Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gruaud Larose Through the Decades

It never ceases to amaze me how deep the cellars owned by members of the Wine Media Guild go, and how generous those members are with their holdings.

Every year, the group, to which I belong, puts together a thrilling vertical tasting of an important, historical wine house, usually in Bordeaux. This year, it was Chateau Gruaud Larose, the highly esteemed second growth known for its massive power. The set line-up was impressive enough, with vintages from 2008 back to 1989. But members also contributed private bottles containing juice from 2000, 1990, 1986, 1982, 1975, 1971 and 1970. There were some vintages that not even David Launay, the general manager of the estate, and the Guild's guest, had tasted. Every time I thought I had sampled everything, someone passed by with a new bottle saying "I brought this from home." (Most of the donated bottles came from one member who had been collecting Gruaud Larose for years.)

The standouts for me (and others) were the 2000 and the 1970. The 2000 vintage, of course, has been widely heralded, and it was nice to see the wine fulfill that promise. It had a wonderful stinky, barnyard nose (something I detected on many of the older Gruauds) and was rich and chewy, with lovely fruit.

The 1970, meanwhile, had people swooning all over the place, going to their happy Bordeaux place. "This is what I mean when I say I like Bordeaux," said one. More magenta that red, it had a beautiful, nuanced barnyard aroma, as complex and multi-layed as you like, and was elegant and plush on the tongue. The fruit was still robust, the tannins relaxed and the structure impeccable, firm yet loose. Funny how different it was from the 1971, which was like a paler, lightweight version of the 1970, a disappointment. The 1986 has been praised by Parker and one can see why. It's a very good wine, but one that is easy to like, quite less subtle than 1970. Of the more recent vintages, the 2008 had a lot going for it, big tannins, full dark fruit. It could go far.

Gruaud is about two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest being a quartet Merlot and a little Petit Verdot. Launay said the chateau was busy planting more Cabernet, ripping out Merlot, because it was determined that Cabernet would grow better on the soil in question.

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