Sunday, August 16, 2015

Four 25 Year Old Wines

A special event provided the opportunity to pull out my best (and in some cases last) bottles from 1990.

They were a Penfolds Grange, a Wendouree Shiraz, the Chateau Haut-Brion, and the Masi Campolongo Amarone. The last one was a ring-in, as I was planning to open a Hill of Grace, but found that I had none left. The idea was to drink these wines over two days and see how they compare with each other and over time.

As you can see, they are all very high shoulder, which was a good sign. Then came the drama of unkorking the wines. They were all kept in a 14 degree cellar with reasonable humidity. No problem with the European wines. The Grange cork looked good for a while, but suddenly broke. However, I got the second part out in one piece. I was not so lucky with the Wendouree cork, which disintegrated, and many parts dropped into the bottle. I filtered the wine out, but small particles found their way into the glass. This proved my point again that Australia gets the raw end of the stick, or cork, in this case.

1990 was a great vintage, not just in Australia, but across Europe as well. Yet it is generally thought that 89 was a better year for Haut-Brion. However, I could not complain. The 1990 Chateau Haut-Brion showed very well. Obviously, when you drink 25 year old wines, your experiences are different from 7-10 year old wines. This wine was very elegant. Not much primary fruit to speak of, but ethereal earthy and musky flavours (95 points).

The 1990 Wendouree Shiraz had less finesse  by comparison. It still delivered some blackberry and plum fruit, and  a denser mouthfeel. Still a very much together wine, despite the cork chips, and still years ahead before the decline will set in (94 points).

The star was the 1990 Penfolds Grange. The  complexity of this wine is amazing. Dark cherry, blackberry and mulberry is still very present. There is also mocca and a lifted, aromatic feel - amazing for a wine this old. The mouthfeel is very balanced and lingers on over the very much softened tannins (98 points).

Being from 1990, these three wines have alcohol of 13.5% or less. The 1990 Masi Campolongo is different. Being an Amarone style, there is 16% alcohol in this wine. As the wine ages, and the fruit softens, the alcohol becomes more prominent, and it shows in this wine. It is more developed than the other three.  However, there is still good dried prunes intensity in this wine. Earthy flavours are strong. The wine is beautiful on the mid palate, before the alcohol takes over (94 points).

Conclusion: all four wines were very drinkable, none over the hill. Wow! All wines showed better on the second day. The experiences are different from what one normally experiences, but well worth it. And as far as Bordeaux is concerned, I recommend to keep the good wines very long for the tannins to disappear into the background.   

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