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The Chateau Montrose dinner 25/11/2005 (TNB)

We had a dinner recently to have a good look at Chateau Montrose - a property many regard as one of the great terroirs in Bordeaux. We had gathered together 19 wines from 1999 back to 1961 and while we were missing some benchmark wines this is surely enough to get a grip on the property, and what a great property it is.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Rather than taste right through from young to old, we separated the wines into flights by theme and tasted each flight chronlogically with food. We started with a flight of moderate vintages: 83, 81, 75, 71, 67. This is a great way of getting an understanding of the property and saved these wines from geting lost among greater ones. They were all lovely except the 83 which has a suspect astringent finish and the 67 which like most (all?) wines from that vintage is a bit past its best. The quality of the other three though was very striking: clear evidence for Montrose producing ageworthy wines - they were all of middle weight, elegant, complex, mineral and about at peak.

And so to look at the great older vintages while our palates were fresh. The 70 and 61 are great wines: the former still needing time and the latter close to perfection. Coates' assertion that they were too tannic and never mellowed seems way off the mark now. The 61 was a better bottle than the other time I have tasted it, perhaps because the earlier one had traveled too soon before consumption. They are both huge wines with incredible complexity and yet still elegant and redolent of their terroir. The 62 and 64 are both fine, perhaps I might be saying great if they hadn't been bracketed by the previous wines and the 66 is probably fine too except our bottle was very slightly flawed.

Our flight of 80's wines was marred by the 89 being corked and the 88 inexplicably very oxidised. The 90 and 82 are curious, exotic, super-rich wines while still very much Montrose - both clearly excellent. In between the 86 is much more classic, again excellent, but I thought a touch light given the vintage. A shame about the 89 because by most accounts this is great and in the classic mould - many authorities prefer it to Parker's favourite 90.

And so to more recent vintages: the 96 is huge and very structured; the 95 more in balance and seriously good; the 98 (from an under-rated vintage,I feel) is a gorgeous, mineral wine. The 99 seems rather more forward and user-friendly - lots of cassis but minerality too.

One can't help asking whether the young wines are in the same style as the old. Are the 90 and 82 going to be comparable with the 70 and 61 in twenty years, and is the 86 another 64 or 66? And what about the 95 and 96? It's the eternal question and always hard to answer - my suspicion is that the wines are a bit more forward than they were and perhaps will mature a bit faster. The 82 and 90 strike me as oddities and I don't see their exotic character evolving as well as the great wines of the 60's, but the 90's wines seem if anything a move back towards the earlier style. In any case, deep down they really have not changed that much and both the 80's and 90's wines are destined to give a lot of pleasure over quite a long time-scale. The other question is why do I have so little of the wine from this great property in my cellar?

Dinner added to Fine Wine Diary 26/12/2005   Return to top