Archives de catégorie : vins et vignerons

Dinner by Chinois on Main with the « young » Yquem samedi, 3 novembre 2007

The bottles for the tasting.

 Apparently, Buddha accepts this present.



The welcoming champagne is Charles Ellner in Epernay. One great Yquem (see report).


Two legends (especially on the right).


This pie was not adapted to "young" Yquem with light colours.


The prawns were largely better with more mature Yquem.

Cheval Blanc by Chinois on Maine samedi, 3 novembre 2007

The main entrance on Maine Street. The room prepared for our tasting. Note the wall full of orchids.


The welcoming champagne is an Egly-Ouriet. The glasses are filled.


Some bottles ready to be poured in the glasses.


Myself, Pierre Lurton President of Yquem and Cheval Blanc, John Kapon, managing director of Acher Merral, an auction house, and a great palate, used to the best.


Some very nice wines.


A nice cook, but sometimes too spicy.


It shows that I was there !!!

Cheval Blanc by Chinois on Maine – 2 samedi, 3 novembre 2007

To see Serena Suttcliffe addressing the audience near these two birds is a coincidence. But her lovely scarf fitting wonderfully with the orchids is remarkable.


A wonderful 1948 and one of the 1947.


The two 1945. I prefer largely the bottle on the right.


The service of the wines. Cheval Blanc 1949.

The cork of the 1921 raised questions. As the recorking date was printed on both ends of the cork, we have judged that the bottle was a true one.


One typical dish of Chinois, and one 1947, probably the one which was not used.


Two views of the 1947 which was the best. Read the reports, on a message of the same day.

Tasting notes of the Cheval Blanc verticale by a great palate samedi, 3 novembre 2007

Tasting of Cheval Blanc in Los Angeles – report of John Kapon, head of Acker Merrall auction house.

John makes remarkable notes on wine tastings and is one of the references in tasting of old wines. Notes can be found on his web site.

The stars were once again aligned for a spectacular weekend in Los Angeles, orchestrated by none other than Dr. Bipin Desai. While the BCS standings may have been on many people’s minds heading into early November, it was the BCW (Bipin Cheval Weekend) that was on the collective collectors’ minds of those fortunate enough to get a seat at this sold out event. Bipin has become renowned for his wondrous wine weekends that he holds periodically in Los Angeles, as well as Bordeaux, Paris and other parts of the globe occasionally. This weekend brought Bordeaux to Los Angeles, along with Pierre Lurton, managing director of Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem. He was on hand to guide us through 35 vintages of Cheval Blanc, St. Emilion’s most collectible wine, and this weekend would prove that claim to be deservedly so.

Most of the wines came directly from the Chateau, which is a rarity when it comes to older wines. In fact, demand has been so great in Bordeaux at the top Chateaux that one could say it is becoming a rarity for younger wines as well! But to find wines seventy years or so old from the Chateau is very rare and a testament to the library at Cheval Blanc. Even though Bipin had two bottles of every wine for this event, he told me that the demand for this event was one of the most extraordinary that he has ever seen, and he has done hundreds of these wine weekends. He actually had to turn people away, as much as that pained him.

As usual, it was Friday night, and I had just stepped off a plane in time for dinner. I smelled all the wines first for each flight. I was feeling a bit under the weather, though the wines of Cheval Blanc quickly brought good feelings back.

We started with the 1988, whose nose was fabulous, again, since the last time I had had this wine was with Pierre himself at Cheval Blanc. This bottle also had great aromas of sweet red fruits, green and black olives, cherry, nut and a touch of cola. The palate was red and rusty with nice tannins and alcohol. The 1988 is in a great spot right now, and Michael Twelfthtree, famous Australian winemaker, was also loving it, and James Suckling admired, its ‘really fresh quality and licorice’ (93).

The 1985 was a bit milky in the nose, with lots of bell pepper up front. There was earth and beef behind it and very subtle red fruits. It opened up more to reveal brooding and deep t n’a. The palate was really big, chunky and muscular, with black olive and black fruit flavors. It was a big wine by Cheval standards, and although James found it a bit off, I found that in time, it found itself in the glass. It was massive compared to the 1988 (95).

The 1979 was similar to the ’85 with its upfront bell pepper and touches of milk, earth and beef. There was also a pinch of szechuan; ’79 seemed like the ‘85’s little brother, possessing less overall of everything. It got greener in the glass and revealed wintergreen flavors. It lacked length, but was still very good. Pierre admired the ’79, citing that ‘acidity is the backbone of wine’ (90).

Pierre also noted that the 1978 was picked rather late, on October 8th. There were lots of green olives in the nose, and again that touch of bell pepper, but the green olive was the dominant trait herein. It was musky and more aromatic in the gamy direction, and also more forward with its earth components, a bit toasty with lots of campfire qualities. Fleshy, rich and very tasty in the mouth, it possessed light rose and a kiss of green olive and mint (92).

The 1975 evoked Gil, aka Mr. Wine Vegas, to call this, ‘the bell pepper flight.’ The ‘75 had more wintry and waxy fruits to go with its green olive, and it also had some animal, complete with fur. The palate was rusty but also a bit musty with hot tannins and flavors that were a bit dried out. Pierre remarked, ‘In general, there were unbalanced wines in 1975, and a big wall of tannins in most’ (88?).

The 1971, my birth year, was very pungent and olive-y. It was the most open of the flight, wintry and minty in its personality, but also possessing red fruits, almost red citrus fruits. It was round and soft with a nice hint of sweetness to its fruit, yet still rusty.

Subdued yet forward and expressive, Gil and I preferred the 1971 to the 1970 that followed. Gil observed, ‘Cali weed and rose petals in the nose.’ Pierre also preferred the 1971 to the 1970 (92+).

Bipin preferred the 1970, whose plummy, nutty, figgy and gamy qualities set it apart from the rest of the flight. There was just a touch of menthol and cedar in its singular nose. The palate had nice richness and more plum flavors, meatier in style, and its acidity took over in the glass. Francois Audouze, our Parisian representative, hailed the 1970 as best of flight, followed by the 1988, 1971, 1985 and 1978, in that order (90).

The warm-up was over, and it was time to get serious for the 1955. The 1955 had a complex nose of wheat and exotic, jammy, smoky, sexy red fruits. Sweet and kinky, it had the cherry, raspberry and strawberry trifecta. It was almost as if a shot of Yquem was in the glass; it was that sweet. The palate was gamy and figgy, a touch oxidized, but in that natural date and cola way. There was a bit of ‘old painting varnish’ according to Gil. It did have that round autumnal edge to its fruit flavors (93).

The 1953 saw a return to the smoky, campfire aromas previously seen in the ’78. Fresh and also sexy, it occurred to me that this bottle was perhaps reconditioned, and indeed it was, in 1985. Big time cinnamon aromas emerged. There was great elegance and balance to the palate, and flavors of raisins, red fruits and wintergreen abounded. It was gorgeous, but just ‘not the best bottle that I had’ according to someone (94).

I should note that many of the older wines came directly from Cheval and were reconditioned. Although I am generally not a fan of reconditioning, I must say, for the most part, that Cheval did a particularly good job with their reconditioning, and that outside of the general freshness of some of the older wines, it was tough to say that many were definitely reconditioned. Due to the format and timing, I was not able to find out exactly which wines were reconditioned for this session, although I managed to find out more for the second session that followed on Saturday.

The 1952 didn’t taste right to James. There was cinnamon again, ‘solera’ according to Gil. It also had some hoisin. The mouth had that touch of metal, definitely reconditioned and probably the worst job of the evening. It was simply not what it should be, but others found it spectacular, which meant that the second bottle (which I did not try) was better than the first. This wine should be in 95-97 point territory; it can be killer (90?).

