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lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Covert » Tue May 16, 2006 10:05 pm

Younger men probably sit in their hotels and think about women - and then go to the bar. Me, I think about Bordeaux and then go to bed.

As the ’97 Bordeaux draw to a close, I am left with a perplexity. Since Y2K my wife and I have enjoyed them every single weekend. Occasionally we would dabble in other years; but it was like having guests; they were okay because they were only occasional and provided some diversion. I could go back to my comfortable family.

Now I don’t know what to drink. (My religion won’t permit anything but Bordeaux or Burgundy, so looking to South Africa, or something like, that is not an option – and regular mature burgundy is out of my economic reach.) Once in a while a ’95 is okay, but more often they are boring. Some ‘96s work, but they have such strong personalities, they can be exhausting in quantity - and the great ones are too young. Didn’t buy enough 1994s. 1999s are still frequently not ready; almost none of the 2000s or 2001s are old enough. Every one makes me feel guilty for having opened it. 2003s are freaks – but I love that Lynch Moussas. Older bottles are too few and far between in my cellar to drink regularly, and almost every purchased older bottle has been a disappointment in one way or another (oxidized, obscenely expensive, tired).

So I think I have settled on a strategy. Since I am at last too old to purchase any more new releases, for the next few years I may purchase only lesser Bordeaux from a variety of years and put the savings into my retirement fund. I can drink Greysac, Larose Trintaudon, second and third bottles of cru bourgeois properties, etc.: even bottles from such appellations as the Premiere Cotes and Castillon, since they have so vastly improved of late: a la Sherry-Lehmann’s “unsung heroes”: bottles that are smooth enough, and maybe rustic as a substitute for earthy; ready to drink. I can kind of watch the Wine Lover’s Forum and read critics’ notes to figure the perfect date for every one of my hundreds of fine bottles of Bordeaux and begin to enjoy them more regularly maybe five years from now, starting with the 1999s.

I envy people who do not have my problem. They are the same people who did not fall in love with the ‘97s. They were such an answer, sometimes their memory leaves me in awe.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by wrcstl » Wed May 17, 2006 10:30 am

Covert,
Interesting. Don't know that I agree with you but in the words of Bill Clinton, I feel your pain. Since '91,'92 & '93 was a washout you have to go into the 80's to get ready to drink Bordeaux or like you say, drink lesser properties. I have only had a few '97s and covet my few remaining bottles of Pape-Clement. Have a chance to pick up some '97 Lynch Bage at a reasonable price, any comments?
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by David M. Bueker » Wed May 17, 2006 12:49 pm

Well I'll say that while a few '97s really were enjoyable to me (e.g. Barton, Sociando, surprisingly Prieure Lichine, Poujeaux), most were pretty bad. I did not like Lynch bages at all, but then they have been very irregular since the mid-90s.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Paulo in Philly » Wed May 17, 2006 2:20 pm

Alas... maybe now you are ready to discover Italy!!!!!! :lol: Regarding your intimacy with bottles of Bordeaux, that was a little TMI (too much information).

Seriously - sounds like the end of an era for you. Taste on, my friend - I am sure you will find another wine and area to enjoy!
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Covert » Thu May 18, 2006 8:08 am

I would stay away from 1997 Lynch Bages, Walt. I found the nose a little like cottage cheese. I think I remember that Jenise did not find that element, exactly, but didn't care much for the wine, either.

Pape-Clement, on the other hand, is one of the year's best representatives, IMO. I am still enjoying it. Luckily have about six bottles left.

It's also neat to realize that the property is regarded as the oldest known vineyard on the left bank and that the pope (Clement V, by the real name of Goth, as I remember) who developed it apparently appreciated wine as much as God - at least more than the Roman Papacy. The wine is often regarded as the third best in Graves, as I am sure you know, behind Haut Brion and La Mission HB, yet it can be had for less than half the price.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by OW Holmes » Fri May 19, 2006 11:52 am

Covert, a couple of years ago my merchant got in a bunch of 97s from a warehouse that was making room for new arrivals, at outstanding prices. I picked up a mixed case, also all gone now. But do you know whether there is any more 97 still out there in warehouses gather dust and declining in price? Or has it all been dumped or turned into fuel?
The last I had still had life left - though I suspect only the best would last for more than another 3 - 5 years.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Mike Conner » Fri May 19, 2006 2:50 pm

Covert,

I can somewhat understand your pain. I was fortunate to be able to purchase some '89s and '90s when they came ashore, along with occasional older vintages. But, funds were limited, and I tried my best (since I was in my Parker years) to maximize points with the funds I had. Therefore, I didn't buy that many Duhart Milons, Bahans Haut Brions, Meyneys, etc. All of which would be at (or, nearly at) prime-time drinking. And, those that I did purchase of these 'lesser bottlings' from '89s or '90s, I blew through in their youth as I didn't have other 'bargain' Bordeaux that were ready to drink (but, while youthful, they were still soooo gooood).

