TN: SOBER tasting- Bdx, Rhone, Piedmont
Michael Pronay wrote:
From your note above and several other notes I have read on
recent vintages of Pape-Clement, this wine has greatly improved
from what it was in the 1970s. My notes from that era were not
very flattering. They also had a white in the 70s that was
decent, but not outstanding, in the one vintage that I tasted.
If I were buying Bordeaux today, it might be worth checking
Pape-Clement again. In the 70s I soon concluded that money spent
for Pape-Clement would buy a wine much more to my taste
The improvement - stunning and fast - dates from vintage 1986
upwords. Pape Clément was acquired in 1937 by Paul Montagne. 1939
saw the entire property more or less fully destructed by a severe
hailstorm. Paul's son Léo took over, but apparently never really
cared. Léo's son-in-law Bernard Magrez was put in charge sometime
in 1985, iirc.
So you can buy "blind" almost anything from 1986 or younger,
as you should avoid just about anything from 1985 or younger.
I have been on a press trip to Pape Clément in October 1989. Denis
Dubourdieu, then consultant oenologist, let us taste 1986/7/8
sinde by side, plus a tank sample of one of the merlots from 1989.
The wines were quite impressive, with 1987 a much lighter style,
Funnily, the tasting in the chai was done from Riedel glasses,
while the wines for lunch at the chateau - all from the pre-Magrez
era - were served in crappy glasses the caterer had brought with
him. (To be honsest, Bordeaux caterers today do care for better
stemware, but at that time ...).
But I remember that everyone had standing, besides the small
glasses for the wines, a water bowl that happened to be the large
Riedel Sommelier Bordeaux Grand Cru stem (4400/00). With the last
red, Pape Clément 1961, I had it poured into this glass, much to
the distress of the server - and to an almost collapsing maitre d'
in the background.
We were four tables. From every table one non-French journalist
was asked about his opinion about the '61. As fate would have it,
from my table they asked me. Since the wine was rather tired and
slightly oxidized - nowhere, where a decent 1961 claret should be
- I tried to be polite and deliberated about how really great reds
converge when getting older, so that the characters of an almost
30 year old claret and an equally old Barolo show similarities.
I guess what I said was not what they wanted to hear ... ;-(
After looking at some notes, I find that the last older red
Pape-Clement that I tasted was the 1970. It was drinkable, but not at
all exciting. The one-and-only white I have tasted was the 1977
Pape-Clement blanc. Of course 1977 was not a very good years for reds,
but some whites perhaps were a bit better than the reds. Again, this
white was drinkable, but rather common. I do find I have a single
bottle of the 1961 that appears to be in good physical condition. I had
been in no hurry to open it, given my past experience with this wine. I
note that some reviewers have rated it a good bit above average, and
some rather average or flawed bottles have been noted. None rated the
61 anywhere near the top for 1961. The several reviews I have noted
seem to suggest that there may have been more than normal bottle
variation which could have been caused by storage issues or the wine
could have been bottled at different times or from different batches.