The 1937 had old cobwebs in the nose, with lots of dust and rust that gave me a haunted house impression. It was fully mature; beautiful, long and caressing with great old flavors (93).

The 1934 had a ‘whiff off doggie poo’ right off the bat, almost masquerading for Burgundy, according to Gil. James also observed that he forgot how Burgundian Cheval can be. There was great aromatic complexity in the ’34; rust, earth, wintergreen, old book and carob were all present. The palate was round and rich with great t n’a, but the acidity is what really made this wine stand out from every other so far. ‘What acidity!’ was how I put it, to be exact. There were also complex caramel and rust flavors on its lengthy finish. Christian Navarro loved the ’34 the best, and Michael La Tondre also said that the ’34 was his favorite, noting its, ‘Cohiba cigar, candied raspberry and tremendous finish’ (96).

Now began the flight of young bucks, beginning with the 2004. The 2004 was obviously a baby by comparison to the wines that we had just had, and it was full of baby fat fruit accordingly. It was still sappy and sweet with lots of dark, sweet fruits, incredibly concentrated and full of crushed black cherry and black raspberry oil. The palate was rich, balanced and long, possessing big time chocolate flavors and earthy spice. The fruit was rich, full of coffee flavors, with excellent minerals on its concentrated finish (93+).

The harvest in 2003 was the earliest picking since 1893. There was even more coffee and chocolate in the nose, along with a touch of beef stew and hot earth and smoky aromas. The palate was ripe and forward, gamy and sweet, a bit of a floozy. It had ‘light brick with lots of dark chocolate’ flavors per Gil, and lots of liquid vitamins on its finish (92).

The 2001 was very aromatic with its candied red and black fruits and had a splash of cough syrup. Tangy and sweet, it also had this almost blueberry profile, most likely due to a large percentage of merlot. There were lots of coffee and vitamin flavors. It still had classic fruit, nice definition and beautiful balance. The tannin was very vimful, and those vitamin flavors really made me lick my mouth. It was another excellent right bank wine from the 2001 vintage (94).

We entered the evening with a bang, that being the 2000. Big, chunky and clearly on another level, the 2000 had huge breed and divine aromas of chocolate, coffee, espresso, graphite, black cherry, blueberry, motor oil, vitamins, pine forest and cedar. Now that’s a complex nose! The palate was exquisite; long, fine, balanced and elegant. It reminded me what the 2000 Bordeaux tasting did; 2000 is the new 1982 (96+).

Saturday brought us back for lunch at Chinois, where nineteen more wines awaited us eager participants. Friday night had left us wanting more, and Saturday definitely delivered. We started with the 1999, which had a shy and brooding nose. It was a much more masculine style of Cheval. There was lots of earth and minerals, and slowly penetrating t n’a in its very cedary nose. The wine was round and rich in the mouth, again cedary yet also foresty, long and big in its profile. Its taut, rusty fruit was a bit square, and it seemed that this wine has closed up a bit since the last time I’ve had it a few years ago (92).

The 1996 was also cedary, yet olive-y, and its wood qualities were a kiss too much; in fact, it had the most noticeable oak of the weekend, and that’s not a good thing. The palate was better, more olive-y yet still cedary and square, but it had a tasty edge that the ’99 lacked. Medium weight, tender and tangy, the ’96 had red fruit flavors, and I preferred it to the ’99 on this day, but would much rather have the ’99 in my cellar. The oak blew off a bit, and while everyone ultimately liked the 1983 best in this first flight, most also preferred the 1996 next. It was the most open and friendly in the flight, but it also had the least weight. Someone observed, ‘smoked chili, light raspberry and invigorating minerality’ (91).

The 1995 had much more wildflower and lavender in the nose, yet was again cedary with bell pepper and chocolate aromas. In the mouth, the wine was round and rich, with lots of t n’a, flirting with hot. Its fruit flavors were rusty, and there was citrus on its finish. It opened up and had a real rusty ‘pop’ to it’s a finish, so much so that Bipin called it a ‘revelation’ (92+).

The 1989 was the greenest of the bunch, as always, with lots of bell pepper, olive and this puttanesca tomato sauce edge, so much so I wanted to throw some pasta in it. The ’89 was actually in a tasty spot, but it seems very forward and on a fast track to maturity. Lush, round, fleshy and tasty, it had sweet green pepper flavors that won’t get any better. Pierre observed its overall merlot and leathery nose. Although I think it won’t get any better, this bottle of ’89 was in a good spot, and even though it was green, Jef professed that he liked it with ‘I like green.’ Shroomy qualities developed as well (93).

The 1983 Cheval Blanc was punishingly wound, with searing t n’a, minerals and sawdust. I had to swirl what seemed like 1,000 times to get past the minerals, but behind the minerals were sappy, menthol, olive, game, wintergreen and asian spice aromas along with meaty fruit. The palate was round and rich with tremendous acidity that seemingly lasted forever. The ’83 shattered the rest of the flight, and its great core of rich, red fruits, brick, fireplace, asian spice, hay and minerals even left Bipin, ‘very impressed.’ That same someone from before admired, ‘uncountered delicacy, dust, earth and bouillon’ (95+).

The 1983 reminded Jef of how he likes the concept of great ‘shadow years,’ ie the vintages after the great years like 1983 after 1982, 2001 after 2000, etc., and has been very successful with some purchases along those lines.

The next flight began with a 1966, which had wonderful aromatics, although Serena Sutcliffe, whom I had the pleasure of sitting with, was very sensitive to some chlorine in the glass. Once we worked past that, there were tender and sweet aromas of winter, cherries, minerals, earth, candle wax and a touch of sexy sweat. While the aromatics were nice, the palate was very, very dry and lean, with no sweetness whatsoever and a citrus-y, dry and uninspiringly earthy personality (88).

The 1964 formed an instant glee club, with Serena, Ed and Jef loving every minute of it. It was very fragrant, with lots of red fruits but also this cassis and fig quality. It was very stony with lots of t n’a, but this ’64 was all about its great fruit. Round, balanced, long and tender, its flavors of old sweet cherry, tender leather, mineral and book were flat out beautiful (95).

The 1962 had a super sweet, long nose that was very plummy, chocolaty, figgy and a touch yeasty. There were nice dusty flavors, and the ‘62 was along the lines of the ’66 stylistically in the mouth, but it had some shreds of fruit left, a pat of nice cassis left in its round and smooth palate. It got a little limey in the glass, but not negatively (91).

The 1961 had a killer nose that was very racy with lots of vigor and t n’a. It was also very sweet in a musky, nutty, caramel-y way. There was lots of oil in this rich and nutty wine, and as soon as I tasted it, I flashed to 1971 and ‘76 Grange. This menthol/eucalyptus craziness was total Grange. It was rich, hearty and full of strawberry flavors. Bipin concurred that ‘this was always one of the sweeter ‘61’s,’ and likened it to a ‘bon-bon’ (94).

The 1959 had a reticent nose with some sweet caramel creeping out. Francois fell in love with the ‘59 immediately, calling it, ‘completely perfect’ and having a future that will last ‘forever.’ The nose got deeper, chunkier and beefier, while hints of bread and dust and acidity oozed out slowly yet firmly. The palate was rich and creamy, absolutely delicious; it was so creamy and so sexy that it was easy to see how it tickled Francois’ fancy (96).

