kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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Bordeaux wine tasting at the French Embassy

Last night I attended a wine tasting of Bordeaux and Champagne Grands Crus at the French Embassy. It was sponsored by the Embassy and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and Dr. Denis Dubourdieu from the Institute of Wine and Vine Studies at the University of Bordeaux led us through the tasting of these phenomenal, prestigious wines. Here are my reviews:

Chateau Haut-Bailly 2001 (First Classed Growth, Graves, Pessac-Leognan): This wine had an intense purple/ruby color, and aromas of black currants and some wood--though it was still pretty fresh for a 2001. On the palate there was some earthiness, along with subtle fruit (the fruit was more apparent on the aroma than on the palate.) The wine exhibited easy tannins, which were velvety on the attack and silky on the finish.

Chateau Margaux 1995 (Premier Grand Cru Classe, Margaux): Since this wine was a bit older, there was some color variation on the rim, but it was still a really pretty ruby color. The aroma was less fruity than the Haut-Bailly, with scents of truffles, woods and "day old ashes" (in the words of Dr. Dubourdieu). The flavor was classic Bordeaux, with grippy tannins and a long finish. This wine still has a lot of good years left in it--the tannins will continue to mellow.

Chateau Cheval Blanc 1998 (Premier Grand Cru Classe A, Saint-Emilion): This wine had an intense, opaque color, and the aroma of smoke and wild strawberries (most likely from the large amount of cabernet franc in the blend...). There were berries at the beginning, then the fruit died off a bit. The wine had good acidity, as well as finesse. This was my second favorite red of the evening.

Petrus 2001 (Pomerol): Wow, wow, wow. The wine's color was deep ruby, and on the nose were intense blackberries, black cherries and plums. This wine was VERY fruit forward for an Old World red, and very powerful, with a long finish. It reminded me a bit (dare I say it?) of a Napa Valley or Australian merlot. This was my favorite red of the evening...then I found out it costs about $900 a bottle (if you can get your hands on one...) Well, if someone else is buying I'd drink it any night of the week.

Chateau d'Yquem 2001 (First Great Growth Sauternes): What can you say about a wine that both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker rate as a 100 pointer? The beautiful, intense gold color gives way to an attractive, honey aroma. On the palate the honey continues, balanced by good acidity. Even though this wine spent THREE years in barrel, there is absolutely no taste of wood...or of the botrytis, for that matter. Perfection in a bottle.

Louis-Roederer Cristal 1999 (Prestige Cuvee Champagne): What better way to end the evening than with some fine Champagne? This was a delight to enjoy with the passed hors d'oeuvres at the end of the tasting (shrimp wrapped in bacon, mini crab cakes, smoked salmon). With a light yellow straw color, a tinge of yeast and bread on the nose, and a delicate, medium-bodied palate, the 1999 Cristal is simply delicious. (I do have to admit, though, that I prefer good old Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label at $35 a bottle...good thing, because it's much more in my price range.)

It was an amazing evening at the French Embassy, with fantastic wines and an educational lecture. Vive la France! Vive les vins de Bordeaux!