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Gloating about trophy wines

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Just as calibration for the unwary readers of Malcom Gladwell, et al., the guys at my lunch a few weeks ago who guessed respectively '59 Margaux and '59 Palmer for a blind pour of '59 Beychevelle did not really require the extra hint that they were in reds. Neither of them in the trade. But they were in '59 in their first guess, and in the neighborhood for their second. And this is not a good guess from my cellar, I don't have a lot of Bordeaux.

 

People who actually know anything about wine do not regularly struggle with this question, nor do they think it is interesting or revealing about wine. This would be more the province of the Daily Mail, or occasionally the New Yorker.

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In the wilds of Newfoundland, we are reduced to '94 Roche aux Moines (a BYO bottle, of course). My heart and liver both bleed for the poor oppressed inhabitants of this island, who need to rise up and exterminate their miserable liquor monopoly. I haven't seen such terrible, and hideously expensive, stuff in my life.

 

We brought the better part of a case to see us through, and I only wish there were a way to BYO in restaurants.

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Someone gave me a bottle of 70 Beychevelle the other day which I haven't drunk yet -- to be honest I don't have high hopes.

 

 

How was the 59?

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Well, it was probably at its best 20 years ago.

I don't have a lot of time for dead claret,

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'70 Beychevelle should be great, and has been, in the last 2 years for me. The '59 was spectacular.

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so if I'm offered an older Bdx - what are the odds it isn't a 70 or a 59?

 

The question I'm getting at is "if this tastes older than a 70, it is probably a 59" I just can't believe people can blind guess vintage? Can totally believe people can blind guess region and relative age.

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so if I'm offered an older Bdx - what are the odds it isn't a 70 or a 59?

 

The question I'm getting at is "if this tastes older than a 70, it is probably a 59" I just can't believe people can blind guess vintage? Can totally believe people can blind guess region and relative age.

From the period between, it could be '62, '64, '66, and most of all '61. Once you know you're in Bordeaux, of course. But sure, a '68 would be a different beast.

 

'59s have a richness without the harder tannin of '61. But you have to be sure it isn't '55.

 

I have seen the trick done often enough, and have even done it myself on occasion. You have to have tried enough of the wines. It helped to have started a while ago when they were cheaper.

 

You don't always get the vintage on the first guess--I have guessed '59 when the real answer was '55, but that was my second guess.

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is a '79 beychevelle anything special? i hope not. i had several bottles, but recently discovered that my mom moved one bottle that i had left behind, in a safe place in the cool basement, to a plastic tub, next to a radiator in her attic. she thought it would be safer there during the winter.

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is a '79 beychevelle anything special? i hope not. i had several bottles, but recently discovered that my mom moved one bottle that i had left behind, in a safe place in the cool basement, to a plastic tub, next to a radiator in her attic. she thought it would be safer there during the winter.

A sad tale.

 

'79s are nearing the end of their days. First growths still good, but when you go down the ladder a bit, they are fading. I would open it soon and have a backup bottle.

 

I have enjoyed a lot of wines from the vintage, but they were always on the lighter side.'81s not dissimilar.

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so if I'm offered an older Bdx - what are the odds it isn't a 70 or a 59?

 

The question I'm getting at is "if this tastes older than a 70, it is probably a 59" I just can't believe people can blind guess vintage? Can totally believe people can blind guess region and relative age.

But the sort of subtraction you suggest is definitely part of the game.

 

I was tasting with a group of ITB folk once at Francois Pinon's stand at the Salon des Vins. I think it might have been 2002, IIRC he was pouring us 2001s. Your vintage chart will not call out 2001 as a famous Vouvray vintage, but Francois wanted to make the excellent point that it was still a vintage that could age interestingly. He poured us a demi-sec wine and said, "This is from a vintage somewhat similar to 2001."

 

People started guessing bullshit, but I could tell it was a wine much as you say, older than '71, but not as old as '59 or earlier famous vintages, and it wasn't as rich as a '61 or a '62 would have been. 1964 happens to be a Vouvray vintage with good late summer weather until the harvest was caught by the rains, much like 2001.But a good enough vintage to keep some (you find them in the market). Francois' wine had good underlying fruit, but was a little bit dilute. So I called '64 and won the cork, which sits on a shelf in my dining room.

 

Information about what it *could* be definitely enters into things, and bracketing and so on are part of it.

 

Space does not permit me to enumerate my frequent humiliations at this, only my famous successes. But Malcom Gladwell, et al., need to get out more.

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so really its not "Tasting a '64", its tasting "good fruit, but watered down like it rained at harvest; old" and then you go down your mental checklist and look for a vintage where the weather fits that description, and is about the same age as you tasted.

 

Sounds like a more viable model than just tasting everything and remembering it. Its like Barra for wine.

 

(I hope no one gets that joke. Its terrible and I'm embarrassed by it)

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People who actually know anything about wine do not regularly struggle with this question, nor do they think it is interesting or revealing about wine. This would be more the province of the Daily Mail, or occasionally the New Yorker.

 

Right. Of course it's not difficult to construct deliberately misleading tastings, or to trick people, and I've seen amazing mistakes made by experienced tasters (not to mention, I've made some amazing mistakes myself).

 

But this is against the background of experienced tasters picking wines, regions, makers, and bottle age with fairly consistent success, in blind tastings not designed to mislead.

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so really its not "Tasting a '64", its tasting "good fruit, but watered down like it rained at harvest; old" and then you go down your mental checklist and look for a vintage where the weather fits that description, and is about the same age as you tasted.

 

Sounds like a more viable model than just tasting everything and remembering it. Its like Barra for wine.

 

(I hope no one gets that joke. Its terrible and I'm embarrassed by it)

The joke passes me by.

 

Anyhow, I'd never had the wine. I'd had Huet fizz from that vintage multiple times, but I think nothing else. Deduction.

 

Stone cold recognition of a wine you've had before is of course the easiest model of all, but you don't always get that opportunity.

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