Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blind Bordeaux Challenge XII.

20 March 2009, Old Manila, the Grand Crew's Blind Bordeaux Challenge XII. The Doc was running late and a bit under the weather, so, while waiting, we ordered our appetizers and mains, starting with a chilled bottle of Old Manila's house champagne by Deutz.

This simple, fresh, linear, apple, white grapefruit and citrus slanted bubbly was enjoyed with an amuse bouche of lobster croquette. Doc and Mrs. Doc arrived very soon thereafter.

Upon the Vigneron's suggestion, we agreed to have the tasting and voting of the four competing reds before the main courses arrived so as to judge the wines in themselves and to avoid their pairing with food affecting our analysis. And so we did, right after we had our traditional "pre-hostilities" photo. The reason we always take a shot of us four before the competition is because there's no telling if we'll still be friends after.

The reds were then served and the battle was joined.

Wine # 1: Initially, this exploded from the glass with a vigorous aged bouquet of truffles, cedar, leather, herbaceaous dark fruit and cassis. In the mouth, it was very broad, expansive, masculine, earthy with mushrooms lacing the cassis and dark fruit. There was, as well, an underlying herbaceaousness, with classic touches of leather, tobacco and cedar. Obviously an aged Médoc. Nice heft and body (like a light-heavyweight), with good push.

However, after several passes, the alluring bouquet, flavors and body just seemed to fall apart, becoming a bit diffuse. I simply had to rate it down materially as a consequence, though, early on, it was a strong contender for 1st place. I finally rated it 4th place.

Mrs. Vingeron guessed this to be the oldest wine, the Stockbroker identified it as a left bank from 1990, and the Vigneron identified it as his wine. It turned out to be the Vigneron's 1988 Château Calon Ségur, a very reliable 3rd Growth from St-Estèphe.

Wine # 2: With its dignified deep brick-red with red-orange highlights and a dark violet-red core, it was, by sight, the oldest wine of the four. The initial sniff yielded a slightly less bold bouquet of roast meat, violets, cooked plums, a notable touch of animal (which subsided later on).

These notes were mirrored on the palate on a body more streamlined and less hefty in body than Wine # 1. The fruit seemed a bit riper with plums and red fruit on the surface of the dark. Silkier with good elegance. Very nice.

The Doc pegged it as a right bank and guessed it to be a 1982 Figeac, while the Stockbroker, in his notes, identified it as his wine.

I eventually rated it 3rd place. It turned out to be the Stockbroker's 1985 Château La Conseillante, one of Pomerol's old guard top growths.

Wine # 3: The bouquet was more subdued than the two previous wines' - with cedar, pencil shavings, cassis, whisper of licorice and leather. As regards the palate, it had very deep and subtly complex graphite, tobacco, cedar and "tar" infused dark fruit, cassis, as well as slight plum and licorice nuances. Beautiful mouthfeel - very masculine, expressive, yet proper and understated. Difficult to guess its age though it was undoubtedly mature and in incredible shape - consistent throughout the evening.

The Stockbroker pegged it as a left bank, guessing it to be from the mid 1990s. I rated it 2nd place. It turned out to be the Doc's 1989 Château Lynch Bages, an over-performing 5th growth Pauillac that the group favors.

Wine # 4: Comparatively (with Wines # 1 & 3) a subdued nose of ripe plum, cherry, bit of cedar, some chocolate and creamy/toasty vanilla/oak with the merest topnote of herbaceousness. Can't really call it a bouquet as there isn't much complexity or maturity in it - easily the youngest wine in the bunch (as I, Mrs. Vigneron and the Stockbroker noted), and just as easy to identify it as my own. A powerful, well-rounded, full-bodied wine with lush, ripe plum, kirsch, chocolate, underlying violets and vanilla infused cassis, smoky cedar trailed at the end. Broad, long and powerful.

Though this group obviously is Médoc-and-Pessac-Léognan-centric, I gambled on this wine's power and plush rounded body for it to stand out in a blind tasting. I rated it 1st place. It was, in fact, my 1998 Château L'Evangile, another top Pomerol owned and run by the Rothschild family (of Lafite Rothschild, not Mouton).

Finally, the tasting done and votes submitted, I relaxed to enjoy my meal with the rest of the wine.