Also went through most of the older ones, with (seemingly) much more success than your older wine purchases. Even wines from vintages like the occasional '75 or '78 were successful (Grand-Puy-Lacoste one excellent example of those vintages, and I still remember tasty bottles of '75 Rausan Gassies for $35!). But, a lot of the older Bordeaux I bought then were meant for the occasional family gatherings or dinner gatherings when you wanted to pull something 'nice' out of the cellar that others were unlikely to have. And, of course, the nicer '89s and '90s were not at all ready.

But, then came the '91s. '92s. '93s and to some extent the '94s. I did not purchase. And, when the '95s and '96s came out, I didn't have as much to spend, and their prices were escalating, so I didn't buy. Same with '97 (well, same as in not much cash, and the vintage wasn't highly spoken of). Then the right bank '98s with their price increases. Once the 2000s were hyped, I dipped my toe for a few bottles, and I bargain searched for some '99s. Not a lot mind you. At the same time, I was also hopping onto the 2001 German Riesling train (mainly because of a local dumping deal here at the time of some very tasty '89 JJ Prum Kabs and Spats that were/are marvelous - and having access to one of Rudi Wiest's sales reps).

I hope to find some "deals" with '01 and especially '04 which I hope will be completely overlooked in the stompede for the '05s.

Anyway, I don't drink as much as you probably do (or, as most who post here regularly). So, I can tolerate the occasional '99 Bernadotte or Bahans (heck, even Domaine de Chevalier) when I want a Bordeaux, therefore keeping my hands off one of my prized older bottles.

Getting back to older wines, you just need to get on lists with some retailers who seem to do good work in this area. I've had great luck with the Premier Cru folks in CA with older Bordeaux. Unfortunately, they don't always have/find mid-level Bordeaux, but wines like '70 Ducru Beaucaillou, Montrose and Palmer have been wonderful (and, they at one time had them discounted to the point I just had to get some). And, I've gotten bottles in the past from the Chicago Wine Co auction guys (but haven't purchased recently through them). I know there are other retailers who work the world looking for properly stored older Bordeaux (I've kinda been out of the game of recent, but perhaps others can make provide sources).

But, if I had some handy cash, I'd probably spend 50% on new vintages, and the rest looking for "deals" at some of the auction houses from vintages like '78, '79, '83 and especially '88 (wouldn't overlook wines from other vintages, but these were the "not particularly hyped" vintages that still produced complete wines (at least with a majority of those I've been fortunate to taste) and wines that should be nearing if not already at maturity).

I also meant to jump in to your '66 Bordeaux thread, as this was my birth year, and I've had some worthwhile bottles over time. One of the first that I bought was '66 Lascombes - back in '91 or so. A very nice, nuanced and tasty wine that got some Parker points, but not a boatload. Next was '66 Leoville las Cases, another very good wine that I lucked out with. I've also had wondrous bottles with Palmer on several occasions (it was the first fairly expensive 'treat' purchase I made). Recent bottles of '66 Montrose have been quite alive but a bit austere. And, I recall having a Margaux once that was ok, but not what it could/should have been (at least not the height that Palmer is).

Anyway, there are lots of Bordeaux out there to be had and drunk. In a perfect world, we'd all have lots of cash to be able to have put down cases and cases of Bordeaux from the mid-80s at all levels (from non-classified to the Latours and Petrus). But, that isn't the case for most of us Bordeaux lovers. But that said, there is still plenty of bottles to chase that don't always cost into three digits.

Thanks for allowing me to get that out of my system.