Bipin spoke about the fact that ‘every bottle was what it should be…candied sweetness and all…all the alcohol levels are 12.5% or less, and people say you need alcohol to age.’ I believe I heard a ‘harumph’ out of him next. He also went on to say that in the sixties, many wineries chaptalized to get the alcohol levels just to 12%, but today, due to the climate change, wines are naturally 13-14% alcohol. This was one of the most fascinating comments made all weekend, and it really made me think about the state of winemaking then versus now. Today, winemakers seem to be pushing the envelope as far as the alcohol levels in their wines, partly perhaps due to climate, but mainly due to intention. After having tasted so many glorious wines over the years from the 1870s up through the 1980s (I think it is safe to say that higher alochol levels are a product of the ’90s until now), how could one argue that wines could age any better with higher alcohol levels? I am no chemist, and I have not done any lengthy comparative studies, but I do know that most winemakers whose wines I prefer always talk about acidity and not alcohol. Even Pierre acknowledged acidity as the backbone of wine earlier, and if you talk to the Burgundians, it is all about the acidity as far as aging potential. Perhaps high alcohol levels are not at all what they are cracked up to be.

The third flight was again full of young bucks, but this trio was high powered enough to put the Three Tenors to shame – make that Three Mo’ Tenors for Manny and Wilette (go see it New York!). The flight began with a 1998. The 1998 had a great nose, wound up a coiled, yet deadly with its venom, packed with sweet, sappy and dark purple fruits. There were lots of minerals, along with black cherry and cola aromas. The palate had great minerality. It was long, elegant and fine, yet substantial. I believe it was Serena who called it, ‘absolutely mind blowing and better than the 2000…crashingly good’ (96+).

The 1990 had a deep, sexy nose full of green olives and wintergreen. It had this open, waify edge to its black fruit and lots of garden aromas as well. The palate was so lush, long and tender with its cascading waterfall of fruit flavors. It was so elegant, possessing garden, forest, and olive flavors. Incredibly complex, Serena also ‘loved it’ (97).

The 1982 had a lean nose by comparison to the first two that was very shy and dominated by wintergreen at first. Touches of roses and cherry lingered behind. The palate was great, however, and it even had a flash of meaty fruit. Elegant yet rich, long yet balanced, tender yet full, this was one of the better bottles that I’ve ever had of this wine, which has been notoriously all over the map, at least in my experiences. This bottle of ’82 had similar qualities to the ‘90 yet more in reserve, almost a nose in winter hibernation. Serena put the ’82 third in this flight of three and found it to be ‘not what you expect.’ I found this flight to be great and a bit of a photo finish (96).

The first wine of the spectacular last flight was the 1949, which was slaty and wound at first, again more of a glass issue than anything else. I couldn’t get much out of the nose accordingly, but the palate was extraordinary. Rich and balanced, there were great slate borders to its decadent cherry core, and great roundness, balance, tannin and definition, and just a twist a tootsie pop to this beautiful, gorgeous wine (95).

The 1948 was even better; the power jumped right out of the nose; that sweet rust, licorice, nut and this ice skating rink/’glace’ complexity and edge. The flavors were so great, so rusty, so spicy and foresty, mineraly, slaty and earthy as well, full of cherry cola. Once again the 1948 stole the show and was ultimately the wine of the weekend, although the bottle of ’47 I would have with Rudy and Gil later that evening would lay claim to the wine of the weekend throne (98).

The 1947 that I had during afternoon’s session was unfortunately a touch oxidized, with this burnt brown sugar quality to the nose, port like in its personality. Thick, long, spicy and rusty, this affected bottle was still drinkable and still excellent. The other bottle of ‘47 served that afternoon had much more rust and life, but I only got a small swallow, and the bottle that I was officially served was (94A).

The 1945 had gorgeous, tender red fruits. Dusty and sandy in its personality, it still had great sweetness in the nose and great flavors to match. Its flavors were more on the citric side of the flavor rainbow, but there was still sweet strawberry as well as flavors of actual straw giving this wine tremendous complexity. The wine possessed superb acidity and was stunningly gorgeous, very fresh and danced in my mouth (96).

The 1921 had cobwebs and tender red fruits in its nose, along with wax and leather. One could see it was very old, but this Nicolas bottle proved about as fresh as a 1921 could be. Very gamy with lots of delicious caramel flavors, the wine was round and old, tender with lots of leather and older flavors, graceful yet forceful (95).

I looked at some of the corks on this day and noted that the ‘62, ‘59, ‘49, and ‘48 were reconditioned in 1985, although it is possible one bottle was and one bottle wasn’t since two bottles were served. The 1966 was reconditioned in 1991, and the ‘64 and ‘61 were original corks, at least the corks that I saw.

Serena gave a great speech at the end of the event, summing up some of her keen observations, so I will share some of those observations with you.

She called 1995 and 1996 ‘an interesting comparison’ and admired the 1995 and its ‘richness of merlot.’ The 1953 had ‘charm,’ while the 1955 was ‘meaty.’ The 1952 was ‘mind-blowing, the best bottle that I have ever had.’ The 1970 was ‘particularly good,’ and it was as if she was looking through a door for Cheval, because that was the last year they bottled in Libourne. The 1959 was ‘utterly dominant, so mouth-filling it wasn’t true.’ The 1988 was ‘always classic,’ and how in general Cheval was exotic with its ‘cinnamon, cloves, Russian leather and sweetness.’ She finally reminisced about how she never thought that people would still be looking for the 1947 over thirty years ago.

Bipin then got up to reminisce about how he once bought six bottles of 1947 Cheval about thirty years ago for the price of 420 pounds, and how he later found out that he had won a tie bid with none other than one of his now best friends, Ed Lazarus. Bipin continued that at the time, he was just starting out in wine while Ed was already a legend, so this minor victory was something major in his evolution as a wine collector. Bipin wrote a great article about 1947 Cheval Blanc and Petrus for World of Fine Wine Magazine recently with many more great anecdotes about those wines. It is worth seeking out.

Bipin took me aside at the end and remarked how it was good to see so many people still appreciating old wine, and that he couldn’t understand this seemingly overall public disdain for old wines. ‘What public?’ I asked. ‘Not my friends!’ ‘Yes, yes, I know you know, and that your friends know, but it is the people that do not know that need to know.’ Well, now you all know lol. There wouldn’t be cellars if wine wasn’t meant to age. I, for one, will do my part to remind everyone that the greatest wines are meant to be drunk old.

Pierre also had an interesting comment in the end, something that I will end this report with: ‘Sometimes in nature, defects can become exceptional things.’

a vertical tasting of 34 years of Cheval Blanc samedi, 3 novembre 2007

Here are my notes. It is probably too long. But I wanted to present my notes as a succession of feelings, very dependant on the moment I lived them.
Sorry for the length.

Bipin Desai organises famous tastings. This time it is in Los Angeles and on four meals, two lunches and two dinners in a row, we will have two verticales of Cheval Blanc and Yquem, with a guest of honour who is Pierre Lurton, presiding to the destinies of these two precious wines.

The restaurants are Spago and Chinois on Main, where last year Bipin had organised verticals of Lynch Bages and of the Rieslings of Trimbach.

I arrive in Hotel Bel Air, in the Bel Air area, which is an incredibly complex set of farm houses in a gigantic botanic garden.

At 8pm we are at Spago, welcomed by Christian Navarro who organises the opening of wines and service in glasses. For 60 people, this is a lot of work. It means also that the quantities will be very small per person as every bottle is divided in 30 pours. But it must be said that it does not prevent from enjoying the wines.

After some appetizers that we eat standing while drinking a Champagne Henriot NV quite proper, we have this menu : Wood oven roasted Wolf ranch quail with Italian white truffles / Cabernet risotto with roasted Maine lobster / medallions of Sonoma lamb with crispy potato-mushroom galette and wild huckleberries / chef’s selection of artisan cheese / deep dish Anjou pear pie with caramelized cream. The menu is absolutely nicely executed. The tastes were very good, but we were concentrated on the wines.

First flight : Cheval Blanc 1988, 1985, 1979, 1978, 1975, 1971, 1970.

