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A Ten, or 100-point Burgundy

Posted: Dec 14, 2006 5:23am ET

What is it about drinking great Burgundy? When it is right, it is so right. It takes your breath away. It’s sensual pleasure in a bottle. OK. I will say it. It’s almost like great sex.

I had a 100-point red Burgundy last night with Henry Tang and a dozen or so others here in Hong Kong during dinner. It came from Henry’s cellar, as did the other wines served. It was the 1985 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanée Les Brûlées. I am still thinking about how the wine tasted last night. It was so rich and velvety with decadent, spicy and fruity aromas and flavors. It caressed and tickled every inch of my palate. Earthy, strawberry and floral characters—my mouth is watering as I write this. I miss that wine!

Interestingly, the Vosne-Romanée Les Brûlées was better than the 1985 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux that followed. Both reds were from magnums. It’s pretty much accepted wisdom that the Cros Parantoux is better than the Brûlées, but last night it was clearly not the case. I gave it 94 points. We also had a couple of bottles of the 1985 Marquis d'Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs, which was outstanding. In fact, I thought that it still needed time. It was superripe and racy, with lots of blackberry and light spice character. It was still slightly overly tannic and disjointed, but I gave it 92 points in this non-blind tasting.

I went back and read some stories today on the late great winemaker, Henri Jayer. And he was quite the character. I remember meeting him a few times in the 1980s and he was always a man of few words—at least with me and a few English wine friends from Paris. He seemed sort of suspicious of foreigners at the time. Nonetheless, his wines were always amazing, even from barrel. It’s hard to believe how much they cost now. I think the 1985 magnums we drank last night were worth a small fortune.

A couple of E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Moulines followed, no less than the 1978 and 1976. I notice our database has the former at 55 points and the later at 87 points. What? Yikes. Bad bottles. The ones I had last night were stunning. They both had glorious aromas of meat, berry and spice. They were soft and velvety with generous fruit. I gave the former 98 points and the latter 96. They were identical in character, but the 1978 was a little more intense. It was like listening to the same song on the hi-fi but one was played at a slightly higher volume.

I forgot to mention the wines before, and the non-blind scores I gave them: magnum of 1986 Trimbach Riesling Alsace Clos Ste.-Hune (93 points), magnum of 1986 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet (96), bottles of 1986 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche (93), magnum of 1959 Margaux (95) and magnum of 1949 Calon-Ségur (93).

I presume all the wines were purchased when they were first released on the market, and they have been in Henry’s cellar ever since. This is why they were all in perfect condition ... and it’s why it was a perfect evening, company included.

I’ll try to post some of the notes in our Forums.

Brad Coelho
New York City —  December 14, 2006 9:42am ET
You spoiled, spoiled man ;) Tough to be James Suckling these days, but alas, we vicariously live each sip through you thanks to the internet!Kudos to you for wearing your passion for great wine on your sleeve as it comes out in your writing beautifully. The holy grail quest for another great bottle is all the more worth it because of that passion, and thanks for not letting us forget it. Bravo!
Carlos Omana
Caracas, Venezuela —  December 14, 2006 10:14am ET
The 1978 and 1976 Guigal Cote-Rotie La Moulines are rated 100 by WA.
Tony Tam
December 14, 2006 10:20am ET
So, James. What kind of food did you have with the Burgundy?
David Nerland
Scottsdale —  December 14, 2006 1:20pm ET
What no cigars to finish the perfect evening?
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  December 14, 2006 2:50pm ET
Would the wines have rated as high in a blind tasting, without the hoopla and hype?
James Suckling
 —  December 14, 2006 3:03pm ET
John: Don't know. And I probably will never find out unless you know someone willing to do a blind tasting with old Jayers like that! They were great wines. They are legends from a top Burgundy vintage.
James Suckling
 —  December 14, 2006 3:04pm ET
David: Trinidad Fundadores. And Tony: It was a mixture of Chinese and Western.
Berry Crawford
December 18, 2006 12:03pm ET
"It¿s pretty much accepted wisdom that the Cros Parantoux is better than the Br¿l¿, but last night it was clearly not the case. I gave it 94 points."

Honestly I can't imagin having to think in terms of point ratings while enjoying wines with friends.

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