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james suckling uncorked

Lafleur Is the Real Deal


Posted: Nov 19, 2006 10:50pm ET

Fake wines came up yet again in conversation during a Lafleur tasting, this time on Saturday in New York City. It was sort of a shame considering it was one of the most impressive dinner tastings I had encountered in my career. Wine merchants Jon Rimmerman of Garagiste and Andy Lench of Bordeaux Wine Locators organized the event. Moreover, the owners of Lafleur, Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau, came over for it. And we tasted some of the greatest wines the Pomerol estate has ever produced such as the 2005, 2000, 1989, 1982, 1950, and 1947, along with amazing food from Per Se. Yet a big question mark came at the end of the mega-course meal when the 1950 and 1947 arrived at the table and were tasted. (I should say drunk.)

As I joked to the small crowd, I wasn’t sure whether I should order a glass of Champagne and mix it to make a Kir Royale or drink the incredibly concentrated 1950. It was decanted about an hour before the dinner and the wine was incredibly vibrant with a Kir, raspberry and strawberry jam character both on the nose and the palate. It was the essence of fruit and so, so youthful. My jaw was opened in amazement in between sips.

I must admit that I had my doubts. How could it be so incredibly young? I swear it tasted like a New World red with about 10 years of age and a good dose of crème de cassis. It was so ripe and concentrated. I heard a few grumblings from others in the room about how it just didn’t seem real.

But then I began to think about the same wine I had from bottle two weekends back in Los Angeles at a Lafleur tasting organized by wine collector Bipin Desai. The 1950 at that tasting, which was in bottle, and been decanted four hours in advance. It had much of the same jammy, Port-like character as the magnum in New York, but seemed less flashy and fresh. Incidentally, Jon saved part of his glass until the end of the meal and it was even more like the 1950 in L.A. In addition, I looked at the other times I tasted the 1950 as well as other Wine Spectator editors' notes in the magazine's tasting database. That jam, Kir, pure fruit character was always mentioned. Plus, the cork was the real deal--branded, old, compressed and almost woody.

So is it a fake? The evidence says otherwise. The Guinaudeaus had never tasted it before, but they were impressed. And it certainly showed the wild, ripe and exotic character of Lafleur in a hot, ultraripe year. The 1982 shows the same, although it is less flamboyant and open at the moment. I will have to try it in three decades and see … God willing and if I am lucky enough to taste it in magnum then.

I am not going to let this tarnish one of the great wine experiences of my life. And all said and done, it was an amazing bottle. But it still makes you think: This fake wine problem has me worried. Maybe I am obsessing?

Regardless, Lafleur is one of the world’s great wine estates making extraordinary reds from a unique place and a special family. Stay tuned for a full report in the magazine on the two Lafleur tastings and a visit to the estate.

My Vino Today

I am going to start posting a regular tasting note on something that I have recently tasted, which is not official for the magazine and not necessarily from a blind tasting. Just something interesting that I've tried on the road or at home, perhaps something that was already been rated in the magazine earlier. So here goes:

2001 Lafleur: Lovely sweet fruit with ultrafine tannins. Berry, chocolate, plum and tobacco. Full and long. Pure silk. Just coming around. And this sells for a fraction of the cost of top vintages of Lafleur. I liked it better than the 1990! It's about $300 a bottle compared to $2,000 for the 2000. Wow. 93.

Mitch Frank
Brooklyn —  November 20, 2006 1:46pm ET
James,

After talking with you about counterfeit wines and doing some research, I can sympathize. The paranoia has hit me too.

Catherine and I went out Saturday night to a nice neighborhood bistro. Ordered a 2003 Rasteau from a decent producer. Bottle looked fine, wine tasted good. No complaints. Then I look at the cork: same producer, 2003, Gigondas.

Now, no one would substitute a Rasteau label for a Gigondas. And it tasted more like a Rasteau, so it was probably just a case of the wrong cork. But as you note, it is almost impossible to be sure that what you're drinking is what you wanted.

Cheers - Mitch
William Molson
montreal, quebec —  November 20, 2006 3:31pm ET
I attended an amazing lunch/tasting of top right bank wines ( Petrus,Clinet, Evangile, Lafleur, Lafleur /Petrus ) in magnum from 1947 and 1961 at Daniels in dec 05. A guest brought a magnum of the 1950 Lafleur. It was the wine of the lunch in my opinion, ana amazing wine. As above it was incredibly youthful. For me what came to mind and really stood out was the texture of the wine and how incredibly fresh it was, very much as described above.

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