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"Cloud 9" - Yquem, Grange, La Chapelle

by Tom Cannavan, 11/98

This was our annual money-no-option tasting. Superstars Yquem, Grange and La Chapelle were present in their most recent vintages. I have to say the Grange is a stunning wine - better than the '92 in my opinion and an absolutely unique experience. The La Chapelle is destined for greatness too I would guess - and at a third of the price! Having tasted both on several occasions I would say the '90 Yquem is definitely more of a long term wine than the the '89. The latter is already so delicious and will doubtless improve over decades, but the '90 has tremendous potential. I know that drinking these wines now seems like infaticide, but even the La Chapelle was delicious, and what an opportunity...

The tasting was double-blind, though we were tipped off that the Grange and Yquem were in the line-up. Notes are as written during tasting. Prices are in pounds sterling (£10=$16).

Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Champagne 1990 - £35.00
Glowing golden colour. Very soft, leesy, autolysis nose with dry, nutty aromas and some pear fruit. Rich palate, with a soft mousse and very deep, toasty flavours. Hazelnuts, hot chestnuts. Good acidity of tart green apples, but overall impression is toasty and complex. Long, with some orange flavours developing. Very tasty.

Geoff Weaver (Australia) Lenswood Chardonnay 1996 - £10.99
Very bright green/gold. Lovely, delicate pear and flower scents, with minerals, honeysuckle, lime and orange. Chardonnay - guess a 1996 white Burgundy? Palate is full and luscious with opulent pear, melon and tropical flavours nicely rounded out with creamy oak. Excellent balance and great harmony. Long finish. Very good indeed.

Mestre-Michelot Meursault Sous La Velle 1996 - £16.99
Very pale gold, tinged green. Deeply toasted, oaky, nutty nose. Buttery and rich with caramel notes, brioche and pecans. Palate is much fresher with lots of citrus fruit and a very racy character. Good acidity, lots of toasty, oaky spice in the longish finish. Chardonnay again. Odd combination of New and Old World characteristics. Antanopoulos Chardonnay?

Glen Carlou (South Africa) Grand Classique 1995 - £9.49
Even, deep, crimson/black with pink on rim. Lovely fresh, blackcurrant fruit on the nose with darker, plum and blackberry notes and some vanilla. A Cabernet/Merlot blend. Quite a rustic feel in the mouth, with grippy tannins but good, ripe fruit. Very drying effect on the palate. Long, smoky, spicy finish is rather low in acidity, but tannins keep it tight.
In fact a blend of 65% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot and 7% cabernet franc.

Les Pagodes de Cos (2nd wine of Cos d'Estournel), St-Estèphe 1995 - £27.99
Dense purple/crimson colour. Some black fruit on the nose but rather closed. Aromas of truffles and ash emerge with coaxing. Quite herbaceous and rather hollow on the mid-palate. Some dark, roasted coffee notes develop but rather disjointed. The fruit is pure though quite weak. This might need time. A young, Bordeaux wine - a Cru Bourgeois from St-Estèphe?

Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle 1996 - £28.99
Very dense purple/black. Blast of pure, raspberry fruit. Very rich and deep with a polished, leathery quality. Quite briary too with Port-like hints of cough-mixture and charcoal. Complex and beautifully creamy on the palate, but grippy and very young. A firm tannic structure and broad base of acidity is overpowering sweet ripe fruit at the moment. This is syrah from the Northern Rhône, probably Hermitage. La Chapelle? Very long and already good integration. Could be a great wine in time.
And considering current pricing of Bordeaux, Burgundy and top New World wines, quite a bargain

Penfolds (Australia) Grange 1993 - £80.00
Absolutely opaque, inky black colour. Stunning nose. Intense, pure core of sweet black fruit with thick, dusty blueberry and bramble depth. This is Grange! Absolutely pure, driven fruit on the palate with some delicious peppery notes and layers of chocolate, coffee and liquorice. Seems to be more complex than the '92 was at this stage. Stunning, structured, extracted and immense, yet harmonious, pure and delicious. Terrific.
Label image

De Bortoli (Australia) Noble One 1995 - £22.99
Very deep caramel/gold. This is not 1990 Yquem. Lightly oxidised, but classy botrytis aromas on the nose with honey, peach, figs, caramel and over-ripe tropical fruit. Rich, lush and dense on the palate with an almost minty intensity. Little nuances of nuts, cappucino and marmalade. Acidity is good and keeps it lingering and fresher on the finish than I might have guessed. Very nice stuff.

Château d'Yquem, Sauternes, Premier Cru Supérieur 1990 - £79.99 per half bottle
Much brighter, lemon colour. Much more subtle with coffee, spearmint, almonds, figs and tropical fruit. On the palate medium bodied but luscious with flavours of dried banana and coconut, cinnamon, vanilla and figs. Great depth and concentration with a marvellous chameleon-like quality of ever changing nuance. Tight and will certainly blossom given time. Superb stuff. (Tasted twice with very consistent notes).
Of the 6 half bottles on tasting, 2 were corked - my first glass quite obviously so, the second bottle more mildly.