I begin by smelling all the wines. The 1988 has a very intense nose, showing a very powerful wine. The nose of the 1985 is more fluid, more discrete, indicating a more discrete wine. The 1979 has a nose which is smoky, as the smell of a fire. The nose of the 1978 is well balanced. The one of the 1975 is discrete but of a very high class. The 1971 seems very alcoholic and indicates a strong wine. The 1970 has a strong nose but not too expanded, indicating a high quality.

I drink the wines before the dish arrives, and when it arrives, my neighbour swallows it literally and pushes his plate away, before I have even begun, telling me that he would be unable to judge the wines with the smell of the white truffle. But are we there to judge or to enjoy ? I will try to do both.

Along my notes, I give my impressions as I feel them. If I change my mind, I will tell it. Because in the glass a wine evolves, and a first approach can evolve.

1988 is a very classic Cheval Blanc, strong, still aggressive like a wild horse. 1985 shows evolution. A little tired, and would need food. Not bad, but probably too strict. 1979 is elegant, rather alcoholic. A little strict too. I would say that it is a classical but tight Cheval Blanc. The 1978 is more generous, more sunny, comfortable but not so shining. A little astringent.

The 1975 is a little weak but pleasant. Not complete, but showing talent. I like this wine. The 1971 is powerful, expanded, not typical for Cheval Blanc, but great. The 1970 has a nice balance. This is the most balanced of this group.

Then I drink the wines with the quail and the 1970 confirms that it is delicious. I would rank at that stage : 1970 – 1988 – 1971. The 1971 is extremely powerful, it is a soldier. The 1970 has the elegance, the 1988 has the youth. It is the wild horse which will become a great wine in some years. The 1975 appears a little tired. The 1978 should be included in my choice because it is more in the line of what Cheval Blanc is than the 1971, so my choice would be : 1970 – 1988 – 1971 – 1978.

1985 is like a good pupil, classical but not surprising; the 1979 is rather nice for the year. It is dry but for my palate it is better than the 1985.

Second flight : Cheval Blanc 1955, 1953, 1952, 1937, 1934

We are sixty people attending the event, and it can be remarked that two bottles per wine is enough to well understand the wines. Many glasses are not empty at the end of a flight, which means that 30 persons per bottle is a size which works. We make smaller sips and we can taste without problem. Things change a lot when there is only one bottle for 60 persons, and Bipin decided that for this case there would be only one glass per table (there were six tables), the whole table drinking in the same glass. I must say that it is not especially my cup of tea, but I fully understand the problems that Bipin has encountered to obtain so many bottles. If someone does not provide the bottle that he promised, I understand that it is uneasy to replace it instantly. So, we have had only one bottle for the 1952 and the 1937. For one wine, it did not disturb me as I immediately saw that it was the best wine of the evening. But for the 1937, it appears that I missed the message, as I found tired a wine that many other people found fantastic.

I examine the nose first. The 1955 has a very rich nose, with a trace of milk. The 1953 has a fantastic smell. The 1934 has a rather evolved nose but very interesting. The 1937 has a rather acidic nose, a little disturbed.

In mouth the 1952 is fantastic. This is an immense wine. The 1937 has a taste which is a little burnt, a little Port like even if it is not the type of Port that is found in the 1947 as we will see. Still very lively, but a little “smoked” as a burnt piece of wood. Apparently I missed the train as some other people loved the 1937.

The 1955 is a great wine, but not as the 1952. The 1953 is a great wine, in the same league as the 55 and 52. The 1934 is good but a little tired (some friends were more impressed than me by the 1934).

I find the 1952 gorgeous, and my ranking is : 1952 – 1955 – 1953 – 1934 – 1937.

The 1934 improves and appears better than what I thought. It works wonderfully with the delicious risotto. The wines of the decade 50ies are highly above the wines of the first flight. The 52 is rapidly finished as we shared one glass. The 1955 is really a very great wine. The 1934 gets tired after some minutes.

The advantage of this flight is to show how the decade 50ies performs well by now for Cheval Blanc.

Third flight : Cheval Blanc 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000

By smelling the 2004, it shows that we change completely of era. The nose is pure, sympathetic. The nose of the 2003 is more concentrated, more intense. The nose of the 2001 is suppler, more voluptuous. The nose of the 2000 is velvety, elegant but also powerful. The most distinguished nose.

In mouth, the 2004 is already a great wine. It is very good, but the set or aromas is not very large. The final is nice. The wood is elegant. I have a very positive impression about this young wine. The 2003 is rather monolithic and simplified. Despite the reputations, I am fonder of the 2004 than of the 2003, which does not appear so well built.

The 2001 is elegant, has purity, with a sufficient power. It is very black fruits, and astringent. The 2000 is an immense wine. It is not truly in the Cheval Blanc style. It is balanced, soft and serene, with cacao, tropical wood. This wine will become a very great wine.

Ranking is very difficult. For the pure pleasure, I hesitate between : 00 – 04 – 01 – 03 and 00 – 01 – 04 – 03. The 03 is too simplified and bony.

Trying to figure a final choice for this day, I ranked first so :

00 – 52 – 55 – 53 – 04 – 70 – 88 – 01 …

But I changed it to :

1952 – 1955 – 1953 – 2000 – 2001 – 2004 – 1970 – 1988

This shows how it is difficult to make a decision. The 2000 will certainly be the greatest. But the performance of the decade 50ies needed to be noticed.

Driven home by friends, I did not take the dessert which was accompanied by a Santo Stefano Moscato di Asti 2006. I took just a quick sip to notice that it is very young.

During the dinner, Pierre Lurton was nearly having closed eyes as it was for him a non stop day of 27 hours. But with his legendary energy, he was able to talk precisely about every wine. John Kapon was tired as he attends such events or provokes them nearly every day. James Sucking showed us how he makes instant videos that he will put on his blog. The attendance consisted of a very regular group of Bipin’s fans. The atmosphere was smiling.

A wonderful dinner with a delicate food in a nice place. But the big boys of Cheval Blanc are coming tomorrow.

The second meal for tasting Cheval Blanc is a lunch by Chinois on Main, with the cook of Luis Diaz and Rene Mata, and with the supervision of wines by Christian Navarro. The tasting is conducted by Bipin Desai and the guest of Honour is Pierre Lurton, who will give very precise data on every year with dates of crop, yield, proportions per variety of vine, and alcohol, acidity and sugar levels. It is extremely interesting to drink knowing these information. Some people took notes about these figures. I did not.

The menu consists in : passed hors d’oeuvre / potstickers with stir-fried lamb and Matsukake mushroom emulsion / wok seared Maine lobster and veal cheeks bao / duck pancakes with mushroom sauce / Peking duck “Bipin” with Asian pears in red wine / Pixie tangerine granite with almond macaroons. The food was very spicy, which disturbed sometimes the mouth, and was sometimes too complicated to give a benefit to the wines. But the atmosphere and the commitment of the whole staff were remarkable and we enjoyed this rare moment.

The bottles are opened at the last minute and decanted just before the service. This method is very different from mine, and some wines were a little tight due to the late opening.

First flight : Cheval Blanc 1999, 1996, 1995, 1989, 1983

The 1999 has the nose of a wine which was just opened. The alcohol appears first in the smells, and the other aromas are not awakened. The 1995 has a more complete set of flavours, and is more charming. The 1996 has a very classical nose, not showing fantasy. The 1989 has a more closed smell, and the colour indicates an evolution. The 1983 has an evolved nose.

I drink the wines without food. The 1999 has a nice structure. It is woody, but agreeable. I find a good balance in this wine. The 1996 is more established. It is more classical, with nothing very spectacular. I write again : “very classical”.

The 1995 is a little more flat. It is a good wine, but without panache. The 1989 is a wine for gastronomy. Very balanced, a little bitter, it would be a great wine with a proper food. The 1983 is obviously good. It has evolved, but it is very elegant.

