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

Souvenirs of 1986

Château Cos-d’Estournel St.-Estèphe 1986

Thomas Matthews
Posted: April 30, 2012

Sara and I spent 1986-87 in Ruch, a small winegrowing village in the Bordeaux backwater called Entre-Deux-Mers. When we left, we took three bottles of 1986 red Bordeaux from local producers as souvenirs.

Recently, a good friend from those days came to visit us in Brooklyn. Philippe De Larrard farms a large vineyard in Ruch and works with the local cooperative winery, which his grandfather founded in the 1930s. As a reminder of old times, we pulled those 1986s from my cellar and tasted them together.

As a benchmark, I opened a 1986 Cos-d’Estournel, a second-growth estate from the more prestigious appellation of St.-Estèphe. True to the vintage, it showed a firm structure, with muscular tannins that supported gamy and tobacco notes around a core of black cherry and currant fruit. Not that generous, but deep. I rated it 88 points, non-blind, but suspect other bottles could be better.

The three wines from Ruch all carried the simple Bordeaux AOC. Domaine de Philippon was run by the Bordas family when we were there, but Philippe told us they were no longer bottling their own wine. So our bottle was possibly a sole survivor. Alas, it was corked. But we could still taste notes of cherry and mushroom in the light-bodied wine. It was simple and rustic, and apart from the flaw, it was still alive.

Domaine de Courteillac was the testing ground for Stephan Asseo, who later left Bordeaux and established L’Aventure in Paso Robles (which has earned high scores from Wine Spectator). Asseo was a modernist even then, and his wine was still quite structured, with chewy tannins and deep flavors of cherry, licorice and char.

Château de Vaure is the cooperative’s flagship label, named for the grand residence that is still in Philippe’s family. The wine blends the best grapes from many local growers. This bottle showed a bright ruby color, with pretty floral and sous-bois aromas and light cherry fruit in a supple texture.

"That’s not bad!" Philippe exclaimed, with justified delight. I rated it 85 points, non-blind, for quality, but that drastically underscores its emotional value for all of us as we happily finished the bottle and toasted a long friendship.

Jon Beato
Fairport, NY —  May 30, 2012 10:08am ET
Thomas...I think people really enjoy this part of the site. Why does it take so long between posts?

Thomas Matthews
New York City —  May 30, 2012 12:38pm ET
Jon, thanks for the kind words. We are busy, and sometimes we fall behind. But I enjoy writing them, too, and will try to do so more often!

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