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1966 Bordeaux


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Notes from a very enlightening tasting of the 1966 Bordeaux vintage arranged by Albert Givton.

This vintage, along with the 1961 and 1964 was a star of the 60s, yet if you read reviews of many of the wines (there is a marked difference between Parker, who described many wines as being essentially dead decades ago and Broadbent, who held out more hope and proved to be more accurate in this case) they can come off as mediocre over the hill wines not worth bothering with, when in fact they can be vital interesting wines if cellared well.

Make no mistake, I am not saying you should rush out and but 1966s on the internet. These wines had long been stored in a very cool (7 deg.) cellar, and other bottles less carefully stored would probably be dead by now. But this tasting turned out to be a longing goodbye to this vintage rather than a wake. It was held at Vancouver’s Wedgewood hotel, and although I often omit details of the menu, the chef did such an exemplary job with this one that I feel obliged to insert descriptions of the food that was offered with the wines.

We couldn’t just plunge into old Bordeaux, we needed a palate adjustment interval, so we started with:

1997 Champagne Paul Bara (Grand Cru) – not a house I had ever tasted but a very pleasant wine with a yeasty fruit nose, bright acidity, and a perfect palate cleanser to start with.

With poached Nova Scotia lobster w. shaved vegetable and herb salad, and chilled lobster/yoghurt dressing:

1997 Meursault Genevrieres, Remy Jobard – this wine had a pale straw colour seemingly with a hint of pink! Excellent nose of vanilla pears, a hint of cocoa in the mouth, and good length. While it is well balanced now, that will not last and this is a wine for early consumption.

We then plunged willingly into the Bordeaux, the first flight of which was served withpot roasted pheasant breast poached in foi gras fat, with an ethereal light boudin blanc made in-house.

l’Arrossee – this was sadly corked, but fortunately this was the only bottle.

Gruaud Larose – this was the last really good vintage for Gruaud until 1981. The nose was a lighter style with some cedar and mature Bordeaux notes, there was still significant tannin, it was smooth with good length and while not a knock-out by any means it presented surprisingly well and was pleasurable to drink.

Cos d’Estournel – this was back in the old days when Cos was still around 80% cab sauv, and hadn’t started adding as much merlot to the wine. Also fairly dark, with a well integrated nose, good fruit and soft tannin, ending smoothly with good length, this was the clear winner in this flight for me.

With roasted tenderloin of veal and slow braised cheek, parsley puree, roasted porcini, shallot confit, Bordelaise sauce:

La Lagune – I have tasted this wine before (I once did an extensive vertical event that included it) but had given up on ever again finding a bottle in good shape and had consigned it to fond memory, so it was a delight to taste it in fine form one last time. Last tasted by Parker in 1978 and marked in his 3rd edition of “Bordeaux” in 1998 as “probably in serious decline” this shows how unreliable the usual sources can be for older wines. If the reviewer had a small sample size (tasted once or twice) and had the bad luck to get poor bottles, that will forever damn a possibly good wine to oblivion. This bottle was superb. The oak in the elegant nose was well balanced by mature fruit notes – a truly attractive quintessentially Bordeaux nose. Medium weight with a nice hit of spice coming in anear the end of the lengthy finish, this was a delight.

1986 La Lagune – offered as a mystery wine from two decades later, this failed to win supporters. Not much nose at all, medium body, somewhat tart at the end. it was a disappointment after the 66, and we weren’t sure how it would eventually turn out..

Lynch Bages – darker colour, sweeter nose with a decided riper pruney touch to it, not really forthcoming until it had some time in the glass. It was a bit leaner than the La Lagune, which may be attributable not to a lack of fruit but rather to the greater presence of tannin in this wine. I rated this slightly below the La Lagune.

Haut Brion – a slightly floral vanilla nose, medium colour, medium weight, supple and smooth with well integrated tannins and very good length. I finally decided that it was the best of this flight, but the fact that the humble La Lagune made me stop and really think about it was remarkable.

With roasted loin of venison, caramelised chickory and juniper and thyme jus:

Margaux – this 1966 was the last good Ginestet vintage – the wine deteriorated from here until the chateau was sold to the Mentzelopoulos family. It didn’t rebound until the very respectable 1978. Good colour, pale edges, decent nose, but the fruit was lacking and the slight astringency hinted that this one had seen better days.

La Mission Haut Brion – one of my favourite producers, back before it was bought by the owners of Haut Brion and was never again allowed to rival that wine. It had a fantastic nose of spice and toast and dark fruit, and there is an explosion of flavour in the mouth, smooth and supple with a balanced lengthy finish. This wine is clearly superior to the Haut Brion, and if this was the end of the event, would have been the clear wine of the tasting.

Latour – oh my! Dark, with a wonderful cedar and fruit nose, very big and intense in the mouth with substantial but fairlt soft tannin, and what I can only describe as extreme length, lingering on for minutes. What a wine! This one is just getting on form and will last for decades – a wine built in the pattern of the juggernauts of the 1920s that will still show as vital lively wines long after the men who made them have passed on. Wow. The fact that you can buy this wine for less than twice what you’d pay for the current vintage is ludicrous.