As usual, Mrs. Vigneron (whose rankings, yet again, matched mine exactly) tallied the scores and announced the winners. It was a very close fight.

1st Place - My 1998 L'Evangile, with a total of 23 points (4 votes for 1st place, 1 vote for 2nd place, 1 vote for 3rd place and 2 votes for 4th place).

2nd Place - The Doc's 1989 Lynch Bages, with a total of 21 points (1 vote for 1st place, 4 votes for 2nd place, 2 votes for 3rd place and 1 vote for 4th place).

3rd Place - The Stockbroker's 1985 La Conseillante, with a total of 20 points (2 votes for 1st place, 1 vote for 2nd place, 2 votes for 3rd place and 2 votes for 4th place).

4th Place - The Vigneron's 1988 Calon Ségur, with a total of 16 points (1 vote for 1st place, 1 vote for 2nd place, 3 votes for 3rd place and 3 votes for 4th place). Incidentally, he later told me that had intended to enter the 1985 vintage of Calon Ségur but realized only on the night itself that he had left only the 1988.

It was a great evening yet again, full of fun, good food (the new, young Chef de Cuisine of Old Manila will surely receive this group's support), great wine and excellent company. A post-hostilities shot shows that we are all good sports and still all good friends - no matter how our little competitions turn out...

...I guess.


Chinkee said...

bwahahaha! the last pic was hilarious! congrats on winning the challenge:-)

Noel said...

Thanks, Chinkee. It was a battle hard fought to be sure! Yes, I can't help but chickle when I look at that picture.


Miguel said...

ya...they are all smiling but deep inside....hehehe

Congrats !

BTW how was the food?

Noel said...

Thanks, Miguel.

The food was good: For starters I had the salad with shortbread - very ordinary. My steak (grilled NY cut), though not as rare as I would like, was charred outside, juicy enough inside and the seasoning was very simple and subtle, the way I like it.

Catha had my usual magret and duck confit. I tasted from her and, while the magret was same as ever (good but nothing great), the confit was excellent, probably one of the best I've tried in Manila.

Jojo, Fides and Sevrine had the night's special which was pheasant and they seemed quite happy with it. Edouard had the same steak as mine and he liked it a lot.


Anonymous said...

i brought the Conseillante 1985 to regain the crown. but it's tough to beat the likes of Lynch Bages 89 and L'Evangile 98. Right banks from the 98 and even from less than stellar vintages have an excellent record at our Bordeaux challenges, so I really wouldnt say it was a "gamble" on Noel's part. Take Pavie98 (Doc's), Couspaude98 (Noel's) and Hosanna99 (Ed's) which have all won. An Angelus 01 came in 2nd place also. It was a well deserved victory for the new King! By the way, I was crying inside when that last photo was taken-jojo

Chinkee said...

Jojo- Hahahaha! And it shows! But then, based on Noel's past posts, you seem to have an excellent track record with these Bordeaux challenges. I'm sure you'll be back with a vengeance.

I always enjoy reading Noel's posts about your group's wine events... Seems so much more fun than the usual.

Anonymous said...

chinkee- there's no question about it- i will try harder the next time. during the first few Brdx Challenges, I was still zero while everyone else had already won 1 or 2 events. it was no fun. they even threatened to eject me from the Grand Crew because of my dismal record at the start. (see how serious these competitors can get?!) i believe the next challenge is scheduled for May 30. Noel's throne will be short-lived heheh! -jojo

Miguel said...

Jojo - haha yes I can se you crying inside....These challenges can really get bloody ha?? :)....

Noel will probably enjoy this win of his for a long time...

Chinkee said...

Hey Mig! Yea, I had no idea that this could get really intense! Maybe we should start a pool... Who's gonna win Blind Bordeaux Challenge XIII? Stats seem to favor Noel, but the Stockbroker is hungry for a win and would probably bring out the big guns.:-) Abangan...

Noel said...

I told Doc that he should just bring another '89 La Mission Haut Brion and I will gladly vote for his wine. Jojo, if you open another '90 Haut Brion, I'll vote for your wine plus bring in flying voters.

Then I'll bring the '91 Château la Merde I've been saving for you guys.

Madali akong kausapin. Heh heh.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid Apa Ongpin's wife does not belong to this group. Ana has no class =(