tasting of 41 vintages of the Romanée Liger-Belairdimanche, 10 juin 2012

The tasting of 41 vintages of the Romanée Liger-Belair is held at the restaurant « Im Fünften » which as the name suggests is on the fifth floor of a shopping center, overlooking the Jakominiplatz in Graz. We are about 24, but each bottle will be divided into sixteen glasses, since several people will share a glass for two. The service of the wines is done according to a rather clever process. Gerhard, the organizer of the tasting, brought small schnapps glasses, and each participant receiving the carafe of a new wine uses a small glass to dose the amount, having a mark on the glass. It is very hot and during the first part of the tasting, before the night falls, the wines show a little too much alcohol first.

We taste « blind » almost total since, if we know the wine we drink, we do not know his year. The series are of five wines, whose order was established by Gerhard, and we do not know anything about it. The notes I have taken are more to differentiate the wines in each series, since we vote, than to describe them intrinsically. In addition, as there are many series, for prudence I do not come back many times on each wine. The desire to differentiate means that I put forward such or such defect, even if the wine is overall pleasant. Note that I do not know what the wine is when I wrote these notes where, for questions of readability, I indicate the year after the year instead of the order number of the wine. I kept my notes as they were, with their mistakes, their repetitions, and their imperfections. It should be noted that most often, my vote for the first three wines is very close to the vote of the group.

Series No. 1. The 1988 has the most tired color, its deep nose shows signs of age. The 1995 is much younger in color, cooler, and a bit strict. It has a nice pleasant structure. The 2004 has a powerful nose, a blackcurrant nose and a generous attack. This is the favorite of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, because he is in the style he wants to give to his wine. He is opulent. The 1993 is more watery, a little less structured. But he improves in the glass. The 2006 is elegant, measured, and very pretty.

Wines, in the service order, series 1: 1988 – 1995 – 2004 – 1993 – 2006.

The vote of the group is: 1: 2006, 2: 2004, 3: 1993, 4: 1995, 5: 1988.

My vote is: 1: 2006, 2: 2004, 3: 1993, 4: 1988, 5: 1995.

Series n ° 2. The 1979 has a warm nose, the 1970 a less precise nose, the 1982 has a rather animal nose, the 1972 has an elegant nose, the 1976 exhales a lot of alcohol, but it is related to the heat .The mouth of 1979 is elegant, refined. I like this wine. The 1970 is slightly tired, with a hint of cork that is not confirmed. It is quite mineral. He becomes warmer. The 1982 is older, a little watery, but it has a beautiful elegance. It is a little rough, rough and a little imprecise. The 1972 has freshness and elegance, in the end very fluid. I note: « that is happiness ». The 1976 is elegant but with a little less personality. He is racy too.

Wines, in Service Order Series 2: 1979 – 1970 – 1982 – 1972 – 1976

The vote of the group is: 1: 1972, 2: 1976, 3: 1970, 4: 1982, 5: 1979.

My vote is: 1: 1972, 2: 1976, 3: 1979, 4: 1970, 5: 1982.

Series No. 3. The 2000 has a very young color. He is very fluid. He is elegant and silky. The 1997 has a nice nose. It is a beautiful wine, less fine than the first. The 2007 has a less clear nose. I like his raspy side. He is more seductive, more Burgundian, but with the heat, shows too much his alcohol. The 2003 has a less pleasant nose. The taste is also less pleasant. The final is not precise enough. It is rather closed. The 2001 has a perfume of beautiful personality. It is atypical but exciting enough. It’s confusing, but I like it.

Wines, in Service Order Series 3: 2000 – 1997 – 2007 – 2003 – 2001

The vote of the group is: 1: 2003, 2: 2007, 3: 2001, 4: 2000, 5: 1997.

My vote is: 1: 2000, 2: 2007, 3: 2001, 4: 1997, 5: 2003.

Series No. 4. The 1968 has a nose of camphor, wine that has no vintage but that can be dated between 1920 and 1935 since it is a wine distributed by Marey & Comte Liger Belair has a nose of game, the 1973 has a superb nose, the 1923 has a nose of port, the 1975 has a « possible » nose. The 1968 is not so bad in the mouth, at least on the attack, but it is deviated, sick. The probable 1925 has a nice attack, but he is a little tired. The 1973 is more elegant. He still has fruit. The final is a little uncertain. But after a few minutes he shows that he is very handsome. The 1923 is pleasant. We smell his alcohol. The 1957 is the youngest of the five. As the first two were a little tired, Gerhard added a sixth wine, the 1975 that I find very pretty. Tasted then knowing the year, I find it above what it should be for 1975. And I have the same reaction knowing that the 4th wine is 1923. It is a superb 1923.

The wines, in the service order of series 4: 1968 – around 1925 – 1973 – 1923 – 1957 – 1975

The vote of the group is: 1: 1973, 2: 1957, 3: 1975, 4: 1923, 5: towards 1925, 6 – 1968.

My vote is: 1: 1973, 2: 1975, 3: 1957, 4: 1923, 5: 1968, 6: around 1925.

Series No. 5. The 1998 has a pretty fruity nose. He is pretty, rich, peppered, very powerful. The 2010 has an older nose, not easy to identify (I do not know the vintage). It is truffle, vegetal, not yet structured. The 2008 has a young nose like the 2010 (that’s what I wrote, which does not seem very coherent). He is happier, well structured. It’s a great wine in the making. The 1996 has a very pretty, rich, opulent nose. In the mouth, it is a little tight, strict, but of great potential. The 2002 has a nice and discreet nose. On the palate it is elegant and refined. This is for me the most beautiful series, very young and very well made wines.