As it is difficult to rank, I make several rounds. The 1999 is pleasant. The 1996 is too classical. The 1995 is more pleasant now, with a great balance. The 1989 needs a nice dish. The 1983, as the 1996 is too classical, even if good.

I rank : 1989 – 1999 – 1995 – 1996 – 1983. What is interesting is that around me, the comments are completely different from what I note. Bipin finds the 1999 too linear. Some friends say that the greatest are the 1983 and the 1995. Am I going to be influenced by these comments?

I taste again the 1983 with the dish, and it looks better. The dish is much too spicy. I like the 1999 with the spices, and the 1989 gets tired with the spices. Being influenced by the comments, I appreciate more the 1983. I continue to appreciate the 1989. And, influenced as I am, I rank the wines so : 1983 – 1989 – 1995 – 1996 – 1999.

It is clear that the wines have expanded which revealed qualities that I had not caught. But I keep in mind that I had well accepted the 1999. I accepted to change my mind as it gives a ranking which is the order of the years.

Second flight : Cheval Blanc 1966, 1964, 1962, 1961, 1959

The 1966 has the nose of a wine which was opened too recently. The alcohol is shown first. The colour seems evolved. The 1964 has a muddy smell. It could be the glass. The 1962 has a lovely nose but then the dish is served. The nose of the 1961 is opened, and the 1959 has a very lovely smell, charming with the dish.

The 1966 is a very comfortable lovely wine. The 1964 is very great and I write again very great. The 1962 is more limited. The 1961 is a great wine, but does not correspond to what I know and what its reputation is. It lacks of panache and irradiation. The 1959 deserves respect. It is a great wine with an infinite length. At this stage, I rank : 1959 – 1964 – 1966 – 1961 – 1962. The position of the 1961 shows that it should be the bottle which has a problem.

The 1966 is obviously a very agreeable wine. It is a wine of pleasure, not sophisticated but comfortable. The 1964 is great, beautiful, magnificent. The 1962 has not the level of the others. The 1961 has a greater density than the others, but is not made for pleasure. The 1959 is a perfect wine, immense. It has everything one could hope.

Bipin makes comments about a characteristic taste of Cheval Blanc which is candy. My personal remark is that all the wines that we had from the decade 50ies were pure champions.

My final ranking confirms my first : 1959 – 1964 – 1966 – 1961 – 1962.

Third flight : Cheval Blanc 1998, 1990, 1982

The nose of the 1990 is not opened (every first wine of each flight has a closed nose, due to this opening method). The 1998 whose colour is spectacularly younger than the others has a very pure nose. The nose of the 1982 is very pure too.

The taste of the 1998 is fantastic. It is a wine of a pure success and accomplishment. It is so good ! The 1990 is very good but is more established, cosy. It is a great wine. The 1982 is in the same situation but is even more “established”.

In the 1990 I find the candy taste mentioned by Bipin. The wine is extremely fresh. Due to the airy final I put the 90 above the 98 which pleased me more by a first approach. The 1982 stays a little behind even if it is a wine of a top quality.

I rank : 1990 – 1998 – 1982.

The 1990 has many similarities with the 1959. The 1990 is without doubt largely above the 1989. The three first flights were of an outstanding quality. The most pure of the wine is certainly the 1998. The charm is for the 1959 and the 1990.

Fourth flight : Cheval Blanc 1949, 1948, 1947, 1945, 1921

Bipin announced that we would have only 2 bottles of 1947 as he had doubts on a third one. And he announces that there is only one 1921. But as he thinks that the wine could be a fake, he asks if we would like to taste it. Evidently everyone wants to taste. We scrutinised the cork, and Pierre Lurton seeing how it was printed, with the indication “recorked in 1995” on both faces of the cork, confirmed what I supposed, that the wine was authentic. And in mouth it is definitely a wine of the 20ies, with no doubt, and it is a great wine. So, the probability of changing a great wine of the 20ies for a great wine of the 20ies makes very probable that it is a true Cheval Blanc. I find it delicious, combining sweetness and acidity. A wine of an exceptional length. I will not rank it later, as the fact to drink just one sip or two excludes a true analysis.

The 1949 has a very superb and elegant nose. The 1948 has a very rich and seductive nose, of a rare depth. The 1947 has an incredible nose. It is a bomb. It is above the 1948. The 1945 is corked.

I begin to taste the 1945 and with the greatest possible objectivity, I must say that the taste is not biased by the smell of cork. It is a large, opulent, serene, powerful, velvety wine. It is a great wine. The 1949 which I find too cold is more strict, lighter, but it is a great wine. Probably too strict when compared with the previous Cheval Blanc 1949 that I tasted among an horizontal presentation of the best Bordeaux of 1949. The 1947 exposes its Port like aspect with a great evidence. There are coffee, cacao and butternut. The power in mouth is amazing. Many people around the tables wanted the 1948 to be above the 1947, as the 1948 is nearly never drunk. And the hesitation could be possible as this 1948 has a strength and a serenity which makes it an important and imposing wine. It could seem to be fortified as it is so powerful, but it is just an impression.

Bipin will keep for him the empty bottles of the greatest wine, so he has with him one of the 1947, and he shares with me the sediment. This sediment has a taste to die instantly. This is so incredibly good. Purely amazing. I could fall down from my chair. It is incredible. I find it totally crazy, and it makes me mad. There are caramel aspects, Maury aspects. It is like precious gold in mouth.

The 1949 confirms it is a little limited, The 1945 is even greater than what I had tasted. The 1947 is obviously above, but the trio 1947, 1948, 1945 boxes in a heavyweight category. My ranking : 1947 – 1948 – 1945 – 1949. The three first have a constant aspect : torrefied, rich, Port like.

My conclusion is that the decade 50ies made the most authentic Cheval Blanc which have elegance and finesse and are now at the top of their form. And the decade 40ies, created for the best years wines which are more extreme, madder, more extravagant.

The 1947 is an extraterrestrial wine, The 1921 is still a good wine, very different from the others. It is certainly a magnificent and rather unique vertical that we have lived, with the nice comments of Pierre Lurton and the intelligent organisation of Bipin Desai.

Une verticale de 35 millésimes de Cheval Blanc à Los Angeles samedi, 3 novembre 2007

Bipin Desai organise de fabuleuses dégustations. Cette fois-ci, c’est à Los Angeles, en quatre repas, deux déjeuners et deux dîners qui se suivent. Nous aurons deux verticales de Cheval Blanc et Yquem, avec un invité d’honneur qui est Pierre Lurton, présidant aux destinées de ces deux précieux vins.

Les restaurants sont Spago et Chinois on Main, où l’année dernière Bipin avait organisé des verticales de Lynch Bages et des Rieslings de Trimbach.

J’arrive à l’Hotel Bel Air, dans le quartier Bel Air. C’est un ensemble complexe de bâtiments ressemblant à des haciendas mexicaines, dans un jardin botanique luxuriant.

Nous arrivons à 8 heures au restaurant Spago Beverly Hills, accueillis par Christian Navarro qui organise l’ouverture des vins et le service en verres. Pour 60 personnes, c’est un travail assez énorme. Cela veut dire aussi que les quantités seront très petites par personne car chaque bouteille est divisée en 30 portions. Mais il faut dire que cela n’empêche pas de goûter avec plaisir les vins.

Nous bavardons debout en dégustant de délicieux petits canapés sur un Champagne Henriot NM tout à fait agréable. Voici le menu que je laisse en langue originelle : Wood oven roasted Wolf ranch quail with Italian white truffles / Cabernet risotto with roasted Maine lobster / medallions of Sonoma lamb with crispy potato-mushroom galette and wild huckleberries / chef’s selection of artisan cheese / deep dish Anjou pear pie with caramelized cream. Le menu est absolument raffiné. Les goûts furent très bons, mais nous étions concentrés sur les vins.