;-)

Mike
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by wrcstl » Fri May 19, 2006 4:27 pm

Mike,
Even though my kids are grown and out of college and major expenses are behind us I have a real problem with escalating Bordeaux prices. I think '00 was ridiculous. Yes is was a very good year, even though too ripe for my preferences, but absolutely from a quality standpoint did not justify the prices. I took a pass on all but about 2 cases of '00. I purchased '99 and '01, much more my style. But beyond that I have found better deals in purchasing older vintages from good wine stores and at auction. Just bought '96 Gruaud for $41 and '99 Clos du Marquis for $31. I currently have the winning bids on an auctiin tomorrow for '94 Lynch Bage @ $30 and 2 bottles each of '66, '75 and '78 Gruaud in a lot that will average $55 per bottle. Granted these are not steals but are better than buying similar '00 and represent, IMHO, decent value.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Dale Williams » Fri May 19, 2006 4:35 pm

OW Holmes wrote:. But do you know whether there is any more 97 still out there in warehouses gather dust and declining in price? Or has it all been dumped or turned into fuel?
The last I had still had life left - though I suspect only the best would last for more than another 3 - 5 years.


OW,
I'm not Covert, and am certainly less of a '97 fan than he is. But even if you're a fan of the vintage, I'd be extremely cautious about any deals on '97s now. Even wines that were relative successes suck if they've been sitting in warm warehouses for 4-6 years. For instance, Chateaux & Estates dumped a load of '97s (as well as a some '96s, especially rightbank, and leftbank '98s) last year. 50% off is no deal if the wine is compromised.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Robin Garr » Fri May 19, 2006 5:17 pm

Dale Williams wrote:I'd be extremely cautious about any deals on '97s now. Even wines that were relative successes suck if they've been sitting in warm warehouses for 4-6 years. For instance, Chateaux & Estates dumped a load of '97s (as well as a some '96s, especially rightbank, and leftbank '98s) last year. 50% off is no deal if the wine is compromised.


Fair warning, Dale, although for the record, I picked up a 1997 from a little-known producer the other day, on sale for about 20 bucks, and I was just delighted with it: <b>Chateau Bellegrave-Van Der Voort 1997 Pauillac</b>, imported by Bercut-Vandervoort Co. in San Francisco, which I assume must have some kind of association with the property. It was awfully mature for a 9-year-old, but the maturity showed itself as nice tertiary earthiness, not maderization, and there was plenty of fruit left. Was 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by OW Holmes » Fri May 19, 2006 5:54 pm

Dale, I was under the impression, obviously without justification, that wine warehouses were generally climate controlled, and that most wine purchased from such warehouses would be in the same kind of shape it would have been in if stored in my temp controlled celler. So THANKS for the warning. I occasionally get offered deals like this, and have usually been able to sample before buying a case, but not always. I won't by ANY without sampling first.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Dale Williams » Fri May 19, 2006 9:26 pm

Robin,
I certainly wasn't implying that was the case for all '97s. Never heard of this chateau (or importer), sounds intriguing.

OW Holmes wrote:Dale, I was under the impression, obviously without justification, that wine warehouses were generally climate controlled, and that most wine purchased from such warehouses would be in the same kind of shape it would have been in if stored in my temp controlled celler. So THANKS for the warning. I occasionally get offered deals like this, and have usually been able to sample before buying a case, but not always. I won't by ANY without sampling first.


OW,
My comments were just based on my tasting experiences and some discussions with people in the business. In the case of C & E, certainly large amounts of many less-hyped wines appeared on the market last year in Northeast. I tasted several ('97 Pavie-Macquin, '96 de Sales, '97 & '98 Gloria, etc) where I had the same wine cellared- in each case the new releases were way more mature than the cellared versions. I still have some '97 Pavie-Macquin I bought at release from local, the $25 bottles I got in NJ were served (after I tried 2 bottles) at a party for people who don't care about wine. Because after tasting the $25 ones I wished I had bought more of the $40 ones instead.

An ITB friend said that C & E had limited good storage, and used it for the "prime" wines. The lesser growth that were under-90 pointers went into general warehouses.

My impression (please if Hoke, JBL, or someone else in business wants to correct me do so) is that most distributor storage falls into 4 general categories:

"Quonset hut": no temp control. Only for the most marginal distributor, or for wines that can't be hurt (E & J "Port", T-bird, Silver Oak, Almaden jugs, etc).

General warehouse- your typical megafacility. Big exhaust fans & maybe AC unit set to kick in at 85-88 keep it from popping corks out of bottles.
Used mostly for wines that are low-end and high-volume (so they go in and out) and liquors.

Wine warehouse: ACed. Summer temps probably set at 75 or so. So probably a summer range of 72-78 depending on where your wine is stacked. Used for majority of premium and ultrapremium wines.

