The Magic Number at Malescot St. Exupery
Post by Alex Shaw | April 7th, 2011
A handful of truly mythical numbers for Bordeaux lovers—1945, 1959, 1982, and, possibly most of all, 1961—are widely considered the greatest vintages of all time. These are legendary years that all Bordeaux lovers know but few have actually had the opportunity to experience. I’d certainly never had the chance to taste any of them…until recently.
Along with a few of my colleagues, I attended a dinner at Chateau Malescot St. Exupery in Margaux on Tuesday night. The weather this week has been nothing short of fantastic, and on this absolutely stunning evening, we had appetizers and vin rosé in the chateau’s luxurious back yard. Over dinner, there was a steady upward arc in the quality of wines, the 2006 La Dame de Malescot (their second wine), followed by three vintages of Malescot out of magnum: 2004, 2000 and 1989. Each wine was a step up in depth, complexity, nuance and overall quality, with the 1989 in the absolute prime of its drinking window. It was the first 1989 I’d had on this trip, and it was a real treat.
After the main course had been cleared, they brought out an unlabeled wine in magnum. While being poured, we were challenged to guess the vintage of the mystery wine. Showing a dark ruby color and the beautiful secondary characteristics on the nose that Bordeaux takes on over time, the palate still seemed lively, with notable acidity keeping the red fruit vibrant. It obviously had some age on it, and there was no doubt this wine had a minimum of 25 years of life on it. As I sipped, I got the sense this was something truly special—a departure into a category of Bordeaux I’ve only had the chance to glimpse. I kept savoring the aroma and held each small sip in my mouth, wanting to hold onto this experience as long as possible. This was, for me, the best wine I’d had on this trip, and I began to think it might be one of the best Bordeaux I’d ever had.
Around the 20+ person table, vintages began to be tossed around: 1970, 1975, 1982, 1972. The tension began to build as people gave their reasons, until finally all eyes settled on the winemaker. And the answer was 1961. 1961! If you’re a Bordeaux lover, you probably know how I must have felt. All I could think then was…wow. Truly a night to remember for the rest of my life.