Friday, April 30, 2010

Chateau Haut-Bailly 1970 Cru Exceptionnel (France)

When you get a bottle from your birth year you start wondering what to do with it.  Of course, the purpose is to open it and try it, but the questions arise: with whom and when.  I acquired this bottle a couple of months ago and put it into my wine fridge awaiting the opportunity to open it.  I figure that since my fiancee and I were born in the same year it only made sense to open it with her - when do you get the opportunity to try a wine from your birth year, when your birth year was 40 years ago?  The answer, not often enough.  

I decided to do some checking on the Chateau after I had drunk the bottle, so as not to skew my opinion of it.  First off, Chateau Haut Bailly is a "Grand Cru Classe" wine from the Pessac-Leognan appellation (Graves), which means it was ranked in 1959 as one of the top vineyards with 16 other wineries, included on that list is Chateau Haut-Brion.  A search on the Bailly website under "memorable vintages" shows 1970 to be: "Powerful, plentiful, promising".  Now that that is out of the way I suppose I should tell you what happened with this bottle.  

My fiancee came to town for a family dinner (parents, brother, niece and maid of honour), this was also the first time we have been in the same place since we got word that we are to be home owners later this month.  So there is no better time to pop the cork on an old bottle then when there are friends and family around.  The cork was slightly moldy and broke in the middle - it took me some time to get it out without getting cork bits into the wine, but it finally slid out of the neck (there was no loud pop).  The smell was old, dried (some would say rotten) fruit and wet leaves, lots of wet, damp forest smells.  45 minutes later some fruit peaked out for its last hoorah, it then disappeared never to be heard (or in this case smelled) again.  At the peak it was licorice and dried cranberries, the acidity was still there (and fairly prominently) with each second sip.  It was a pretty good bottle of wine considering its age.  I looked up Parker's notes, just for some reference, he said the bottle was fully mature back in December of 1993, I would not deny that, but I did not have this bottle in 1993, I got it in 2010 - and you know what, to sip on history it was well worth the wait to get it.

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