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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

An Old Friend from Bordeaux

Château Tour Haut-Caussan Médoc 1988

Thomas Matthews
Posted: July 8, 2009

One of the glories of wine is its ability to knit past and present together in the glass.

After Vinexpo, the Bordeaux wine trade fair, I spent a relaxing weekend with Philippe Delarrard, a vintner in Entre-Deux-Mers who became a friend when I lived nearby, back in 1986. He opened a wine that revived an even older acquaintance.

In 1980, vagabonding around Bordeaux, I was befriended by Philippe Courrian, who was turning his family property, Château Tour Haut-Caussan, into one of the Médoc's most exciting small estates. Courrian was a young Turk with big ambitions, and his Merlot-based wine rivaled such prestigious neighbors as Loudenne, Tour-de-By and La Cardonne.

In the late 1980s, I introduced the two Philippes, and Delarrard began buying Courrian's wine. This past weekend, to match a beautiful array of French cheeses, Delarrard poured a 1988 Tour Haut-Caussan.

It was lovely. Clearly mature, it had the faded, complex color of dusty old bricks, and there was a stony, sun-drenched quality to the flavors, too, with mineral, tobacco and dried fruit notes that rode still-firm tannins onto a long, sweet finish. We sat on the terrace, watching the sun set over Philippe's vines, and marveled at the way the old wine gently tugged the past into the peaceful present.

I rated this bottle 90 points, non-blind. Checking the original review later, I wondered whether it had been based on a poor sample, or if the wine simply needed time to make its case, or if my assessment was based as much on its emotional message as its innate quality. In the end, though, what mattered most were the memories.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated red Bordeaux.

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