18 February, 2022
For some time I have only read books about wine – the most recent ones being Robert V. Camuto’s Cork Screwed (2008) and everything by Jay McInerney I could find. He’s my current favourite. Bacchus & Me (2002), A Hedonist in the Cellar (2006), The Juice (2013) and Wine Reads (2018), the latter a brilliantly compiled anthology. Sooner or later, all these books are about Bordeaux (and Burgundy, sure) – not the city, the wine region. There are legendary châteaux that produce legendary wines, mostly red ones, there are rankings, classifications.
Normally I always drink today’s wines – wines from the years 2020, 2019 and 2018. They never come from Bordeaux. I had to drink one of those old wines once. ›Normally‹ wines from Bordeaux are only drunk after 10, 20, 30 or more years. For reasons! So I searched ebay. I was looking for wines from Château Latour, one of the most famous wineries in the world. And I found, just off the mark, but at least Bordeaux: two Château La Tour Carnet. From 1983. Almost fourty years old! I bid and got the two bottles. For €70. Wikipedia says: »The Château La Tour-Carnet is a well-known winery of Bordeaux. Since the classification of 1855, the winery has been classified as a Quatrième Grand Cru Classé (fourth level of the classification). The estate is located in Saint-Laurent-Médoc in the Haut-Médoc appellation and is medium-sized at around 48 hectares. 50% of the area is planted with the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, 39% with Merlot and 11% with Cabernet Franc. At the time of the Bordeaux Classification, Château La Tour-Carnet was managed by Angélique Raymond, wife of Jean-Jacques Luetkens. Jean-Jacques was considered the richest of the Germans in Bordeaux. From 1861 Charles-Oscar de Luetkens managed the fortunes of the winery. The estate fell into a deep crisis as a result of the phylloxera catastrophe, powdery mildew and the two world wars. In 1962, Louis Lipschitz acquired the Château La Tour carnet. At that time, the run-down estate had only 5 hectares of cropland. Lipschitz devoted himself to the renovation of the buildings and the replanting of abandoned vineyard plots. From 1978 his daughter Marie-Claire Pelegrin continued the work.« And what does critic Robert M. Parker, jr. say in Bordeaux (1992 edition)? »This St-Laurent estate has remained largely anonymous despite its rank in the 1855 classification. The beautiful estate with its medieval castle has now been restored, but the wine suffered – I suspect – considerably from extensive replanting in the 1960s. In any case, the 70s, 71s and 76s were fairly thin, neutral and bland wines that hardly lived up to the estate’s high standing. The 75 was good if nothing special, the 78 and 79 quite green and herbaceous, but the younger vintages, especially the 82, 83 and 89 are showing promise« (re-translated from the German).
I type into the internet: »open old wines«. I don’t get any smarter, so I simply open one of the two bottles. The waiter’s knife sinks into the cork as if it were made of butter. I keep trying, the cork is gradually giving. I’m looking for the decanter and a strainer. The cork keeps giving. I turn the bottle over, the wine slowly trickles into the decanter. In the nose: lasso! Leather! And a very old, wrinkled plum. The first sip: liquorice! Liquorice is the first thing that comes to mind. Insanely comforting. I would like to drink something like that in the cinema. Tannins are still there, incredibly well integrated. I’m absolutely thrilled that something so old can taste so awesome. Craziness! The finish lasts for minutes. Insanely calming. Oh! Cherry! Dark chocolate, horse saddle and a cheeky little cherry dancing on top!