I had lunch with a friend in Tuscany last week who is also a big-time wine trader in blue chip Bordeaux, and he brought a magnum of 1976 Cheval Blanc to lunch. We had this after a couple of gorgeous bottles of 1996 Barolos including a Roberto Voerzio Brunate and Pio Cesare Ornato with about a dozen or so people including a couple of wine producers. The two wines were drinking beautifully, showing plenty of licorice and raspberry character, and firm yet refined tannins. They were wines with a long life ahead of them, but were just starting to come around. I gave them both 94 points, non-blind.
The Cheval Blanc was served blind and, admittedly, I did not think it was Cheval Blanc. I thought it was an “older” Bordeaux from the 1970s, mostly likely 1970. The wine was very beautiful at first, with lots of delicate toffee, berry and cedar aromas and flavors and a medium-bodied palate. The acidity was quite high. It faded quickly in the glass. I gave it 88 points. Some people at the lunch thought it was over the hill, but I think they were not used to drinking very mature wines.
When we found out it was Cheval Blanc, the response of the lunch group was mixed. Some thought it was really a good wine and others were shocked how tired it was. That’s wine, I thought to myself.
The big shocker was that the wine merchant paid 200 Euros for the magnum, direct from Bordeaux negociants. That seems pretty fair to me, especially when you consider that a magnum of the 2006 Cheval would be four times that!
A couple of Italian wine producers at the table were asking me how a wine 31 years old could cost so much less than one that is still in barrel, and I just couldn’t explain it to them in a clear manner – especially in Italian.
Their main point was that even though the 2006 Cheval Blanc will be a better wine one day, is it already worth four times the price of the 1976?
I just shook my head and asked them if they wanted another glass of one of the Barolos ...
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