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Scary Old Wines?

Posted: Jan 25, 2008 2:18pm ET

After the UGC tasting in Santa Monica, I went to a dinner and tasting for Les Carmes Haut-Brion at a trendy restaurant called Adobe, put on by Steve Winfield of LiquidLink, an LA –based wine importer. I sat across from Tristan Beamon of The Wine Exchange in Orange, California. He was a cool cat and an obvious lover of wine. Somehow we started talking about old Bordeaux ,and he mentioned how he had recently received 50 cases or so of the 1970 Beau-Séjour-Bécot, the premier grand cru from St.-Emilion. And it was selling for $80 bottle.

Not only did the price seem reasonable for a mature claret (what do you get for $80 bottle these days?), but the wine came straight from the château. So the provenance was perfect. I know the cellars of BB. They are dug deep into chalk caves, and are very cold as well. Even though the 1970 BB is a wine that I originally scored a meager 84 points, I wanted to taste it again. I remember that the score was from a horizontal tasting of 1970 clarets in London, back in the early 1990s, so God only knows where the bottle came from that I tasted then.

Anyway, I stopped in at Beamon’s store on the way to a barbeque at my dad’s house in San Diego and hung with Tristan and Kyle Meyer for about an hour to check the store out and taste the 1970 BB. Check out the video.

The wine was delicious. It showed a ruby garnet color, with mushroom and ripe fruit aromas that turned to blackberry, mineral and leaves. Sweet tobacco, too. Medium body, with silky tannins, the finish became fruitier as it opened with light plum, tobacco, meat and hints of milk chocolate. Balanced and pretty. Round and soft. Really develops nicely. It's more than just alive. It's a beautiful, elegant claret. In this non-blind tasting I gave it 89 points.

I bought a bottle and drank it a few nights later with a beautiful blonde friend from the vintage, and I had to give a one-point boost. Was it the company or a slightly better bottle?

Beamon and Meyer said that the 1970 Beausejour-Becot had been hard to sell so far. People just didn’t seem very interested in mature, elegant, non-big name clarets. Some were even scared of old wine.

Sort of makes you think, doesn’t it? Are a lot of people who are into wine only interested in big, ripe young things? What about something with age, elegance and finesse?

The 1970 Beausejour-Becot that I bought was certainly appreciated a few nights later by my dining companion. I am tempted to buy a few more bottles.

Albert Jochems
The Netherlands —  January 25, 2008 4:33pm ET
Yesterday I had a great chance to test myself on this topic. During lunch I was challenged to nail down two wines blind. Always great fun.

The first a 1977 Emidio Pepe and the second a 2004 Kurni from Oasi Degli Angeli. Both monumental wines. While we had two glases in front of us during lunch, I found myself continuously sipping from the Emidio Pepe. And only occasionally from the Kurni. While I'm equally impressed by both wines, the Emidio Pepe is just more intruiging.

I would say that big, ripe and young is very impressive. Elegance and finesse (and still big!) is intruiging. Yesterday, during lunch, I was simply captivated by this finesse, elegance and complexity of the Emidio Pepe. Perhaps tomorrow by the breathtaking palate-gripping Kurni!
Michael Tracy
trabuco canyon CA —  January 25, 2008 6:01pm ET
Wow James,Sounds like you scored a double-double!That's when both the wine and the woman exceed 90 points on the same nite!!!
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 25, 2008 6:11pm ET
Those folks at Wine Exchange have probably got 30% of my business. They run a great online shop and they know their customer base. Kudos to them!
costa mesa, ca —  January 25, 2008 6:21pm ET
Thanks for the article, James. I was in Wine Exchange a week prior inquiring about that wine. They said Parker scored it somwhere in the low to mid 60's! Apparently he must have felt it was severely flawed when he originally tasted it. Maybe that's what scaring some people, too.

