My brother Felix and I turned pretty old some days ago, so we thought it would be a nice occasion to check who’s ageing better: us, or the wines? Therefore we gathered some bottles from the golden year of our birth (Yes, in that year the world was finally gifted with us – lucky world ;=)).
The mean looking eagle has nothing to do with what you might think of…
Fort the start, after a quick sip of aged Riesling, we chose to stay in our birth-land, and even in our birth-region, the Rheingau, which is only 20 minutes away from Frankfurt (you guessed it, our birth-city). The Rheingau is a wine region foremost famous for its brilliant whites, but since we concentrated on reds, we had to look for this one vineyard which is known since ages for producing remarkable red wines. There are undoubtedly legends about the Assmansäuser Höllenberg and its ageing potential, exaggerations I thought, maybe a hype build on myths, and I actually expected this 1978 Spätlese from the Hessische Staatsweingüter to be a decent vinegar at best. But I was wrong. The colour though didn’t show up quite vivid; rather brownish red and blurry… hmm. But the nose then was quite interesting. It smelled a bit musty at the beginning, but elegantly musty with dried ham and forest notes and later developed into typically Pinot-like sweet strawberry and earthy notes. The palate was quite velvety and round with not much acidity left and the wine developed more and more into an intensive and dense fruit experience: strawberries forever and a quite sweet touch. The finish wasn’t so long, but the impression of sweetness, especially in comparison to the other wines lasted a bit. We checked again the label and realized that this wine probably was a non-dry Spätlese and thus the sweetness must have conserved the wine, and now helped to cover a more prominent age tone and other flaws. So was this cheating here? Howsoever, this was my favorite wine of the evening and quite a surprise to me. 92 pts.
After this quite successful experiment with a 30 year old German red, we went on to France, where the 1978 vintage reputedly was a blast in the Rhône region. “A vintage of a lifetime” as they say, and thus a must-have vintage for Châteauneuf and Rhône lovers, and of course also for 1978-born kids like my brother and me.
Our first Frenchie was a Jacques Selot 1978 Côtes du Tricastin, nothing particularly known or even famous, just a regular wine from 1978. Its colour was a bit less blurry than the Spätburgunder. The nose was a bit closed, but slight strawberry could be captured here and there. On the palate we could instantly sense the power of the vintage in this region, there was more structure, more alcohol, just more fire in this one. It was far from being a great wine, there wasn’t any complexity and even primary aromas can only be described as “red fruit”, but it showed pretty well how much substance and potential the vintage brought, even simple wines conserved well; we quickly thought of how some distinguished wines could have been made by talented winemakers in this vintage. The finish of this wine was rather short but had a nice malty sweetness, typical for some aged reds. 84 pts.
The first of 2 Châteauneufs who followed was from Piat Père & Fils. We expected an increase in quality with the CDP’s, and we instantly got a much darker and intensive colour with this one; maybe not very brilliant or shiny, but definitely dark. The bouquet was very restrained at the beginning with only slightest notes of red fruits and forest scents, but became much stronger with time and developed earthy notes and a nice liquorice touch. On the palate the wine appeared juicy and vigorous, showing off its conserved power. It has even kept some adstrigency giving it a little rustic edge, but which mellowed up with air. Otherwise there were red fruits and also a slight malty sweetness. The finish was rather medium long but not with an intensive aroma, rather with fire. What I didn’t like about this wine was its acidity, which hasn’t riped as elegantly. Nevertheless a solid 1978 CDP. 87 pts.
Last but not least, we had a CDP from an unknown producer or wine merchant named “Sommeliers des Papes”. Interestingly the label and also the cork seemed quite new; I assume that the bottles have been recently re-corked or that this wine lied in a barrel until recently. Here, the nose also started slowly, with sweet raspberries, then closed again completely, to reopen later on intensive cherry and strawberry notes. The palate still showed astringency, had a rather youthful appearance which seems a bit nervous and unbalanced sometimes. Nevertheless the primary aromas were quite intensive showing a blend of cherries and liquorice notes with herbs and a slight bitter touch appearing sometimes. All those flavors lasted through a medium long finish. This wine really did a nice job in staying young. 91-92
Our first conclusion to this tasting is that the 1978 Rhône wines did a pretty good job in staying young; especially reserves from Châteauneuf are still very interesting and can show complexity with still much fruit and power. 1978-born, that’s what you should look for! Our second conclusion though is that Felix and I at least stayed as young as those wines and actually much younger I guess: no blurry colour, no musty nose and no bitter tones yet. And maybe it even is due to the wine! “One sip a day keeps you young”, Happy birthday Bro!