Dusty Old Wines: 1985, 1981 and 1975

The first two of three wines in this article were being sold off for charity by Berry Brothers. They were sold on the proviso that they may not be in a drinkable condition although had good fill levels and intact foil capsules. I was off for a weekend of wine tasting so I thought they made an unusual addition to the tasting weekend. If you enjoy the article enter into the charitable spirit of things and make a donation to a charity of your choice. Old wines are always a gamble but every so often you find a gem.

Chateau de Lamarque, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, 1975

This had an intense bouquet, a bit too musty on initial pouring but quickly cleared.  The wine was a rich ruby with significant browning.  The nose had undertones of mixed stewed fruits with a dominant (and pungent!) aroma that reminded me of Époisses.  The palate was elegant and austere, driven by pencil lead, fennel and to a lesser extent raspberry and blackcurrant.   The body was light although there was some residual tannin and sufficient acidity to carry the wine.  It felt somewhat tired but given its 41 years of age this can be excused.

Impression: We all agreed this tasted younger than expected, especially given that the vintage is not of great renown.  It seemed to split opinions, primarily over whether the palate was sufficient to marry up with the nose.  I personally quite enjoyed this wine although it was past its best.

Score: After a third of a bottle I reached the conclusion it was not really appropriate to score this – better just to enjoy the experience.

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Prosper Maufoux, Santenay Blanc, Clos des Gravières, Santenay 1er Cru, Burgundy, 1985

Now whilst this is a 1er cru, the white wine of Santenay is not known for its great ageing potential – opening wines like this is very much a leap in the dark.  On opening this presents a rich bouquet although for me it was tainted by a slight hint of oxidation.  There is a rich gold hue to the wine and it certainly looks elegant in the glass.  On the palate we find a dry Chardonnay with good acidity. Whilst the fruit has mostly faded there is a lingering nuttiness and structure from the oak remains. There is a long finish with a rewarding glut of minerality.

Impression: This wine split the group but all agreed it was doing well given the age. There is no doubt this is fading but provides an fascinating snapshot into the trajectory of white Burgundy.

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Prosper Maufoux, Vaudesir, Chablis Grand Cru, Burgundy, 1981

Remarkably I have actually tried another 1980s white Burgundy from Prosper Maufoux. This time a 1981 Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir purchased several years ago from Nickolls and Perks at only £12 per bottle.  Grand Cru Chablis has the pedigree for long ageing in a good vintage, although judging by Decanter’s vintage report these should have been pretty dire by now. Overall these were frankly in stellar condition. There was minor bottle variation with the first example tasted being just a notch fresher. The age was apparent but the wine was free of oxidation combining the intense dry minerality of Chablis with a regal weight and power on a backbone of taut acidity. 

Impression: If I think about quality to price ratio this ancient Grand Cru Chablis defies the odds and tops the chart. At all points in its evolution Grand Cru Chablis tends towards better value than its more southerly Burgundian counterparts.

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