Blue-moon territory: the chance to taste all of the Bordeaux First Growths, plus Pavie, Angélus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Petrus, at 20 years old. With Yquem thrown in for luck. Twice in two days. In two southern Chinese cities: Shenzhen and Nanning. My thanks to trilingual China-based educator Julien Boulard of Zhulian Wines and his team for this singular opportunity.
The vintage was 1998: a ‘right-bank vintage’ by reputation. Why? Essentially because there were a couple of bouts of heavy rain on September 29th and October 1st, before some of the Cabernets were fully ripe. I chatted to Bordeaux négociant Jeffrey Davies about the vintage before leaving for China, though, and he told me that both banks now have a very fair reputation among Bordeaux insiders. Our tasting justified that view: the Médoc wines varied, but both Lafite and Haut-Brion were outstandingly good, and neither Margaux nor Mouton disappointed. August 1998, remember, was hot, and it’s August which lays the foundations of every Bordeaux vintage. In this case, they’re sound. Ripeness is ample.
Prices mean that these wines which are beyond almost all of us, except for rare occasions of this sort. My aim, therefore, is to ‘talk around’ each property rather than write tasting notes per se, based on this glimpse of each at the two-decade point, and at a certain point during their long evolutionary trajectories. The order is that in which we tasted the wines: left-bank this week, and the right-bank next. The quality of the bottles, by the way, was outstanding: excellent fills, no tca issues, and nothing to suggest that any of the wines had suffered from excessive heat in transit or storage. All had been purchased in retail in Hong Kong shortly before the tasting – a testament to the professionalism of today’s Hong Kong wine trade.
Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦
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