self control…)

1985 – quite a contrast with the previous behemoth. The nose was very pleasant with sweet fruit, on palate it was sweet and forward but in no way tailing off or heading down slope as some 85s now are. No rush, as this will continue to hold and drink well for some years, but why wait?

Next course – sun dried tomato and olive crusted rack of lamb

1983 – lots of spice in this nose and lots of good fruit in the mid-palate. I wasn’t a big fan of this wine when younger as it went contrary to the rule in this normally sweet forward vintage, having relatively hard tannins that made you question the balance of the wine for the long haul. I am pleased to see that the tannins have softened and that there is ample fruit to make this a pleasurable wine.

1982 – Oh my! One of those wines that make you think “THIS is why I cellar Bordeaux – nothing quite like it!” The nose has a full complement of berries, complex and melded with secondary elements that make you spend several minutes just sniffing before you remember to taste. When you do taste it, you find wonderful fruit, great flavour intensity and a harmony that other houses would envy. This wine will offer great pleasure for many years and at the age of 24 years has reached what will doubtless be a long plateau stage.

1981 – this one probably suffered from the fabtastic 1982 tasted just before it, but one must do justice to this largely forgotten vintage. Many of the 81s are drinking beautifully now. This one had a classic and forward nose, soft and balanced in the mouth and again, elegant.

With gorgonzola nd triple cream brie and Port poached pear.

1978 – this was the first wine that showed any lightening in colour. They did not include any merlot in the blend this vintage and for whatever reason it has always sown very well, in the top group of 78s for me. Cedar nose, soft and smooth on palate finishing soft and sweet with impeccable balance.

1975 – not much on the nose. The tannins have moderated in this formerly hard wine, but the fruit hasn’t lived through and I found it a bit astringent at the end. Still, it drinks alright, but is not one of the ‘good’ 75s. 1975 is a vintage I really enjoy, but I’ll allow that you have to have a slightly masochistic streak to do that as half the wines never came into balance and some never will. They surprise you though. I always wondered if the Las Cases would ever pull through and mirabile dictu, in recent tastings over the last 3-4 years it has, and very well to.

1970 – back to dark colour, and what a delicious wine! Lots of fruit, vanilla and toast in the nose, youthful on palate, excellent weight and good fruit in the middle, and a long finish with good acidity. Wish I still had some of this. One caveat – if you have this wine with uncertain cellaring history it may be showing as older, but this one was in great shape.

1997 Ch. Climens – nice way to finish up and the first time I’d tasted this wine. Still light in colour and showing a honeyed botrytis nose, it wasn’t too heavy in the mouth and had nice fruit and length. Drinks very nicely now but should have a long life ahead.

The Ducru was amazingly consistent over a 30 year period, always showing characteristics that reflect the terroir of the property. The post 1990 vintages are wonderful, but I can’t help a slight sadness at the change in style, although this has perhaps harmed this wine less than others (assuming you can call it ‘harm’ – maybe it is only we few reactionaries that would). All in all a very instructive event.


Edited by bills (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great post and thanks for the insight. I have been trying to discover the magic of bordeaux for a bit now and strangely enough the first wine to do that was thier second wine "La Croix de Beaucaillou" 1998. I have seen the real one in stores but have been hesitant to step up for fear of total disappointment and the waste of another $100 on bad french wine. Do you think that it was just a fluke that thier second wine from 98 was so tasty? And, is it fair to say that the 2d growth version would be that much better during the same vintage? Any thoughts would be appreciated. thanks

Max

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Do you think that it was just a fluke that thier second wine from 98 was so tasty? And, is it fair to say that the 2d growth version would be that much better during the same vintage? Any thoughts would be appreciated. thanks

Max

Second labels can be very good value - sometimes they are wine made from vines considered too young to include in the grand vin, and sometimes it is simply wine left over when they have finalised the blend for the main wine (this happens often with whites where you have sauv blanc left over - you see it in the dry whites from Sauternes producers, for instance).

I'd look for the 2000 Ducru rather than the 1998 if you want a wine to lay down and enjoy in future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the insight. I have a bottle of 1986 Ducru 0my wedding year) waiting for a suitable anniversary. Your notes confirm what I suspected - that I should definitely wait for our 25th, instead of 20th later this year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sure Bill is aware of this, but some others might not be. In the late 80s, Ducru had a problem with some bad barrels. And if one purchased a bottle from the 88, 89, or 90 vintage, it was a roll of the dice whether you had pure or adulterated juice inside.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm sure Bill is aware of this, but some others might not be.  In the late 80s, Ducru had a problem with some bad barrels.  And if one purchased a bottle from the 88, 89, or 90 vintage, it was a roll of the dice whether you had pure or adulterated juice inside.

Brad, as I read this thread, this was at the back of my mind. However are you sure that there were "some" bad barrels rather than the entire cellar walls that were affected. I believe that they were rebuilt but can't remember. Apparently a first growth chateau just down the road had the same problem but kept it very quiet and rebuilt the entire cellar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Brad, as I read this thread, this was at the back of my mind. However are you sure that there were "some" bad barrels rather than the entire cellar walls that were affected. I believe that they were rebuilt but can't remember. Apparently a first growth chateau just down the road had the same problem but kept it very quiet and rebuilt the entire cellar.

The way I remember hearing and reading about it was that not all barrels were affected. But perhaps my memory is faulty.


We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I recall, the problem stemmed from an insecticide used to treat the wood beams in an off-site cellar the chateau rented for storage. Only the barrels stored in the cellar were affected. Am fairly sure the first problem vintage was the '86. It is one of the few Bordeaux I own a case of and I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I first read that my bottles could be infected (I hadn't tried the wine at that point and probably couldn't have returned it to the vendor). Am relieved to say the only problem with my bottles is that, as Bill points out, they won't be à point for another decade at a minimum. But, man, did I ever open that first bottle with trepidation!


Edited by carswell (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

you should be OK - fairly sure that vintages were as Brad said 1988-90.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...