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Magnum opus.

Posted by Stephen Meuse  November 16, 2011 12:50 PM

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photo2.jpgIn a post a couple of weeks ago I mentioned researching the 1967 Chateau Beychevelle which an old friend told me he intended to serve at an upcoming dinner party in celebration of his 75th birthday. The search led me to a 1973 New York Magazine article by Alexis Bespaloff, observations on his career, the help and pleasure his books have given, and how differently wine was written about in the Pre-Parker age. Well the night for the birthday dinner came around, and the twenty persons gratefully present sipped not one but two splendid red wines of a certain age from our host's cellar: the aforementioned '67 Beychevelle and a 1986 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

In the photo at left you can see the Beaucastel, two 1981 Ch La Lagune, and a 1990 Clos du Mont Olivet CdP. All are in magnum format which under the  same conditions mature more  slowly than in regular 750ml bottles. 

We were grateful that both wines turned out sound as a dollar, although the cork in the Beychevelle was so punky we wound up pushing it down into the bottle rather than extracting it. Naturally, they both needed careful decanting.  Forty-five years on, our Beychevelle showed a  rich, ruby hue with less browning than we anticipated. Most of the texture-producing tannins had fallen out of solution giving the wine a smooth, burnished feel. Nonetheless it gave the sense of a wine still in command of its faculties in the fullness of years.

As you might expect, The Beaucastel was an altogether bigger, richer, and more vivid wine. Though '86 was far from a top vintage in the southern Rhone, this one had aged into something wholly leasing with a good deal of sunny, savory fruit and a fair bit of grip. 

We decided to return the La Lagune pair and the Clos du Mont Olivet to the cellar in anticipation of more birthdays.
Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com.

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