By the end of the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter in November, I was pretty sure that my personal wine of the month would be the 96 Cos d’Estournel (though it was run pretty close by the 86, 2005 and 2010, all tasted at same Masterclass.)
But then I wasn’t banking on one the most gorgeous, heart-stopping bottles of my 20 years in wine taking me by complete surprise less than two days later. It was a 1976 Clos Vougeot Grand Cru from Louis Jadot enjoyed at Le Gavroche with a dozen other beautiful red and white burgundies in the company of the Jadot’s genial and gifted President, Pierre Henri Gagey.
But this 76 was far and away the most extraordinary. In the relative gloom of Le Gavroche, the wine was still deeply coloured. Cramming my nose in the glass, it was hauntingly perfumed with primary minerals, cola and raspberry fruit. The soaring palate was just as impressive. Rich and pure, there was only the merest hint of cep and sous-bois, adding another layer of complexity to the dominant violet, cream and red fruit compote. The textured tannins were round and giving, while the spine of acidity kept it ethereally lithe. The length was simply beyond belief. And with each sip, this exquisite wine detonated yet another delicious explosion of pleasure.
I swear to God that had I tasted it blind, I would have put it in the 1990s or even later. In fact, we were tasting it next to the 2009 and at one point, my MW neighbour and I almost confused the two.
How had this wine managed to defy the passing of the years? Surely, thin-skinned Pinot Noir doesn’t age as well as its more tannic cousin Cabernet Sauvignon. Forty eight hours earlier, I’d tasted the 75 Cos which is definitely in the ‘drink now’ category. In contrast, this 76 Clos Vougeot is most definitely still a ‘drink or keep’.
‘Of course, the magnum factor helps,’ explained Gagey. ‘And the fact that we have kept it in our cellars until tonight. Also remember that 76 was a very good vintage with lots of heat. But it also shows you a great terroir can do. I think Clos Vougeot is often wrongly underrated.’
Moreover, let’s not forget the genius of Jadot’s recently retired winemaker, Jacques Lardiere, who made both the 76 and the 09s I was drinking. Lardiere often favoured a more extracted style which sometimes seems at odds with many of today’s more forward and accessible red Burgundies. And whilst I am happy to taste and enjoy both, there’s little doubt in my mind that a wine like this 76 Clos Vougeot is of an entirely different order and dimension.
by John Stimpfig