Wines, in Service Order Series 5: 1998 – 2010 – 2008 – 1996 – 2002

The vote of the group is: 1: 2008, 2: 2002, 3: 2010, 4: 1996, 5: 1998.

My vote is: 1: 2002, 2: 2008, 3: 1998, 4: 2010, 5: 1996.

Series No. 6. The 1986 has a very pretty nose. He is pretty, charming, but is not Grand Cru. The 1983 has a seductive, winey nose. I like it. It is quite simple but very authentic. The 1985 is corked, alas. The 1992 has a very charming nose. It is very pleasant in mouth, charming, but does not have the tension that had the 5th series. The 1978 is corked, which is annoying when you learn what vintage it is. Louis-Michel votes for this wine at the first place by explaining why: he recognized the vintage and feels the immense potential of this wine. It therefore ignores the taste of cork that we suffer.

Wines, in Service Order Series 6: 1986 – 1983 – 1985 – 1992 – 1978

The vote of the group is: 1: 1992, 2: 1983, 3: 1986, 4: 1978, 5: 1985.

My vote is: 1: 1983, 2: 1992, 3: 1986, 4: 1978, 5: 1985.

Series No. 7. The 1990 has a high class nose. On the palate it is sweet, almost sweet, and not very orthodox. The 1989 has a pretty nose, but not very structured. In the mouth, it is fresher, charming, with a lot of fruit. I love him enough. The 2009 has a beautiful nose. It is a little sweet too but much more successful than the 1990. I blame myself, because I did not recognize this 2009 that I had tasted at the domaine. The 1999 has a slightly closed nose. It is a bit raspy on the palate but very interesting. The 2005 has a pretty nose, discreet. In the mouth it is not bad, but I do not find it very sexy.

Wines, in Service Order Series 7: 1990 – 1989 – 2009 – 1999 – 2005

The vote of the group is: 1: 2009, 2: 1999, 3: 2005, 4: 1989, 5: 1990.

My vote is: 1: 1989, 2: 2009, 3: 1999, 4: 1990, 5: 2005.

Series No. 8. The 1961 has a rather old nose. It’s old. In the mouth, it is sweet, and has almost no final. The 1966 has a pretty animal nose. On the palate it is sweet but bitter too. The 1964 has a tired nose, but it is pleasant on the palate. It has a pleasant end where alcohol shows itself. The 1969 has a much prettier nose. Despite bitterness in the end, I like this wine. The 1953 has an interesting nose. It is a little watery in the mouth but does not displease me. This series is perhaps the one that convinced me the least, because we are in a period where we can think that those who made the wine did not have a sufficient desire for excellence, contrary to what we see today.

Wines, in Service Order Series 8: 1961 – 1966 – 1964 – 1969 – 1953

The vote of the group is: 1: 1969, 2: 1953, 3: 1961, 4: 1964, 5: 1966.

My vote is: 1: 1969, 2: 1953, 3: 1964, 4: 1966, 5: 1961.

Gerhard now makes us taste blind a series of liquoreux.

Series n ° 9. The Bonnezeaux field of the Cross of Loges 1974 is very sweet. It looks like an English candy to which one would add cinnamon and marshmallow. It has a nice freshness, but the pineapple aspect does not do as well. The Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese Mosel Maximilian Keilereien 1964 has a weird nose. It is fairly light, barely sweet, in the end a little imprecise.

The Château Rieussec 1985 is much more pleasant, because it is a cozy Sauternes (I have no doubt about its origin by drinking it). The next wine and last wine has a whimsical label because it cannot be marketed because it only earns 4 °. While drinking it I immediately thought of a Hungarian Essenzcia because it has the nose, the enormous sugar and the beautiful freshness. And it is an Austrian Welschriesling Essenz 2001. We are therefore in the same spirit. We drank these four liquoreux on Austrian cheeses chosen with love by the restaurant, damn fine, so that we realize that Austria also makes cheeses. They are raised by Alt Grottenhof with permanent Gregorian songs. My ranking of these four wines is Rieussec, Essenz, Bonnezeaux and Mosel Riesling.

What about this evening? First of all, Gerhard’s determination has made it possible to gather all these wines, which is not an easy task when a wine has such a small production. Then, it’s a privilege to drink as many vintages of this great wine. Gerhard is a big wine enthusiast and it takes such characters to make beautiful events. The 1923, which I put fourth in his series, when I drank it knowing what it is, enthusiasmed me. This shows me that I prefer vertical tastings when we know what we drink, because I can then take advantage of my references on these years.

But the advantage of blind tasting is that it can be shown without risk of being influenced that there are so-called « average » years among the best classified as 1992, 1973, 1972 and 1957, for example, and so-called « big » years less well ranked like 2005, 1990, 1989, 1978, 1961, 1923.

Thus the wines ranked 1 or 2 by the group are: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1999, 1992, 1983, 1976, 1973, 1972, 1969, 1957 (Leroy), 1953 (Leroy-tastevinage).

And the wines ranked beyond 2nd by the group are: 2010, 2005, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1982, 1979, 1978, 1975, 1970 (Bichot), 1968, 1966 (Bichot), 1964 (Bichon to Margaux), 1961 (Leroy), around 1925 (Marey and Liger-Belair), 1923 (Leon Rigault).

During certain periods, the wine may not have had the treatment it deserved. Is it because those who were in charge did not give all the care they should have, I do not know. But a great wine from a great terroir always takes over. And Louis-Michel is demonstrating that the Romanée Liger-Belair is one of the most beautiful wines, the most racy of the beautiful Burgundy. The fact that this wine is big in so-called small years is a sign that it is an exceptional wine.

Long life to this Romanée whose recent vintages have conquered us.

(pictures are in the articles in French)