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Senior editor James Suckling joined Wine Spectator in 1981 and retired in 2010. As European bureau chief, he was based in Tuscany and tasted the wines of Italy, Bordeaux and Port.
James Suckling

A Midnight Mystery Merlot

Deducing a Right Bank Bordeaux during an unexpected blind tasting

James Suckling
Posted: August 6, 2009

I am not used to tasting blind at midnight, but I had a dinner two nights ago in Florence with a new Tuscan wine producer: Stefano Sincini of Pianirossi. (The reds, which are mostly Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, are very good!) But I promised a friend from Hong Kong that I would stop by his summer house to say goodbye and share a glass, or two, with friends. So after dinner in Firenze, I drove to my friend's house.

To make a long story short, he poured a wine from a decanter and asked me what it was. The other 10 people at the table were also asked. BAM. I said, "Pomerol." The Italians present struggled to even agree it was Tuscan. I added that I thought it was very high in Merlot due to its decadent, chocolate, raspberry and green tobacco character. I thought the vintage was 1996.

"You're right, my friend," our host said.

I was pretty stoked. Midnight tastings are not my best thing, I must admit! However, I had not been drinking much at dinner. I guessed Clinet or Vieux-Château-Certan; both made very good to outstanding 1996s. The vintage is better known for Left Bank wines than Right Bank wines—or wines with high levels of Cabernet Sauvignon.

When my friend said it was Château Le Pin 1996, I almost fell out of my chair. "Wow," I said. "That's way too generous!" Everyone toasted the host.

I thought the midnight Le Pin showed better than when I tasted it in Hong Kong in a big tasting a few years back. I gave it 92 points, non-blind. But midnight is not the perfect time to review a wine!

WineSpectator.com members: Read the retrospective and original blind-tasting reviews, plus get the current auction price, for Château Le Pin 1996 (90 points, $1,208 on release).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more more recently rated Pomerols and our quick list of Top Values among red Bordeaux.

Carlos Agudelo
Tampa,Fl —  August 6, 2009 1:34pm ET
not too long ago, I had a Ch Montelena Zinfandel 1974! You originally rated 92-93 I believe. Well, I was not expecting much. It was delicius! One of the best zins I have ever had(and I love them).Since supposedly zins do not age well, do you have any comments? Thanks.
Chris A Elerick
Orlando, FL —  August 7, 2009 9:08am ET
james- your palate never ceases to amaze! kudos on nailing the vintage. you mention your friend from hong kong often, and what a friend indeed! to pour le pin @ midnight is truly generous.
James Suckling
 —  August 7, 2009 12:16pm ET
Chris. Thanks. But I don't write that often about the wines that I miss, which is probably more often than the ones I get right. Have a good weekend.

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