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TN:  TTG#8


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TTG#8: OLD BAROLO AND YOUNG BORDEAUX - Shunju in Tokyo (6/2/2006)

We gathered for an evening of testing whether the Utegawa "cuisine of subtraction" idea works as well with nebbiolo as it sometimes does with Burgundy. Short answer -- sort of. With richer fish dishes, older wines, more time in glass one could see the possibilities. But I'm not racing to drink young nebbiolo with sushi any time soon.

Bubbles to Start (and good ones at that)

  • 1996 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs - France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    Deep straw/pale gold. Beautifully pointal mousse. Heavy ripe apple and slight horse urine (this is a scent I find in many young rich wines, though normally more pinot driven and is, surprisingly, a positive indication of good things to come) on the nose. With the shio-uni, a bit of a tinny taste, but the tin goes away with a beef gelée and potato and smoked bacon mousse. Young but not backward. Has a hidden elegance in finish and mousee but the ’96 size certainly shows. A great combination of elegance and size that just needs time. In the glass, a bit of welcome and refreshing lime comes out, along with the typical minerality. Toasted yeast bread and acid are great on the finish.

Roulette (aka '96 White Burgs)

  • 1996 Bernard Morey Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet
    Bright fresh gold. Butterscotch on first whiff but good acid when it hits the palate. Broad apple and a tiny tropical element drive the palate, which also has slight bit of minerality. Revisiting the nose, it also shows a white fruit and mineral freshness. Good rich, dry sweetness and clay-spattered oak on the finish. Seems a bit muted, but I’m also suffering a bit from my cold.
  • 1996 Michel Colin-Deléger et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet
    Deeper gold. A bit of brown apple on the nose. With another whiff the nose just seems flattish. Drinkable and not awful, but clearly oxidized. Again, drinkable, but why bother when there’s other wine on the table. What a shame! NR (flawed)

Main Event: Barolo!

  • 1967 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Slight muddiness to color, but younger looking than expected. At edges, not orange but almost there. Nose initially gives soy and old (but clean) botte. This one takes time to open up, but begins to show gentle wafts of flowers, tar, and ripe old plums. Somewhere deep inside one can sense a thousand other things, but never name them. Fleeting bits of leather and coffee and quinine and fruit. Great fun just to sit and sniff. The palate opens with a leesy edge that quickly fades, then moves on to classic tar and plums and maybe a suggestive hint of rose on the finish. Throughout is good deep plum and an everpresent meaty element. At times, there is also a whiff of VA that enhances or puts one off, depending on one’s disposition. To me, it gives that bit of lift that always brings a new element to the nose. Finish is soft and gentle and sweet with lingering traces of all that went before.
  • 1988 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Very young solid color. Initially a bit sweaty and butyric, but that blows off with time. A big acid and tannin spine that still has a long working out period to go. This needs several hours to begin to show well, but picks up a great light, bright character, featuring some plum but more bright cherry fruit and a game/tar/leather complexity. Time also brings out a dark flower and tea nose. Finish is dense and challenging but promises a lot. It really was a crime to open this. I liked more than others, but I think at maturity it will be a star.
  • 1989 Valentino Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Riserva - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Deep and dark color, with a bit of cloudiness. Nose of a bit of soy, plum, very bright flower, bright cherry growing as it sits. Palate shows a cloak of size and tannin, but behind is a plush roundness that just asks for much, much more time. One can sense the smoothing and sculpting underneath the structure and perhaps a bit of polish and sweetness, but the flavors are all Barolo. Finish is intense and expressive with more flowers and the earthy tar I missed on the nose. Still needs time.

What, drink these now?!?! (Or, the slow training of the looking glass elements of my palate)

  • 2003 Château Latour - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Dark, dark, dark. Dense, dense, dense. The nose shows vanilla sweetness, bright black berry fruit, some of the classic cigar and pencil, but I’m having to close my eyes and imagine a bit as well. Palate is huge and pretty damn rough, but also has great depths of fruit and chocolate. I’m just not good enough to taste Bordeaux this young and comment on much more than depth and balance. By the way, it has both. Quite a feat when a wine this young and brawny can already make its balance known.
  • 2003 Château Montrose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    A bit more gentle than the Latour, but equally dark and also mighty damn dense. Perhaps a bit of herbal character and clay to go with the deep dense black fruit, licorice, and structure. Good intensity, very rich mouthfeel, and seems in balance, but – as I said above – Bordeaux this young is wasted on me.

There was also an old Rayas, which I much enjoyed. But a deadly combination -- cold, cold medicine, overwork, a lack of sleep, and an excessively demonstrated affection for the Barolo -- had bent me out of note taking shape by then. My apologies to Steve for not taking notes on what was a generous and enjoyable contribution.

Posted from CellarTracker

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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Your amazing notes on the Barolos may cover up the crimes of opening such young GC Bordeaux wines.

Thanks for sharing

Andre Suidan

I was taught to finish what I order.

Life taught me to order what I enjoy.

The art of living taught me to take my time and enjoy.

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Thanks for the kind words about my notes.

While I wouldn't choose to open those Bords so young for ordinary drinking, if one has a case or two laid away, it is educational to try them young. Drinking through a case or more of bottles through the life of a wine is, as far as I know, the only way to develop the ability to taste them young and determine where they're going. And, given that most of my buying is driven by tasting for myself (or relying on recommendations from a small group of trusted tasting friends), it's a skill I need.

All that being said, while I enjoy it, I'm not a big buyer of Bordeaux. These were the contribution of someone else to the dinner. The Mascarellos were my contribution.

I do agree, though, that other than assessing where the wine may be in the future, I don't get a lot out of drinking big '03 Bordeaux today.



Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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