With Stilton, Asiago and Epoisses:

1966 Sandemans Port – this house always produces a lighter style and I’d not expected too much from this one, chosen to match the vintage of the other wines, but it was quite pleasant, with an appearance of a Bordeaux in colour (though not as light as some 1963s have become), a warm, but not hot nose, medium body and silky mouth feel with adequate length. Very nice.

A final interesting experience was a liqueur, made in the 1890s and presented in the original hand blown bottle, brought to BC by rail car in the 1904 time frame:

Crème de Violettes – the colour did show some violet but it had faded to add a bit of orange tinge to it as well. It was viscous syrup in the glass and extremely sweet, with a floral perfume. This was apparently just the thing for the ladies when they retired to allow the men to indulge in cigars and Port, but to me it seemed sweet enough to gag a hummingbird. Different times, I guess.

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I long ago drank up my 1966's although I may have the odd Magnum of Talbot and others floating around. It was good vintage and the prices were excellent at the time of offering. I would not spend a single dollar for any of the 1966's at this time.

I certainly agree with you about the Cos d’Estournel. I gave a bottle to a Francophile physician friend of mine and he was estatic about it. -Dick

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While not a '66, I had a bottle of '64 Chateau Beychevelle a couple of years ago for my anniversary that was sadly a mere shadow of its former self.

Only a few of the 1964s are still in good shape - the Latour and Trotanoy are still great!

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Only 60's I have left is part of a a case of 1961 Bordeaux, still going strong. All the rest are gone other than the odd Magnum. We are now drinking the 1970's which are near the end of life but still excellent. Had a bottle of 1970 Lascombes with rib steak marinated in Dales the other evening. Just about perfect, no decanting but the wine did not fade over the hour it took us to consume it. Next comes the 1975's for us. -Dick

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  • 1 month later...

Drank our last 66 La Tour not too long ago with some wonderful bread and cheese - an amazing bottle - the color had faded a bit (no excessive sedimentation, no brick or brownish tinges at all) - the flavors were lovely with plenty of fruit, and the wine stayed strong, maybe even improved a hair, over the course of two hours...but we had finished it by then. Simply a great wine.

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Bills gets invited to all the snazzy wine tastings, he's always popping out a top notch list. :biggrin:

I've had a couple bottles of '66 Haut Brion that were well kept in the last couple years and they were really nice. Haven't had the pleasure of trying any others.

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Notes from a very enlightening tasting of the 1966 Bordeaux vintage arranged by Albert Givton.

This vintage, along with the 1961 and 1964 was a star of the 60s, yet if you read reviews of many of the wines (there is a marked difference between Parker, who described many wines as being essentially dead decades ago and Broadbent, who held out more hope and proved to be more accurate in this case) they can come off as mediocre over the hill wines not worth bothering with, when in fact they can be vital interesting wines if cellared well.

Make no mistake, I am not saying you should rush out and but 1966s on the internet. These wines had long been stored in a very cool (7 deg.) cellar, and other bottles less carefully stored would probably be dead by now. But this tasting turned out to be a longing goodbye to this vintage rather than a wake.  It was held at Vancouver’s Wedgewood hotel, and although I often omit details of the menu, the chef did such an exemplary job with this one that I feel obliged to insert descriptions of the food that was offered with the wines.

I enjoyed reading these notes--thanks.

As for the vintage, I drank up all my 66's by the mid eighties. I always thought that there were some fine wines, Palmer, Pichon Lalande, Cheval Blanc, Gruaud Larose, Talbot and Beychevelle were some of my favorites.

Latour was exceptional. I remember tasting a number of other wines and feeling they were a bit too lean and angular with alcohol and acid not in balance.

As for the critics: Interestingly, a few have expressed reservations about this vintage. Both Coates and Penning- Rowsell note that their initial enthusiasm should be tempered a bit.

Penning Rowsell notes that at an extensive tasting in 1983 by numerous wine merchants in England: "in spite of support for the leading wines, general disappointment was expressed as to the future prospects of the vintage. Many had reached their peak and some were in decline." He also notes that subsequent experiences with the wines "have not removed a disappointment "...owing to high early expectations."

Coates seems to concur noting the wines were aging more rapidly than predicted.

Coates gives the La Lagune rather low marks noting there may be some bottle variation problems.

I can't say much about these wines beyond my somewhat limited experience in the early mid eighties, I did not taste them when young. As noted, I thought some of the wines were quite good and others not so good. Your post points up the need to read reviews from a range of critics in order to get some perspective. I think Broadbent is a tad too effusive in his praise of the overall vintage. For example, In 1998 he notes that Montrose is "massive, still tannic. It will come around eventually."

This about a thirty two year old wine! Yikes!

Coates asks about the same Montrose at age twenty "Will it ever soften?"

I think that back when these wines were released it was assumed that big, highly tannic, high acidity and austere wines were deemed age worthy the question was always "was there enough ripe and concentrated fruit to survive when the tannins finally attenuated or softened?"

Sometimes yes and unfortunately, all too often no.

Anyway, sounds like you had a wonderful evening it is always a treat to taste very old wines and see where they are in their life span. (the food sounds equally wonderful).

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