Première série : Cheval Blanc 1988, 1985, 1979, 1978, 1975, 1971, 1970.

Je commence par sentir tous les vins. Le 1988 a un nez très intense, indiquant un vin très puissant. Le nez du 1985 est plus fluide, plus discret, signifiant un vin plus délicat. Le 1979 a un nez qui est fumé, comme l’odeur d’un feu. Le nez du 1978 est très équilibré. Celui du 1975 est discret mais de grande classe. Le 1971 semble très fort en alcool et indique un vin fort. Le 1970 a un nez puissant mais pas trop expansif, suggérant une haute qualité.

Je bois les vins avant que le plat n’arrive, et quand il est servi, mon voisin l’avale littéralement et pousse vite son assiette avant que je n’aie commencé, me disant qu’il serait incapable de juger les vins avec l’odeur de la truffe blanche. Mais sommes-nous là pour juger ou pour nous faire plaisir ? Je vais essayer de faire les deux.

Tout au long de ces notes, mes impressions seront celles que je sens quand j’écris. Si je change d’avis, je le dirai. Car dans le verre, le vin évolue, et la première approche peut se modifier.

Le 1988 est un très classique Cheval Blanc, fort, encore agressif comme un cheval sauvage. Le 1985 montre une certaine évolution. Un peu fatigué, il réclame un plat. Il est assez intéressant, mais probablement trop strict. Le 1979 est élégant, plutôt alcoolique. Un peu strict aussi. On pourrait dire que c’est un Cheval Blanc classique mais resserré. Le 1978 est plus généreux, plus ensoleillé, confortable mais pas très brillant. Un peu astringent.

Le 1975 est un peu faible mais plaisant. Pas tout à fait complet, mais montrant du talent. J’aime ce vin. Le 1971 est puissant, épanoui, pas typique pour Cheval Blanc, mais grand. Le 1970 a un bel équilibre. C’est le plus équilibré de ce groupe.

Je bois maintenant les vins avec la caille et le 1970 confirme qu’il est délicieux. Je classerais ainsi à ce stade : 1970 – 1988 – 1971. Le 1971 est extrêmement puissant, c’est un soldat. Le 1970 a de l’élégance, le 1988 a la jeunesse. C’est le cheval sauvage qui sera un grand vin dans quelques années. Le 1975 se montre un peu fatigué. Le 1978 devrait être inclus dans mon choix parce qu’il est plus dans la ligne de ce que Cheval Blanc doit être que le 1971, aussi mon choix serait : 1970 – 1988 – 1971 – 1978.

Le 1985 est comme un bon élève, classique mais pas surprenant; le 1979 est plutôt beau pour l’année. Il est sec mais pour mon palais il est meilleur que le 1985.

Seconde série : Cheval Blanc 1955, 1953, 1952, 1937, 1934

Nous sommes soixante personnes à participer à cet événement, et il faut remarquer que deux bouteilles par vin est suffisant pour bien comprendre les vins. Beaucoup de verres ne sont pas vides à la fin de la série, ce qui signifie que 30 personnes par bouteille est une formule qui marche. Nous faisons de plus petites gorgées et nous pouvons goûter sans problème. Les choses changent beaucoup quand il y a seulement une bouteille pour 60 personnes, et Bipin décida que dans cette situation il y aurait seulement un verre par table (il y avait six tables), toute la table buvant dans le même verre. Je dois dire que ce n’est pas spécialement ma tasse de thé, mais je comprends bien les problèmes que Bipin a rencontrés pour obtenir toutes ces bouteilles. Si quelqu’un n’apporte pas la bouteille qu’il a promise, il est assez difficile de la remplacer immédiatement. C’est ainsi que nous avons eu une seule bouteille pour le 1952 et le 1937. Pour l’un des vins, ça ne m’a pas trop gêné, car j’ai immédiatement senti que c’est le meilleur vin de la soirée. Mais pour le 1937, il apparaît que j’ai mal compris le message, car je l’ai trouvé fatigué alors que beaucoup d’autres personnes l’ont trouvé fantastique.

J’examine d’abord les nez. Le 1955 a un nez très riche, avec une trace de lait. Le 1953 a une fantastique odeur. Le 1934 a un nez plutôt évolué mais très intéressant. Le 1937 a un nez plutôt acide, un peu troublé.

En bouche le 1952 est fantastique. C’est un immense vin. Le 1937 a un goût qui est un peu brûlé, avec des accent de Porto, même si ce n’est pas le type de Porto que l’on trouve dans le 1947 comme on va le voir. Encore très vivant, mais un peu “fumé” comme un morceau de bois brûlé. Apparemment j’ai raté le train car d’autres personnes ont aimé le 1937.

Le 1955 est un grand vin, mais pas autant que le 1952. Le 1953 est un grand vin, dans la même ligue  que le 55 et le 52. Le 1934 est bon mais un peu fatigué (quelques amis furent plus impressionnés que moi par le 1934).

Je trouve le 1952 épatant, et mon classement est : 1952 – 1955 – 1953 – 1934 – 1937.

Le 1934 s’améliore et se montre meilleur que ce que je pensais. Il vibre merveilleusement avec le délicieux risotto. Les vins de la décennie des années 50 sont nettement au dessus des vins de la première série. Le 1952 est rapidement épuisé car nous partageons un seul verre. Le 1955 est réellement un très grand vin. Le 1934 se fatigue après quelques minutes.

L’avantage de cette série est de montrer combien la décennie 50 réussit actuellement pour Cheval Blanc.

Troisième série : Cheval Blanc 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000

En sentant le 2004, on voit que nous changeons complètement d’époque. Le nez est pur, sympathique. Le nez du 2003 est plus concentré, plus intense. Le nez du 2001 est plus souple, plus voluptueux. Le nez du 2000 est velouté, élégant mais aussi puissant. C »est le nez le plus distingué.

En bouche, le 2004 est déjà un grand vin. Il est très bon, mais la palette aromatique n’est pas très large. Le final est beau. Le bois est élégant. J’ai une impression très positive de ce jeune vin. Le 2003 est plutôt monolithique et simplifié. Malgré les écarts de réputations, je suis plus en faveur du 2004 que du 2003, qui ne me semble pas, au vu des bouteilles servies, aussi bien construit.

Le 2001 est élégant, très pur, avec une puissance suffisante. Il est très fruits noirs, et astringent. Le 2000 est un immense vin. Il n’est pas vraiment dans le style Cheval Blanc. Il est équilibré, doux et serein, avec du cacao et du bois tropical. Ce vin deviendra un très grand vin.

Classer est très difficile. Pour le plaisir pur, j’hésite entre : 00 – 04 – 01 – 03 et 00 – 01 – 04 – 03. Le 03 est trop simplifié et osseux.

Essayant d’imaginer un choix final pour cette journée, je fais ce classement :

2000 – 1952 – 1955 – 1953 – 2004 – 1970 – 1988 – 2001 …

Mais je change en fait pour :

1952 – 1955 – 1953 – 2000 – 2001 – 2004 – 1970 – 1988

Ceci montre combien il est difficile de prendre une décision. Le 2000 sera certainement le plus grand. Mais la performance de la décennie 50 méritait d’être soulignée.

Des amis qui me raccompagnent à mon hôtel veulent partir, aussi je ne prends pas le dessert qui est accompagné par un Santo Stefano Moscato di Asti 2006. Je bois juste une gorgée rapide pour constater qu’il est très jeune.