Anyways it appears this wine got a bad wrap. I'll have to pick some up. What did you think of the rest of the store? I'm always impressed with their selection, pricing, and service. Wine exchange is a class act.
Christian Fox
Redding, CT —  January 26, 2008 3:23pm ET
Thanks, James! 1970 is my birth-year vintage, and I'm always on the look out for 1970 bords with good provenance. I've already ordered 6 btls from the Wine Exchange. One question, how many years left in this wine?
James Suckling
 —  January 27, 2008 1:13am ET
It will stay the same for awhile under good storage conditions. But it is a wine to enjoy now. Decant it and drink it. It's a refined, elegant claret, almost Burgundian in style. Let me know how you like it.
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  January 27, 2008 3:00am ET
I don't know Tristan, but Kyle's got a great palate! Great store. Thanks for the heads-up!
Kevin Andrews
houston —  January 27, 2008 9:50am ET
James-Thanks for another very interesting blog. When you rate a wine, I assume you must project the wine forward to how it will perform at its peak. This has to be difficult at best versus actually tasting and rating the wine at its peak.I haven't read much about this process and about how experts opinions change over time on their wine ratings. Have you ever written about this? It must be a real pleasure for you to taste wines at their peak versus all the immature wines that you must try each year.Kevin
B Vedaa
January 27, 2008 1:02pm ET
Kevin, here's an article that might interest you. It's James Laube's retrospective review on 97cabs.http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Features/Premium/0,1197,4202,00.html
Kevin Andrews
houston —  January 27, 2008 9:54pm ET
Thanks B, Laube's blog was right on topic.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  January 28, 2008 9:27am ET
hi james, john told me that you will be around.do you have a date to set up something?regards!ludovic
Steven Balavender
Tampa, Fl —  January 28, 2008 10:06am ET
Great to hear that story James. I picked up some 88 BS from Wine Library for $69 just a couple months ago and it was fantastic. After the first bottle I immediately placed an order for more. As far as selling i noticed the same thing with it, they sold it quite slowly....think people were also afraid. Parker I know according to his TN's considered the 88 over the hill...something that that 88 proved very wrong. The 88 also came direct from BS's cellars and the wine was recorked in 04. The cork would say 1988 on the side but if you looked on the bottom it would have an 2004 on it. Was this wine also recorked?
James Suckling
 —  January 28, 2008 10:31am ET
Ludovic. Friday, February 1, Playa del Carmen at John's restaurant. Do you want to do a Mexican wine tasting for me? Some cool stuff. I will do a video for my blog.
James Suckling
 —  January 28, 2008 10:32am ET
Steven. Cool story. The 1970 was original cork.
Robert Kim
Las Vegas, Nevada —  January 28, 2008 11:39am ET
Steven,I sounded like it was not re-corked and maintained at the Chateau all this time. Since it is my birth year, I will need to buy a couple and see what it is about.Rob
James Suckling
 —  January 28, 2008 3:10pm ET
Steven. Cool story. The 1970 was original cork.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  January 28, 2008 5:59pm ET
james, i will see you at johns place with a mexican wine producer, new wave style that you will love!!!!see you under the sun of the mayan riviera!saludos ludovic
Matt Burnett
February 13, 2008 1:58pm ET
Oh, I think the wine buyers are into the same thing you are....young, juicy choices with a great body. They like theirs red, while you seem to enjoy yours blonde.
James Suckling
 —  February 13, 2008 5:33pm ET
So right...
Quek Li Fei
Singapore —  February 20, 2008 6:59pm ET
A store in singapore is carrying some bottles of 1975 Beau-Sejour Becot sourced directly from the Ch. Has anyone tasted this vintage recently? Mr Parker rates this 75 points (last tasted in 1984) and over the hill now. At S$150 per bottle, I'm wondering if it's worth the risk of getting one bottle to try getting a glass of "age, elegance and finesse"?
Michael Brenner
Oregon —  March 2, 2008 3:47pm ET
James-2005 BordeauxHave you reviewed Chateau Saint-Georges Trilogie 2005. Thanks Mike
Tim Hansen
Milwaukee, WI —  April 29, 2008 4:44pm ET
James - I split a six pack of 1970 Beausejour-Becot with a good friend. When the bottle shock phase passes we will open it with dinner and the wives and give you a full report. Any thoughts on what to eat with it? Thanks for the tip!

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