Rare Collector Wines - 1955 Bordeaux Wine Tasting
1955 Bordeaux wines, what does that conjure up in your mind? I had the truly unique opportunity to attend a tasting of 1955 Bordeaux wines from the Pomerol region of France organized by Acker Merrall & Condit at the restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City on February 24, 2005.
Prior to the event I did some research on the 1955 Bordeaux wines; I looked at the climate impact during that year, as well as various tasting notes which may be found on the Internet. When tasting wines such as the 1955 Bordeaux you do not have much in the way of personal information to work off, and especially when you attend a tasting of a wine that is older then you are. It is not like you can do some personal research by dropping in to the local liquor store and buying a bottle.
Collectors of wine look forward to this type of event so they can taste and discuss, with other oenophiles, a unique vintage such as the 1955 Bordeaux wines prior to procuring select wines for their personal collection.
The 1955 Bordeaux wines for this evening’s event, with many rare Pomerols, included – Ducru Beaucaillou, Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Haut-Brion, La Mission, Cheval Blanc, Gazin, Trotanoy, Latour á Pomerol, Pétrus, Lafleur and Fonseca.
Great care and planning was required for the event, which included discussions on the wine handling and care prior to the event, and sommeliers Michel Couvreux and Troy Daigle of Le Bernardin were more then up to the task. In addition to the wine there was a food pairing that was required to complement each of the flights of wine. There were thirteen 1955 Bordeaux wines served this evening; the wines were arranged in a flight of three glasses per gastronomic pairing, with the last flight being port. Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, without the advantage of tasting the wine prior to the event, had one of the hardest jobs in creating the right pairing per wine flight. In addition to the challenge of pairing collector wines, Chef Eric had to deal with the “what will it taste like after 50 years of cellaring”. Wines if cellared properly (this can be a very scientific process) will hold their “color” (taste, nose, and physical color) through the years; if not cellared correctly you will lose precious nuances of the wine, which will be felt on your palate during the food pairing, challenges which are out of the Chef’s control.
The Flight 1 food and wine pairing consisted of – Ducru Beaucaillou, Lafite, and the Latour paired with ravioli of Argentinean shrimp and wild mushroom in a foie gras-truffle sauce. The consensus was that the sauce was a bit spicy for this flight of wine. Flight 2 consisted of Mouton, Haut-Brion, and La Mission paired with a braised lobster in a red wine sauce (the wine used in the reduction was a standard house Cabernet Sauvignon). The consensus was that this was a great pairing, where the food allowed the wine to complement the diverse tastes, while neither conflicted with the other. Flight 3 consisted of the Cheval Blanc, Gazin, and Trotanoy which was paired with pan roasted squab stuffed with truffle, soft polenta and Armagnac scented jus. Consensus on this pairing was very positive with the food and wine complementing each other, allowing the guests to experience the wine to its fullest. Flight 4 consisted of the Latour á Pomerol, Pétrus, and Lafleur paired with pan roasted rack and eighteen hours braised leg of lamb with goat cheese mashed potatoes and a wild mushroom red wine sauce. The food was a nice pairing, and the wine which was the centerpiece of the evening continued to shine. Flight 5 was the Fonseca Port that was paired with a cheese plate of cheddar, 6 year old Gouda from Holland and soft sheep’s milk cheese from Spain. This fine port, which still exhibits a young palate, was the perfect match to the cheese plate and a perfect ending to an outstanding evening.
If you are wondering how the 1955 Bordeaux Wines tasted, typically fine red Bordeaux wine is fuller with more tannic then a red Burgundy, and the wines held true to their identity. In Flight 1 – Ducru Beaucaillou, Lafite, and the Latour, I felt that the Latour showed the best exhibiting a full nose of spice, cherry and pepper, and the wine continued to open up during the tasting. Flight 2 – Mouton, Haut-Brion, and La Mission, I felt that the Mouton was a bit maturated while the Haut-Brion may have been affected by a bad glass, but the La Mission with its deep purple color and good fruit on the nose and palate was my preference for Flight 2. Flight 3 – Cheval Blanc, Gazin, and Trotanoy, I felt that the Cheval Blanc, which elicited a strong bold nose of chocolate, and paired harmoniously with the food, was my selection for that Flight. Flight 4 – Latour á Pomerol, Pétrus, and Lafleur, I felt that the Latour, which was cloudy, exhibited traits of an old burgundy, which may be attributed to its cellaring that caused the cloudy condition, the Pétrus, as I was told by sommelier Troy Daigle, yielded very little to no sediment during the decanting, and the wine was well balanced with a full body, while the Lafleur was elegant, very robust and well balanced with a nose of plum, and a smooth finish on the palate, was the best selection of this flight, as well as the best selection of the evening, as it also paired nicely with the food.
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