Reliving a TCA Moment
I had a 1989 Ducru-Beaucaillou last week for dinner with a friend, and it wasn’t very good. I had asked her to go down to my cellar and pick out something to drink and she came up with the bottle of the 1989 Ducru. She is new to Bordeaux wines, so she had no idea that the 1989 Ducru is infamous, along with the 1988 and 1990. I probably would have never drunk it if she hadn’t brought it up.
The wine is notorious for its slightly ‘corky,' papery or TCA character, along with most other Ducrus from about 1988 until 1994. The second-growth estate had a TCA taint problem in its cellars, which were completely replaced and renovated by the 1995 vintage. The fact that the 1995 was Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 1998 only proves that this problem can be solved quickly. And Ducru continues to make outstanding wines in almost every vintage. Hats off to Bruno Borie, the dedicated owner of the second-growth St.-Julien.
But it was interesting how the 1989 Ducru was not that bad to drink at first. I opened it, decanted it and then quickly poured it into Riedel Grand Cru glasses. The wine had a lovely currant and milk chocolate character at first, but after a few minutes it quickly turned to wet cardboard and had a disjointed palate. There was no finish. The fruit was amazing on the mid-palate but it just couldn’t get out from under the bitter, TCA character.
Quel dommage! What a shame!!
The experience also made me think of a dinner I went to 10 years ago, or so, in Paris at the Michelin three-starred (and Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning) restaurant Taillevent. There was a number of spirits industry leaders there. I walked into the dining room to see the 1988 Ducru was sitting on the table. I was sort of embarrassed for them. I knew we were in for a bad night of wine drinking. But being polite, I didn’t say anything. No one at the dinner said anything. And I am sure that most people still enjoyed the wine with their three-star meal – TCA and all.
I think experiences like that happen everyday in restaurants and homes around the world. That’s the real dommage ...