I was lucky enough to drink two first-growths in the last 24 hours – 1996 Lafite and 1982 Latour. The first bottle was the last one in my cellar, and I had a blowout dinner at home for some friends from Bordeaux and a number of Tuscan wine producers. We tasted a range of 2005 Bordeaux and Tuscans, as well as a number of other wines. It was fun to compare the wines. I will tell you about it tomorrow.
I wanted to spoil my friends, so I found the bottle of 1996 Lafite in a rack and pulled the cork and decanted it. It was disappointing. I had it in Miami a few weeks ago and it was superb. My bottle was sort of funky with a bretty or animal undertone. I guess it would have been a great wine if it had been a Châteauneuf. But first-growth claret? I was bummed. Bad bottle.
Then at lunch today at the Chianti Classico producer Querciabella, we drank a bottle of 1982 Latour. I have had this numerous times in the last year, and it’s always been a rich and powerful wine with a glorious core of ripe fruit. Today, it was a bit in reserve and showed an earthy, funkadelic aroma under the rich fruit. The palate was as rich and powerful as always, but I just couldn’t get excited about the bottle with that nose.
Of course, one lesson is that it’s always better to decant these wines in advance. I would say a minimum of two hours for both. But sometimes you are in a hurry. It was already close to midnight for the Lafite! I didn’t want the bottle to turn into a pumpkin. The Latour was also straight from the cellar and quickly decanted.
But the two experiences also made me think that, considering the lofty reputations of the wines, and their incredibly high prices, perhaps expectations are too high on first-growths and other rarified bottles? Are most people bound to be disappointed after paying thousands of dollars for a bottle of first-growth, cult California and other mega-buck bottles?
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