Bipin Desai is a well known American scientist, and is one of the few persons who knows the greatest wine makers, and who knows their old wines better that the rest of normal human beings. He organises great events, among them great verticals. Today, it is by restaurant Taillevent, and the guests of honour are Mr and Mrs Hubert de Bouard who will present 20 vintages of Chateau L’Angélus (say now Chateau Angélus) that the family of Hubert owns since seven generations.
We are 25 lucky people to attend this event and I recognise some friends who have participated to similar events (Montrose, Pichon Comtesse, Lynch Bages, Trimbach to which I participated). Serena Sutcliffe has her magnificent British humour, uses of her charm, Clive Coates is always quick to judge and judge well even if very sharply. A Japanese attendant is always as quiet, but knows what he drinks.
We drink the welcoming champagne Taillevent on the ground floor, standing, invading half of the restaurant. The champagne made by Deutz, very slightly dosé, is extremely elegant and asks for a refill !
We go upstairs in the great dining room which is, for my opinion, one of the nicest dining rooms in Paris. We sit, we read the menu and the program, and a mystery wine is already on the table. Black berry, precious wood, it is not very difficult to figure that it is the 2005, not printed on our booklet. Just pulled out of the barrel, this wine evokes for me artichokes. First the beard, second the soft meat of the heart. I see in this wine a magnificent potential. Its end in mouth is very dry, put the promise is great. The wine when its growing in barrel will be finished will be different, but I can imagine that it will be thrilling. While we drink this first wine, Hubert makes a vibrant speech on the particular advantages of cabernet franc.
Here is the menu which will accompany the 20 Angélus : têtes de cèpes aux escargots petits gris / Bar de ligne rôti aux girolles / canard de Challans sauce salmis / Saint-nectaire / Mille-feuille aux framboises et œuf neige.
I have taken quick notes while drinking and eating, which I do not do usually, counting on my memory. Reading my notes which help to make this report, I have seen that some remarks meant the contrary of a previous remark. I did not change my words, as I do not pretend to give buying suggestions, but to give the atmosphere of the tasting and my emotions as they came. So, forgive what could be not logical within my notes.
The 1992 has a smell where alcohol is present, and a nice wood. The 1993 has a nose more solid, fuller. In mouth, the 1992 is short, but with a sufficient structure. As it is at that moment, I think : this is a wine that I would buy, as I imagine that the year is under evaluated, and it is a pleasant wine. But it was the first that I tasted. The 1993 is largely more structured and complex. It is a little dry, bony, but very sympathetic behind its strict aspect.
The 1994 has a nose rather shut. It begins to talk louder than the two wines before, but the speech ends nearly immediately. This lack of final annoys me.
The 2002 has a very subtle nose. The wood is starker than for the previous wines. It is nice, but obviously modern. I find it pleasant at this stage of its life.
I make another try. The 1992 is rather limited. The 1993 is charming. A little peppery, rather strict but charming. The 1994 has a small lack of balance. The 2002 more modern, pleases me in its youth.
When the delicious course with small snails and mushrooms comes, the 1994 is the one which takes the more the advantage given by the dish. And what remains of the 2005 shines on this dish. It has accents of violet.
My ranking for this flight is 1993, 2002, 1992, 1994.
The 1970 has a superb nose that I prefer to the nose of the 1986. The 1988 is elegant and polite. The 1995 has a nose which is rather strict, I smell a little mud and I wonder if it is the glass. The 1996 has an alcoholic nose, and a nose similar to the 1988. And the break in tendency is created by the 1999 which begins to smell youth, with black berry and intense wood.
I begin to drink now. The 1970 is pleasant, colourful but a little limited in strength. The 1986 reminds me the elegance of great 1986 and I find it quite nice. The 1988 could have an infinitesimal trace of cork, but I like its very coherent structure. The 1995 is lively, open, and tells nice stories. I like the more wild character of the 1996. And I love its final. The 1999 is much too strict. It begins to be modern and has not completely found its way.
We are served with two more wines. The 2001 has a nose made of pepper. It is obviously pleasant and I like, but is shows a break with the historical tendency of Angélus. The 2004 has a magnificent nose. It is nice in mouth at this stage. Is it still an Angélus?
What happens on a second round? The 1970 slightly bitter has not a heavy structure. The 1986 is advanced in age, more than it should. But I like the wine. The 1988 is convincing, nice. The 1995 is very young, solid, well done. The 1996 has a magnificent final. Very persuasive. The 1999 is tight. I can imagine that in 20 years, this wine will create surprises. The 2001 is a little too much for me, not what I expect from an Angelus. And the 2004 pleases me a lot, not knowing if it is an Angelus for the future.
On a third try, the 1986 and the 1988 please me a lot.
So, my ranking will be : 1986, 1988, 1999 and the others. I make a special place for the 2004, which is really pleasant. Curiously, the 1999 that I criticised gives me promises for the future. Certainly because I prefer wines which are moderate to wines that explode.
On the third flight, we begin with the oldest wine presented : 1953. Nice nose, very charming, smooth, hearty. I find it more sunny than the historical tendency of Angelus. The 1966 is more strict but nice. The 1989 seems to me in an intermediate phase. It is a great wine which hesitates between keeping its teenager habits and becoming an adult. The 1990 is immense. This wine is outstanding. The 1998 is nice in its youth. Not completely formed, but has a nice final. The 2000 has a splendid nose. It is a wine which is completely different from the others.
For my taste, I would revisit the 1999 with more pleasure in 20 years than the 2000. I could be wrong and this could be shocking for many other wine lovers, but the strict child could give more pleasure than the heavy weight when it will have lost its breath.
The nose of the 2003 is peppery. I do not recognise an Angelus, but who cares in this case. It is immense, and I see a future for this wine greater than for the 2000 and the 2005. I am probably not in accordance with experts (I do not know), but it is what I have felt.
Making a second try, the 1953 is splendid on the duck. And the duck is splendid too.
My ranking for this flight would be 1990, 2003, 1953, 1989. The 1990 is obviously the star of the three flights.
Bipin is an aesthete. He has chosen to put the 1997 alone, in magnums, with the cheese. And it was absolutely delicious, enlarging with pleasure this wine of a year that I like as my taste belongs to wines more suggestive than powerful.
The Riesling Grand Cru Vorburg Clos Saint Landelin 1990 domaine René Muré has a very rare nose. In mouth, it is a little too much for me. Very exotic and charming tastes saturate my palate. Passion fruit, green lemon, this is too much for me.
As we had not during this tasting very old Angelus, it is very difficult to conclude on tendencies for different decades. The successes that I have noticed belong more to specific years than to specific periods. What is noticeable is that there is a break in the history of Angelus with the years beginning with “2”. It is not exactly what I am looking for, but I am not representative of the consumer of young wines. Anyway the 2003, 2004, 2005 are adorable and have a really interesting future, with no risk for the 20 years to come.
My heart belongs to the 1990, and I am very satisfied that the 1997 and the 1993 performed so well.
The service of Taillevent is always perfect. I have found the opening, oxygenation and temperature of the wines excellent and significantly better than by previous tastings.
Hubert de Bouard and his wife are wonderful persons, very open, smiling and positive.
The cook was splendid, even better than by the dinner that I made just some days before. But on that dinner I was in charge of the dinner, so I was not as relaxed as today to judge the delicious cook.
I wish a long life to one of the most emotional Saint-Emilion : Angelus
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered