March 12, 2012

Château Figune-Poypourri

- Tasting a flight of 1986 Bordeaux

In a flurry of activity during one of our wine tasting events, at a point that seems like ages ago, a group of North of 9 tasters bought a mixed-bottle-lot of wine through the LCBO Fine and Spirits auction.  ‘Who wants in?’ someone shouted over the conversation in the room.  Of course my hand shot up, along with a few others who were caught-up in the moment.  And with the cheer that ensued, our online bid was successful. ‘What did we just buy?’  I curiously queried.  '86 Bordeaux,' someone exclaimed.  ‘Perfect,’ I responded while attempting to redirect the focus back to our tasting session at hand.  

It’s been well over a year since that purchase and we’ve tried a few times to assemble a Bordeaux tasting party; you’d think the task would be fairly straight forward considering the offering:  2nd and 3rd growth wines in the great 1855 classification.  But schedules and weather seem to play havoc with our plans each time and it has taken until this past weekend to gather the group.   

Stephen called me:  ‘Tyler, let’s put something together in March.’  Our lot of four bottles has sat entombed in Stephen’s cellar since the auction.  ‘I’ll host as well,’ he said.  And so on March 11th, our gaggle of thirsty tasters descended upon Stephen and his wife Krista’s home for a lovely meal and an evening of ’86 Bordeaux.

A bottle of Moscato d’Asti and a delicious cheese tray welcomed the group before we dove into the old bottles of Bordeaux served alongside dinner for seven.  Breathing time in this case was not necessary though bottles of this age do contain a significant amount of sediment and therefore decanting is essential.  Removal of the capsules revealed moldy wet corks plus some evidence of possible seepage.  All but one cork slide out with relative ease, which presents a learning opportunity, if I may:  don’t talk when you unstop an older bottle; I was blabbering about something off topic and managed to snap one of the corks partway out – dislike is not a strong enough word here; I truly detest when that happens!  

The wines:

All 1986…

  Château Figeac
  Château La Lagune
  Château La Mission Haut Brion
  Château Leoville Poyferré

Dinner was peppercorn and herb crusted beef tenderloin with a side of duck and sausage cassoulet plus a selection of salads and vegetables that obscured the kitchen island.  A culinary delight for certain, though the pepper spice was perhaps a touch too bold for the delicacy of the 25 year old French wines; delicious nonetheless.

1986 Château Figeac - is a Right Bank wine that is structured like a ‘Left’ i.e. it is not Merlot dominated.  Delicate is the correct word here, in every respect; both the colour and body are beginning to fade, though still a wonderful wine to taste.  Aromas of cinnamon and cedar box; juicy on the palate with an interesting overripe apple finish. 

1986 Château La Lagune - a Third Growth in the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux and a wine that I have not tasted before; similar to the Figeac, though lusher, darker, and deeper -perhaps; ripe berries with hints of both spice and sweetness – fantastic, and for me, the wine of the night. 

1986 Château Mission Haut Brion – Not part of the original Bordeaux Classification (Chateau Haut Brion is the only Graves label included), though most critics feel that ‘Mission’ is consistently on par with the five First Growths.  Unfortunately, this sample was tainted with Brettanomyces (brett), an undesirable yeast that in the slightest presence, is actually quite pleasant, though when dominating, as in the case, it does pollute the wine with foul aromas of barnyard, band-aid, and metallic qualities – not good, and sadly, the wine that I though would shine the brightest this evening, was in fact flawed.  

1986 Château Leoville Poyferré – A Second Growth and always a pleasure to taste – today was no exception.  Cinnamon and cedar on the nose with dried cranberries and slightly sour raspberry quality; juicy with the perception of sweetness - lovely; a touch of brett perhaps, but this time it was welcome. 

We ranked the wines and voted for a favourite.  Everyone in attendance felt the Leoville Poyferré ranked as either their top or second wine while the runner up was the Chateau La Lagune. 

As many of you know by now, I like to deflate the gross pretension associated with drinking very fine wine.  I cringe at the thought of those who brag about the fancy bottles in their collection but are actually afraid to drink them: ‘What if it’s not ready…’ or ‘I need to know that my guests will appreciate wine of this calibre…’  blah blah blah – wine is meant to be enjoyed.  Pair it with good food and great friends and you cannot go wrong.  If the wine is ‘off’, learn from the moment.  And if you get 3 out of 4 good bottles, mix ‘em together and see what it tastes like... that’s exactly what I did between dinner and dessert this evening - $500 Bordeaux Jungle Juice aka. Château Figune-Poypourri and blended to perfection, I might add! 

I really can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to spend a Sunday evening. 


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Tyler is a member of the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada and the Guild of Sommeliers. He writes about and reviews wine both online and via a variety of circulating publications. In 2009 Tyler founded North of 9 Fine Wine, a free public wine education resource where he publishes his Thoughts, Theory, and Recommendations. For additional vinous related information and learning, follow on Twitter @TylerOnWine