Pedigree Tasting: 1979-2010 - 5 Decades of Bordeaux

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 What'a spread!

For our first pedigree tasting we tucked into an epic range of Bordeaux, stretching across 5 decades from 1979 to 2010! It was an honour to taste some of this incredible region's greatest vintages side by side, experiencing how these worldclass wines evolve and develop into their prime. Scroll down for our list of wines, vintages and tasting notes.

 1982s showing what all the fuss was about...

In such an impeccable line up, the wine of the night was disputable but ultimately boiled down to a tête-à-tête between the 2 fantastic 1982s. This was my first brush with '82, a somewhat legendary vintage, which earnt Robert Parker (now the world's most famous wine critic) his name when he waxed lyrical about its quality at an early stage. We put 1982 Château La Lagune of the Medoc against 1982 Château L'Arrosée of Saint-Émilion. This pitched Left Bank (West of the river) vs Right Bank (East of the river) and Cabernet Sauvignon vs Merlot dominant blends.

 Sublime!

Both were insane bottles, but ultimately it was La Lagune which just pipped L'Arrosée by 0.02 of a point from our tasters. I had to agree, favouring the Cabernet dominant La Lagune for its brooding mix of cassis, cinnamon, vanilla & tobacco, combined with some epicly savoury meatiness and earth, and waves of sweet fruit & spice on the overwhelmingly long finish! Such impeccable elegance and silkiness! The L'Arrosée was a fascinating contrast. This merlot centric wine was effortlessly appealing, silky and a touch more promiscuous. A similar plethora of aromas but with more fresh plum than cassis and more opulent - with mocha, fig and burnt orange (Crêpe Suzette anyone!?).

 The priceless Durand corkscrew @ work...

3rd place went, perhaps surprisingly, to an exceedingly good bottle of 1999 Château Climens: demonstrating how fine a mature Sauternes should be. This was closely followed by the biggest surprise of the night, our magnum of 1979 Domaine de Chevalier from Pessac-Léognan. Far from being over the hill, this was superbly complex and still showing fresh blackcurrant on the nose 38 years later! It was pretty cool to compare this to Domaine de Chevalier's 2005 (which came in at #6), with both displaying great elegance and some textbook Pessac pencil lead aromas!

All in all, one of the finest tastings I have had the pleasure to host, can't wait for our next Pedigree tasting: 60 years of Barolo 1955-2014!

 Organised fun...

TASTING NOTES & SCORES:

#1 1982 Château La Lagune, Haut-Médoc
A brooding mix of cassis and sweet spices (cinnamon, vanilla & tobacco), combined with some epic savoury meatiness and earth. Waves of sweet fruit & spice on the overwhelmingly long finish. Such elegance and silkiness! 8.97/10
#2 1982 Château L'Arrosée, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Effortlessly appealing, silky and a touch promiscuous! A similar plethora of aromas to the Lagune but with more fresh plum than cassis and more opulence: mocha, fig and burnt orange (Crêpe Suzette!?). 8.95/10
#3 1999 Château Climens, Barsac
In great shape. Intoxicating assault of saffron, marmalade and mushroom. With quince, ginger, apricot and gooseberry, and some almondy maturity. 8.84/10
#4 1979 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan
Still deeply garnet and surprisingly youthful. Wonderfully textured palate. Textbook Chevalier graphite on the nose, fresh blackcurrant, green tobacco, mocha, liquorice, meaty and savoury with a lovely herbal edge of rosemary and thyme. 8.8/10
#5 1986 Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux
Impressively deep garnet in colour, still some fresh blackcurrent! Savoury meatiness, prune, mushroom and fig on the palate, then elegantly spiced with tobacco, cinnamon and nutmeg. 8.28/10
#6 2005 Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Léognan
Smoky graphite note, very elegantly Pessac. Still tight & dense but buckets of concentrated blackcurrent, herbs, with a long savoury leather tobacco finish. 8.10/10
#7 1990 Château de Pez, St. Estephe
Very reductive initially, would benefit from a decent decant. Increasingly interesting in the glass, with great mature aromas of dried figs and prunes, forest floor and leather. Silky palate and resolved tannins with a sweet spice and juniper finish. 8.09/10
#8 2010 Château La Croix de Gay, Pomerol
Sweet red and black plum, prune & a green pepper edge. Dusty chocolate tinged tannins with a dash of mocha caramel on the finish. 7.25/10

VINTAGES:
2010: Drought conditions, wines are tannic, intense and likely to be long lived.
2005: Perfect growing season (hot & dry), almost universally consistent quality, tannic and just starting to open up.
1990: Hot vintage of great quality, very ripe and appealing, velvety textured. Fully mature, best will still improve.
1986: Drought condition, wines were dense and viciously tannic for many years, best are still going strong.
1982: Perfect growing season & legendary vintage, concentrated & delicious, best are still going strong.
1979: High yielding cool vintage but dry, well-balanced wines mostly in decline at this stage.

Jonny Orton