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Right Bank Supernova

Posted: Apr 24, 2007 12:58pm ET

I was lucky enough to drink -- not taste -- a number of other impressive wines during my 2006 barrel tasting marathon in Bordeaux about a month ago, besides the 1961 L’Église-Clinet that I blogged about yesterday.

Two of the wines that left a real impression were a 1950 La Fleur-Pétrus and 1950 Canon-La Gaffelière. Both the wines were not very dark-colored, but they showed relatively youthful ruby garnet hues. They could have been wines from the 1970s, or even early 1980s. They were both very rich on the nose, almost Port-like, with lots of decadent fruit, olives and brown sugar undertones. Their palates were medium to full-bodied with velvety tannins and a layered, caressing mouth feel. They were old yet vibrant, with lots of sex appeal. Raquel Welch comes to mind ... don’t know why. I slightly preferred the LFP to the CLG, 95 points (non-blind) for the former and 92 for the latter.

Anyway, for those who don’t know, 1950 was a truly great year for the Right Bank. I have had many wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion from that year over my career, and I really can’t think of a bad one. I can think of a couple that didn’t taste real, but I cannot think of a weak bottle. The vintage was amazing, hot and very sunny and it produced very concentrated and ripe grapes. I think that rain arrived at the later part of the harvest, so the Left Bank was less successful.

This is exactly what also happened in 1998 in Bordeaux. And I still believe that 1998 is one of THE great years for Right Bankers. It was a hot and sunny growing season in 1998, but the rains came just on the last days of September and wine producers saw little sun afterwards. Most of the top producers on the Right Bank and Pessac-Leognan harvested most of their crop without a drop of rain. The same couldn’t be said for the Left Bank.

Let me see if I can dig up the notes on a tasting I did of Right Bank 1998s about a year and a half ago ...

Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  April 24, 2007 4:44pm ET
Nice notes James: actually I'm curious... some people refer to "port notes" as bad. "Maderized" always seem to be used in a negative context. But the last two postings you had, you seem to put port notes in a good light (as do I). Was wondering what your take on this is?
Frank L Hugus
Danville, California —  April 24, 2007 9:50pm ET
Please elaborate upon your distinction between tasting and drinking wine. At what point does the "tasting" end without actually drinking and how much of what you determine about a particular wine can be graded without going the final step? Thank you.
James Suckling
 —  April 25, 2007 7:31am ET
I wrote a book about Vintage Port, as you know. So I usually mean that something is very good when I say an old wine is Port-like."
James Suckling
 —  April 25, 2007 7:35am ET
I hadn't thought about it. I guess tasting and spitting is one thing and tasting and drinking is another. The later is more enjoyable, especially with great wines!

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