Durant le dîner, Pierre Lurton luttait pour ne pas fermer ses yeux, car c’était pour lui une journée non stop de 27 heures. Mais avec sa légendaire énergie, il a été capable de parler de façon précise de tous les vins. John Kapon, le président d’une grande maison de ventes aux enchères était lui aussi fatigué car il participe à de tels événements ou les  provoque presque tous les jours. James Sucking nous a montré comment il fait des vidéos prêtes instantanément à être mises sur son blog. L’assistance était composée d’un groupe de fidèles qui suivent Bipin Desai comme des fans. L’atmosphère était chaleureuse.

Un merveilleux dîner avec une cuisine délicate dans un bel endroit. Les big boys de Cheval Blanc sont pour demain.

Le second repas pour la dégustation des Cheval Blanc est un déjeuner au Chinois on Main, avec la cuisine de Luis Diaz et René Mata, et avec la supervision des vins par Christian Navarro. La dégustation est conduite par Bipin Desai et l’invité d’honneur est Pierre Lurton, qui nous donnera des informations très précises sur chaque année avec les dates de vendange, les rendements, les proportions par cépage, et le taux d’alcool, l’acidité et le taux de sucre quand il s’agit d’Yquem. Il est extrêmement intéressant de boire en sachant toutes ces informations. Des convives ont pris en note ces chiffres. Je ne l’ai pas fait.

Le menu consiste en : passed hors d’oeuvre / potstickers with stir-fried lamb and Matsukake mushroom emulsion / wok seared Maine lobster and veal cheeks bao / duck pancakes with mushroom sauce / Peking duck “Bipin” with Asian pears in red wine / Pixie tangerine granite with almond macaroons.

La nourriture est très épicée, ce qui trouble parfois la bouche, et parfois trop compliquée pour mettre en valeur les vins. Mais l’atmosphère et l’implication de tout le personnel furent remarquables ce qui fait que nous avons profité de ce rare moment.

Les bouteilles sont ouvertes à la dernière minute et décantées juste avant le service. Cette méthode est très différente de la mienne, et quelques vins furent un peu fermés du fait de l’ouverture rapide.

Première série : Cheval Blanc 1999, 1996, 1995, 1989, 1983

Le 1999 a le nez d’un vin que l’on vient d’ouvrir. L’alcool se montre en premier, et les autres arômes sont encore endormis. Le 1995 a une palette aromatique plus complète, il est plus charmant. Le 1996 a un nez très classique, ne montrant pas beaucoup de fantaisie. Le 1989 est d’une odeur plus fermée, et la couleur indique une évolution. Le 1983 a un nez évolué.

Je bois les vins sans nourriture. Le 1999 a une belle structure. Il est boisé, mais agréable. Je trouve un bon équilibre dans ce vin. Le 1996 est plus établi. Il est plus classique, avec rien de très spectaculaire. J’écris encore : “très classique”.

Le 1995 est un peu plus plat. C’est un bon vin, mais sans panache. Le 1989 est un vin de gastronomie. Très équilibré, un peu amer, ce serait un grand vin avec un plat adapté. Le 1983 est manifestement bon. Il a évolué, mais il est très élégant.

Comme c’est difficile de classer, je reviens plusieurs fois sur chaque vin. Le 1999 est plaisant. Le 1996 est trop classique. Le 1995 est plus plaisant maintenant, avec un grand équilibre. Le 1989 appelle un beau plat. Le 1983, comme le 1996 est trop classique, même s’il est bon.

Je vote ainsi : 1989 – 1999 – 1995 – 1996 – 1983. Ce qui est intéressant est qu’autour de moi, les commentaires sont complètement différents de ce que je note. Bipin trouve le 1999 trop linéaire. Quelques amis disent que les plus grands sont le 1983 et le 1995. Vais-je être influencé par ces commentaires ?

Je goûte de nouveau le 1983 avec le plat, et il semble meilleur. Le plat est beaucoup trop épicé. J’aime le 1999 avec les épices, et le 1989 se fatigue avec les épices.  Etant influencé par les commentaires, j’apprécie de plus en plus le 1983. Je continue de trouver 1989 de mieux en mieux. Et dans cette ambiance, je classe les vins ainsi : 1983 – 1989 – 1995 – 1996 – 1999.

Il est clair que les vins se sont ouverts, ce qui révèle des qualités que je n’avais pas saisies. Mais je garde à l’esprit que j’avais aimé le 1999. Je modifie ma vision précédente car cela donne un classement qui est dans l’ordre des années.

Seconde série : Cheval Blanc 1966, 1964, 1962, 1961, 1959

Le 1966 un le nez d’un vin qui a été ouvert trop récemment. L’alcool apparaît en  premier. La couleur semble évoluée. Le 1964 a une odeur poussiéreuse. Ce pourrait être le verre. Le 1962 un a nez charmant mais le plat est servi, ce qui change les appréciations. Le nez du 1961 est ouvert, et le 1959 a une très charmante odeur, charmante avec le plat.

Le 1966 est un vin très confortable. Le 1964 est un très grand et j’écris de nouveau très grand. Le 1962 est plus limité. Le 1961 est un grand vin, mais ne correspond pas à ce que je connais ni à sa réputation. Il manque de panache et de rayonnement. Le 1959 mérite le respect. C’est un grand vin avec une longueur infinie. A ce stade, je classe : 1959 – 1964 – 1966 – 1961 – 1962. La position du 1961 montre qu’il devait y avoir un problème avec cette bouteille.

Le 1966 est manifestement un vin très agréable. C’est un vin de plaisir, pas sophistiqué mais confortable. Le 1964 est grand, beau, magnifique. Le 1962 n’a pas le niveau des autres. Le 1961 montre une plus grande densité que les autres, mais n’est pas un vin de plaisir en ce moment. Le 1959 est un vin parfait, immense. Il a tout ce qu’on pourrait souhaiter d’un Cheval Blanc.

Bipin fait des commentaires sur un aspect du goût de Cheval Blanc qui est le bonbon. Ma remarque personnelle est que tous les vins que nous avons de la décennie des 50 furent de vrais champions.

Mon classement final confirme celui que je fis en premier : 1959 – 1964 – 1966 – 1961 – 1962.

Troisième série : Cheval Blanc 1998, 1990, 1982

Le nez du 1990 n’est pas ouvert (le premier vin de chaque série a un nez fermé, dû à cette méthode d’ouverture). Le 1998 dont la couleur est spectaculairement plus jeune que les autres a un nez très pur. Le nez du 1982 est très pur aussi.

Le goût du 1998 est fantastique. C’est un vin d’un pur succès et d’un grand achèvement. C’est si bon ! Le 1990 est très bon mais plus établi, plus cosy. C’est un grand vin. Le 1982 est dans la même situation mais il est encore plus “établi”.

Dans le 1990 je trouve le goût de bonbon mentionné par Bipin. Le vin est extrêmement frais. Du fait de ce final aérien je mets le 90 au dessus du 98 qui me plaisait plus en première approche. Le 1982 reste un peu en retrait même si c’est un vin d’une grande qualité.

Je classe : 1990 – 1998 – 1982.

Le 1990 a beaucoup de similitudes avec le 1959. Le 1990 est sans doute largement au dessus du 1989. Les trois premières séries furent d’une grande qualité. Le plus pur des vins est certainement le 1998. Le charme est du côté du 1959 et du 1990.

Quatrième série : Cheval Blanc 1949, 1948, 1947, 1945, 1921

Bipin annonce que nous n’aurons que deux bouteilles de 1947 sur les trois fournies car il a un doute sur l’une d’elles. Il annonce qu’il y a seulement une 1921. Mais comme il pense que ce pourrait être un faux, il demande si nous voulons la goûter. Evidemment personne ne refuse de goûter. Nous avons, à quelques uns, examiné le bouchon, et Pierre Lurton voyant comment il était imprimé, avec l’indication “rebouché en 1995” sur les deux faces du bouchon, confirma ma propre analyse, à savoir que le vin est authentique. Et en bouche il est définitivement un vin des années 20, sans aucun doute, et c’est un grand vin. L’idée de changer un grand vin des années 20 pour un autre grand vin des années 20 rend très probable qu’il s’agisse d’un vrai Cheval Blanc. Je le trouve délicieux, combinant douceur et acidité. Un vin d’une exceptionnelle longueur. Je ne l’inclurai pas dans le classement ultérieur, car je bois juste une ou deux gorgée, ce qui exclut une analyse fiable.

