All the Twos at Twenty Two

Wednesday, 17th December 2014 by Stephen Browett

My eldest son Ben had the great misfortune to be born in 1992. I don’t think that there has been a worse Bordeaux vintage since his arrival on the planet - and let’s hope that there never is.

On his 18th birthday we managed to have a wine dinner for 60 people featuring some great wines from his vintage with Bordeaux represented by a remarkably good (and possibly unique) imperiale of Valandraud. We also enjoyed some top Champagnes, white Burgundies (The Verget 1992’s are amazing!), Californians  (Dominus is outstanding) and the still youthful Fonseca.

Yesterday was his 22nd birthday, so I decided to organise a little blind tasting of a few wines with vintages ending in the number 2.  Four of us wandered over the common to Chez Bruce for a dinner that was, as usual, up to the impeccably high standards that Bruce Poole has maintained since he opened his brilliant restaurant 20 years ago.  Congratulations to Bruce for the recent announcement that he has won the  Harden Guide’s “London’s Favourite Restaurant” award for the 10th year running.

We started with a bottle that I was rather nervous would be a complete failure. 1992 was not a great year in the Rhône Valley either and you don’t really expect white Chateauneufs to stand the test of time, but Beaucastel is full of surprises. The Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc 1992 had a golden, but bright, colour which suggested that it had not yet crossed to “the other side”. The nose was classic white Chateauneuf with a dominant character of marzipan and hints of honey and roasted nuts. Oily textured and full-bodied, but not too thick or fat. Fascinating and full of interest if not exactly fresh and vibrant.  However the finish was very abrupt and there was no aftertaste at all.  This is a wine that is hanging on to life and there is a feeling that oxidation is not far away. Anyway, it’s done really well to last this long when you consider that it’s a white wine from a red wine region in a poor vintage. 16 points.

Château de Beaucastel Blanc 1992

Our first red wine had an impressively deep colour . Still inky and youthful. This was a massive wine, full of dense, opulent, succulent sweet cassis fruit and the inviting warmth of a leather sofa. The well-stacked fruit was balanced by structure and grip to give balance and control to the richness of the fruit. Impeccable class here, a beautifully polished wine and quite unmistakably Bordeaux at its finest. No surprises when this was revealed at Chateau Latour but nobody would guess this as coming from the lowly year like 2002. Latour 2002 must be the wine of the vintage and is completely atypical of the year. 19 points

Latour 2002

Second up was the wine with the darkest colour of the night. Still black and dense. The nose was big and heady with dark cassis, cigar box and spice with touches of menthol and eucalyptus. On the palate there was fantastic depth and richness. Solid and chewy with a solid structure and tannic backbone. There is probably too much jam-packed intensity here for it to be guessed as a Bordeaux but the grip is excellent and precise and there is none of the superfluous sweetness that is found so often in new world blockbusters. Youthful, rich yet classy. For a Californian Cabernet this has great balance.  Ridge Montebello 1992. 18 points.

Ridge Montebello 1992

By now the game was probably up and, even if it hadn’t been, there was little doubt that the final wine was a Bordeaux from the great 1982 vintage. Mature at the rim with a brick red colour it was still quite dark at the heart. This has a really lovely nose of mature claret. Hints of tobacco leaf, cigar box and newly tanned leather. The epitome of sophistication. The exceptional richness of this great vintage comes through but it remains resolutely a wine of terroir and breed. A proper Pauillac. Refined, savoury and multi-dimensional. A really complete Bordeaux that is drinking perfectly now. Grand Puy Lacoste 1982 is one of the very best wines of the vintage that never lets you down.  18.5 points.

Grand Puy Lacoste 1982

Being lucky enough to have been born in 1959, I have always been able to celebrate significant birthdays with brilliant wines from my own vintage but if, like Ben, you were born in a difficult year, it certainly helps to think outside the box.

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