Cellar: 65 or below. Intended for most cellarable and high-end wine.

These are my opinions and understandings, I'd be happy to be corrected.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Robin Garr » Fri May 19, 2006 10:43 pm

Dale Williams wrote:I certainly wasn't implying that was the case for all '97s. Never heard of this chateau (or importer), sounds intriguing.


And I in turn didn't mean to imply that you were so implying, Dale. ;-)

I was just offering another, possibly contrasting data point. And doing a little victory dance.

I need to dig up and post my notes on that '97. It's probably enough of an outlier (and a rarity) that it wouldn't make sense to feature it in a <i>Wine Advisor</I>, but there's no reason not to share it with the forum.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Covert » Mon May 22, 2006 8:31 pm

Mike, it sounds like we have similar preferences re '78, '79, '83, '01 - and I plan to drink '99s while waiting for the other years to mature.

My wife is turning her nose up on many of the old wines that I purchase, even when I find them acceptable. She refused to drink more than a sip of the '66 Gruaud-Larose that I got to symbolize our 40th Anniversary. It was a little lean and single dimensional. Tannins were more pronounced than the fruit; although some were sweet; I found the wine enjoyable. Ended up drinking it myself while she opted for an inexpensive Merlot-intensive '01.

My wife however loves the great old ones that we occasionally get at the homes of more affluent people than we, such as a 1961 Ducru. I have high hopes for the '83 Talbot that I bought with the 1966 Gruaud-Larose. I am betting that she will love that one, especially if it has a bit of barnyard, which we both love.

Now that summer is almost here, just about any Bordeaux on the deck is fine, so I won't worry so much about my stash until next fall. Thanks for sharing some of your experience. Fun reading.

Covert
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Mark Lipton » Tue May 23, 2006 12:40 pm

Dale Williams wrote:"Quonset hut": no temp control. Only for the most marginal distributor, or for wines that can't be hurt (E & J "Port", T-bird, Silver Oak, Almaden


Dale, that is uncharacteristically uncharitable of you! Surely even a non-fan of SO would notice degradation of the wine after time spent in a quonset hut.

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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Dale Williams » Tue May 23, 2006 2:27 pm

Mark, I just had to throw something in to see who's really reading.
I've no fan of SO, but that's more a function of style and price than overall quality. I'm sure most SO gets decent storage till it gets to retail.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Jenise » Tue May 23, 2006 6:55 pm

Covert said:
I think I remember that Jenise did not find that element, exactly, but didn't care much for the wine, either.


Not me, Cov. I never had the 97; the only LB's I've had in the last three years were 88, 89, and 00--all other people's wines.
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Mike Conner » Thu May 25, 2006 2:00 pm

Walt,

If you have a brief moment or two, I'd love to know where you auction (and/or purchase at retail). You won't have much competition from me as I'm usually always broke since dealing with the house... but, it is one area of my "knowledge" that I have let lapse - who or where are the better auction houses and retailers who carry older Bordeaux today.

You can click on my e-mail link if you don't want to post in the thread.


Covert,

I can understand the feeling some get when it comes to older wines... several in my family just won't get close to some bottles that don't have some overt fruit components, which is often fine with me... I enjoy most of the older bottles I've come across - except those corked or ruined. All those leathery, earthy, even slight bretty flavors are not unwelcome in my glass.

Unfortunately, don't recall that I've ever had the '83 Talbot. '83 Gruaud Larose (made under the same ownership) has been an interesting wine the few times I've had it... even the "least" bottle had interest with light fruit and good complexity. The best had plenty of life left. Don't recall barnyard in any of the bottles opened of the Gruaud, so perhaps the Cordiers updated their processes since their fairly well deserved reputation of the 70s of selling brett-bombs (not all their bottles, but a lot).

Thanks,

Mike
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Re: lamenter: After many a summer dies the '97 Bordeaux

by Covert » Sat May 27, 2006 8:43 am

I'm with you, Mike, on finding almost all the old ones interesting, unless they have not aged naturally and gracefully - meaning generally finding too much oxygen or some heat along the way. On a whim I recently purchased a bottle of 1966 Haut-Bages Averous. It tasted as much like tea than wine, but there was nothing unnaturally wrong with it. My wife nearly spit it out, while I appreciated the old unassuming bottle for having the chutzpah to after all those years still stand up and be counted. As I mentioned, it is our anniversary year, but Lynn is not a poet; the bottle stood for our relationship, but my wife didn't know it. :)

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