Le 1949 a un nez superbe et très élégant. Le 1948 a un nez très riche et séduisant, d’une rare profondeur. Le 1947 a un nez incroyable. C’est une bombe. Il est au dessus du 1948. Le 1945 est bouchonné.

Je commence à goûter le 1945 et avec la plus grande objectivité possible, je dois dire que le goût n’est pas faussé par l’odeur du bouchon. C’est un vin large, opulent, serein, puissant, velouté. C’est un grand vin. Le 1949 que je trouve trop froid est plus strict, léger, mais c’est un grand vin. Probablement trop strict si on le compare avec le précédent Cheval Blanc 1949 que j’ai goûté au sein d’une présentation horizontale des meilleurs Bordeaux de 1949. Le 1947 expose son aspect Porto avec une grande évidence. Il y a du café, du cacao et du beurre de noisette. La puissance en bouche est étonnante. Plusieurs personnes autour des tables aimeraient que le 1948 se place au dessus du 1947, car le 1948 n’est pratiquement jamais ouvert, c’est d’ailleurs le seul millésime avec le 1921 que je n’avais pas bu de ces 34 vins présentés. Et l’hésitation est possible car ce 1948 a une force et une sérénité qui en font un vin important et imposant. Il semble un peu fortifié tant il est puissant, mais c’est juste une impression.

Bipin a annoncé qu’il gardera pour lui les bouteilles vides des plus grands vins, aussi une  vide de 1947 arrive sur la table, et Bipin partage avec moi le sédiment. Cette lie a pour moi un goût à mourir instantanément. C’est incroyablement bon. Purement étonnant. Je pourrais tomber de ma chaise. C’est incroyable. Je le trouve totalement dément, et il me rend fou. Il y a un côté caramel, un gout de Maury. C’est comme de l’or précieux en bouche.

Le 1949 confirme qu’il est un peu limité, Le 1945 est encore plus grand que ce que j’avais goûté. Le 1947 est manifestement au dessus, mais le trio 1947, 1948, 1945 boxe dans une catégorie poids lourds. Mon classement : 1947 – 1948 – 1945 – 1949.  Les trois premiers ont un aspect commun : torréfiés, riches, très Porto.

Ma conclusion est que la décennie 50 a fait les plus authentiques Cheval Blanc qui allient élégance et finesse et sont maintenant au sommet de leur forme. Et la décennie 40 a créé, pour les meilleures années des vins qui sont plus extrêmes, plus fous, plus extravagants.

Le 1947 est un vin extraterrestre, Le 1921 est encore un bon vin, très différent des autres. C’est certainement une verticale magnifique et plutôt unique que nous avons vécue, avec les beaux commentaires de Pierre Lurton et l’intelligente organisation de Bipin Desai.

Cheval Blanc by Spago vendredi, 2 novembre 2007

The bottles are prepared and two huge tables are ready to receive the precious liquids.


The wines on front of me, and the pheasant, which was shot and not breed.


Spago made a delicious food. Christian Navarro made a very great service of the wines.

See the report of this dinner in the message about the verticale of Cheval Blanc.

deux bordeaux présentés lors d’un cocktail jeudi, 18 octobre 2007

Le soir, cocktail organisé par une banque. C’est l’occasion de présenter deux vins : Fleur de Boüard 1999 et Pontet-Canet 2001. La présence de Stéphanie de Boüard m’avait fait espérer que l’on aurait de l’Angélus, mais elle parle avec compétence et conviction du Lalande de Pomerol de sa famille fait avec les conseils de Michel Rolland. J’ai un faible pour l’élégance du Pauillac par rapport au boisé sensible du Fleur de Boüard. Mais on en reparlera dans quelques années.

l’Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. lundi, 15 octobre 2007

Au même moment, à peu de distance, se tient la présentation du millésime 2005 par l’Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. La brochette de grands vins est spectaculaire, et c’est le road show de l’élite du vin bordelais. Je fais d’abord un premier tour de « politicien », serrant des mains amies et distribuant des sourires. Puis, bravant mon appréhension d’aborder des vins si jeunes, je me livre à une dégustation quasi systématique, ce qui noircit les dents, tant l’année est tannique. Michel Bettane, qui est ici dans son élément, me donne de temps à autre de bons conseils pour aller déguster des vins que j’aurais peut-être oubliés. Une anecdote mérite d’être soulignée. Je goûte La Conseillante 2005 que je trouve remarquable et je dis à Michel : « j’adore La Conseillante 2005 alors que je n’avais pas aimé le 2004 ». Et Michel me reprend en disant : « le jour où tu as goûté le 2004 tu ne l’as pas aimé, et le jour où tu goûtes ce 2005, tu l’aimes ». Cette mise en perspective de la relativité des dégustations m’a beaucoup plu. Il faut ne pas être définitif. Une autre anecdote m’amusa, car elle me rappela des souvenirs d’enfant. Lorsque je préparais le bac, il était de bon ton, dans le petit groupe de chiadeurs que nous formions à Louis-le-Grand, d’être le premier à quitter la classe lors des examens blancs, en rendant sa copie où tout était bon, pour montrer aux autres que l’on est le meilleur. Là, je rencontre dans les allées Alexandre de Lur Saluces que j’avais salué plus tôt et je lui demande s’il reste une goutte de Fargues 2005 que je n’avais pas encore tenté. Il me répond : « tout ce que j’ai apporté a été bu ». C’était le premier de la classe. Je n’aurai pas l’outrecuidance de donner un jugement sur les 2005 à Bordeaux, car d’autres en font métier. C’est une année spectaculaire, qui va donner des vins de haute garde et de forte personnalité. Il aurait fallu être particulièrement peu doué pour rater son 2005. Très peu l’ont été. Ce sera, toutes régions bordelaises confondues, un millésime d’anthologie. Savez-vous quels sont les vins que j’ai préférés ? Ceux que je préférais déjà !

Club des Professionnels du Vin lundi, 15 octobre 2007

Denis Garret, truculent sommelier, a repris les destinées du Club des Professionnels du Vin. Des vignerons de nombreuses régions, tous passionnants, se retrouvent deux fois par an au Pavillon de la Porte Dauphine à Paris. En cette période marquée par le rugby, Denis a invité sept arbitres de la Coupe du Monde et personne ne siffle lorsqu’on présente les arbitres anglais, quelques jours à peine après notre défaite d’une magnitude proche de Trafalgar, ce qui prouve que le rugby est un sport de gentlemen. Des cavistes gagnent des places pour la petite finale et pour la grande finale de la coupe du monde. Dans cette ambiance bon enfant, la dégustation des vins est joyeuse. J’aime beaucoup les champagnes Mailly, Bonnaire, et cet Amour de Deutz 1999 qui coule en bouche de façon expressive. Je passe plus de temps à bavarder avec des vignerons amis qu’à boire ces vins bien jeunes, mais je remarque avec plaisir le Côtes du Rhône Domaine Duseigneur 2005, vin dont Philippe Faure Brac est l’associé, première cuvée qui me semble une réussite dans sa catégorie « Villages ». Le Chablis Moutonne Long-Dépaquit de la maison Bichot 2002 est particulièrement agréable. Beaucoup d’autres vins, dont beaucoup de vins étrangers (messieurs les français, réagissez vite, prenez des stands), attirent une belle affluence de professionnels, sommeliers, cavistes, restaurateurs et journalistes.