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11th April 2020

Time to drink the good stuff like there’s no tomorrow* #14

Château Léoville-Barton 1995
St Julien, Bordeaux 12.5%

I’d like to say that I have had a few days away from alcohol, but alas it would be a fib. My original ‘good stuff like there’s no tomorrow #14’ was a very good white Burgundy. Unfortunately it was oxidised. This is a phenomenon known as ‘premox’ (premature oxidation), and seemed to afflict, and possibly still does, especially the white wines of Burgundy, from vintages in the 1990s and 2000s. Many theories have been postulated for what accounts for the problem, and they are all just a google away. Probably changes to the sulfur regimen. Anyway, what promised to be an exceptional Grand Cru bottle of wine turned out to be excessively golden, honeyed, nutty and popcorn like. Not what was to be expected, and beyond review. But I still managed to drink it, just with rather less pleasure than its auspicious label and appellation suggested I was likely to find. A salutary lesson, and one which, in a way, proves the point that sometimes wine is just there to be drunk, and not kept for reasons unknown.

So, as a reward, tonight, with a ‘pièce de boeuf’ which was perfectly cooked (though I say so myself - and by which I mean, barely cooked at all), I opened this, which seems to be continuing a theme!

At a quarter-century this is just in a perfect place right now, although it could certainly be safely and happily kept for a long time to come. 1995 was a great vintage, on the warm side, but this little valley (more a rill) in St Julien which marks the southern border of the two Barton properties seems often to preserve a freshness deprived of estates with even more celebrated names adjacent and to the north (Léovilles Poyferré and Las Cases, and even Latour), making them often the stars of the great warmer years, as the eminently sensible 12.5% alcohol level attests.

Plenty of cassis and damson fruit still left - even the colour is still on the ruby side. And this is off-set by the characteristic St Julien ‘wine-y’ juiciness of bramble jelly and cherry compôte. The signs of age are framing this delightfully with dried spices, graphite, earth-after-rain, coffee and pipe-tobacco. It’s gloriously silky textured with a whole that is so much more than the sum of its many parts. Delicious and with a persistence that equals that of any Bordeaux. A great wine indeed. Lovely, and definitely in a goldilocks zone of maturity right now.

*There might be no tomorrow.


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