During the many years I have engaged in this hobby of oenology, I’ve had the pleasure of tasting some wonderful wines. Here is a good link to learn about some of the technical elements of taste as it relates to wine.
Referring to the notes I have compiled a list of some of the finest wines I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. Let me share a few of the memories with you.
Among the most memorable were the 1989 Gernot Gysler Weingut Eiswein. Consumed at 12 years it was a real treat! A deep amber/gold color, with a lilac and honey nose, thick, long legs, layers of sweet papaya/grapefruit, apple – butterscotch and a delicious rich, buttery – caramel, sun-dried pineapple finish….It was an amazing wine!
Another Eiswein – Vintage 1993, Valckenberg Madonna. Also consumed at 12 years of age. This fine dessert wine from the Rheinhessen, a region of Germany that produces less than the other major regions, making it quite rare! Rich amber color. A nose of lichee nuts and honey. A seductive taste of apricot, butterscotch, pineapple – prunes and finishing with a layer of bitter almond. Very sexy wine!
The 1977 Vintage Port were listed as century greats! I was lucky to find a deal in 1992 and bought 4 bottles of the Dow’s and consumed them in 1992 (too early), 1997, 2000…and well, I forgot when I drank the last one – no notes on that one. But each bottle offered big, thick, clean fruit and each grew better, more refined and more mellow with age. Also purchased one bottle of the ’77 Warre’s and this was quite lovely. Clean pallet of plum/cherry, cigar box, leather, chocolate and raisins when I drank it at the age of 24 years. All of the above were early in my collecting venture. One of the most important things I learned was to have patience with wines of this high caliber. In a rush to drink them much is lost with respect to tasting their full potential.
Three of the 1986 Bordeaux – noted by professionals to be some of the greatest wines of the entire 20th Century! The first to taste was in 1997 at eleven years old. This was far too young to do justice to such an immense wine, Chateau Mouton Baronne Philippe de Rothschild, “en homage a Pauline”, Pauillac. Christmas dinner with traditional beef roast and Yorkshire pudding. The wine was still vibrant ruby color with medium body, a big nose of fruit balanced against still bigger tannins, yet clean and no rough edges. The cork was in excellent condition and I regretted opening it, wishing I had another bottle or 12. I paid $22 for it and was worth every penny!
Clos Rene (Pomerol) for $19, was the second of these big Bordeaux I opened at 15 years (Had it in my storage since release in 1989 -12 years), which was also still too soon, but I was young, impatient and concerned that perhaps my storage arrangement was not adequate. Lesson was that the storage conditions under the house were just fine and I could have waited longer….like 10 more years! It was, at that point in time the oldest bottle I had ever kept. My notes indicate the wine was huge, but well rounded. Hints of almond on the nose. First taste was chocolate followed by layers of cherry, and cedar on the back and a bit of cassis. An unbelievably big and beautiful wine.
The third and final bottle of this tremendous vintage was Clerc Milon, Cru Classe, a second label of Baron Philippe and also from Pauillac. Cost was $23. Consumed when it was 17 years old. The cork on this one was showing a bit of mold and some dryness, though totally saturated below the surface, so it was good that I opened it, though in terms of the wine in the bottle, there was little sediment (surprising). At first taste my impression was wow! Big fruit, but still enough tannin to last longer…a great wine.
A 1988 Amarone Della Valpolicella, 15% alcohol scored 95 points when I drank it at ten years. Nose was big wood and fruit and earth tones, silky long legs, and still a chewable finish incorporating black cherry, coffee, chocolate and even a bit of tobacco on the finish…a couple of hours after uncorking and first tasting, the wine opened up nicely and stood up to a heavily garlic and black pepper laden beef roast. This was actually only the second Amarone I had ever tasted and it hooked me!
Several Barolo and the neighboring Barbaresco were also tasted at around 10 years and they were terrific, but still too young.
There were also quite a few fine Chianti Classico Reserva from 1995. I was really enjoying the Italian wines in the 1990s and tried to taste every Chianti Classico Reserva I could find. I was able to gather about a dozen different labels and drank them all at about 5 – 7 years old. It was fun to compare the many different producers and it to lay the foundation for future Chianti purchases. However, by the year 2000, I had learned to be more patient, realizing that these great big reds from Euro were truly worth waiting 15 or 20 years before opening.
Many people have asked me about “New World wines”, that is wines from California and Australia. My opinion about the wines I’ve had out of California; First observation – they are usually not competitive in terms of price when compared to big Spanish, Italian and even Bordeaux, though Bordeaux prices have skyrocketed due to import tariffs and demand (the new, young and affluent Chinese market has been instrumental in driving prices up too). Second, I have yet to taste any red wine from California that I think would stand the test of time measured in decades, like their European counterparts. I suppose there must be some, but with respect to dollar for dollar value, I don’t see it.
One example that came close, but not really in the same league, was 1996 Berringer, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain Merlot from their Bancroft Ranch and Estate bottled – grown, produced and bottled by Berringer Vineyards of St. Helena, CA. I opened this at 8 years. It had a considerable amount of sediment for under 10 years old. The wine was big carrying 14.5% alcohol, great balance. A very fine wine to be sure, but I really doubt it would age for 15 – 20 years. It was also the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever bought at $75. It was purchased directly from Berringer, in an apparent moment of temporary insanity, while vacationing with my family in July of 2001. Amazing what a man might do when he is on holiday with family! I will never again spend that kind of money on any bottle of wine. It was another lesson learned.
In the coming weeks I intend to open a couple of 17 year old Bordeaux, a 20 year old Port and I will finally pull the cork and taste a 27 year old Port I purchased for my daughter’s birthday. I will keep you updated.