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Peaked and peaking

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To celebrate his impending marriage, a MWG member raided his cellar and generously treated the group to two 1990 St-Juliens. Thanks and congratulations, David!

Saint-Julien 1990, Château Lagrange
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Merlot (44%) and Petit Verdot (12%). Manually harvested. Maceration and fermentation of the various lots takes place in temperature-controlled (28°C) stainless steel vats ranging in size from 66 to 220 hl and lasts two to three weeks. The lots are selected, blended and matured in French oak barrels (60% new) for 21 months. Fined with egg whites and racked by candle light before bottling. 13% ABV.
Young to the eye for a 25-year-old wine: some fading at the rim but virtually no bricking. Effusive nose of cassis, graphite, red meat, “honeycomb,” modelling clay, cigar box and green pepper. Savoury and smooth, rich and elegant. The tannins are mostly resolved though the wine still has plenty of structure. Leather, stones, spice and wood (not oak) overtone the long finish. A complete wine. Classic Médoc, at or near peak.

Saint-Julien 1990, Château Léoville-Barton
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc; haven’t found the exact percentages used in 1990 but it’s usually something like 65%, 25% and 10% respectively. Current-day wine-making practices, which are probably not too dissimilar from those used a quarter of a century ago, are: manual harvesting; destemming, crushing and fermenting on a plot by plot basis in temperature-controlled wood vats; alcoholic fermentation lasting seven to 10 days with twice daily pump-overs; three week’s maceration on the skins; maturation in French oak barrels (50-70% new) for 16 to 18 months and topped up three times a week; fining in the barrels with fresh egg whites. 12.5% ABV.
Even less bricking than the Lagrange. The expected cassis is there but as a backdrop to beef chop suey, “tamarind,” chestnut honey and graphite. Smoothly structured with soft-glow acidity and round, resolving tannins that, as chewing reveals, still have an astringent bite. The fruit remains vibrant and the wine’s depth is not yet fully in evidence. Tobacco and cedar linger long. Darker and more umami-rich than a bottle opened a decade earlier, I think this needs another five or 10 years to peak. That said, I’m sure it’d be a here-now delight with a roasted leg of lamb.

MWG October 8th tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

October 25, 2015 at 15:03

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