Monday, December 21, 2009

'88 White Burg; '78 Rioja

I love surprises. And I love exploring older wines. The best way to approach these bottles, I find, is with a sense of exploration, even a sense of awe that an agricultural product produced from a single year's harvest, which may pre-date your year of birth, can still taste ok, occasionally great. Set your expectations somewhat low, do not pay more than you're comfortable with paying for something that you will not gain any further use out of after consumption, and you will be disappointed far less often.

Recently I had the good luck to enjoy a couple of stellar bottles which were drinking. And when I say drinking, I mean in their prime, strutting their stuff, no sign of slowing down anytime soon type vinous form.

The first bottle, chronologically speaking, was a 1978 Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina Gran Reserva Rioja. Produced from 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo (Carignane) and 5% Graciano, this was everything you could want in a mature gran reserva: exotic indian spices intermingled with red berry fruit on the nose, aromas following through to the silky palate, tannins fully integrated, a hint of subtly sweet earthy savor, but not a savor which overwhelms the delicate, expressive fruit. I've only had a few other riojas from this year, '78 Lopez de Heredia Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva and '78 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia. 1978 Viña Albina Gran Reserva, at least this particular bottle compared to the two other LdH bottles, clearly takes the cake in this trio of '78s.

Bottle #2 was found in our closeout bin for the whoppingly low price of $6, a 1988 Pierre Morey Meursault "Les Tessons." I was taken aback by the fresh citric notes on the nose, and even more so by the stunning brilliance of the flavors on the palate. Clean, chiseled lemon, tangerine oil, just a hint of a peppery Meursault terroir kick. This is simply incredible wine that should drink well for a long time to come. Oxidation? Nope, not so much at all. Pierre Morey makes killer wine now, and apparently, he made some great wines twenty years ago as well. I give this wine my highest possible recommendation for a wine made of Chardonnay grapes that is not from Vertus, Avize, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, or the Jura.