Battle of the titans: three 2001 first growths

A visit by wineloving friends from England and America was the occasion to open some special bottles, including those served at the meal described below.

The aperitif wine was a 1994 Domaine de Chevalier blanc. While not maderized, this was clearly gently oxidized. It nevertheless was clean and showed hints of lemon, caramel, and vanilla. This old very dry white wine was a good way to set the scene for the meal to follow.

I don’t often do this, but I put out three numbered glasses for each guest (there were six of us) and we compared three red wines at our leisure with the meal (quiche lorraine for a starter, followed by roast chicken with butternut squash and cep risotto).
The wines were served totally blind.

Three of the guests correctly opted for Bordeaux from the 2001 vintage and, which is a pretty impressive seeing as I am well-known for serving oddball wines. There was far less agreement about which wines were from the Right Bank, and which from the Left.

Here are my own notes, rather short because I was cooking and serving dinner, and my wife was away at the time (one man show).

2001 Château Margaux: We had visited the château earlier in the day, tasting the 2010 Pavillon Rouge and 2006 grand vin, so it was a special treat to drink an older version that evening. The wine’s color was about as it should be and the nose was understated, but wonderful with subtle red fruit aromas and tell-tale cedar overtones. This 2001 Margaux was also very nuanced on the palate with a gentle, fresh, and resolved aftertaste. Its slightly retiring personality originally made me think it was not my favorite of the trio, but as I smelled and sipped and thought about the aromatics and taste, I changed my mind, and ended up assigning it a tie for first place. Four out of six people put it as their number one. In my opinion, 2001 Margaux is at its peak which, of course, it will hold for some time.

2001 Château Mouton Rothschild: The color here was deeper and more brilliant than the other two wines. The bouquet was rich and very Pauillac (ripe Cabernet, a touch of cigar box) and the wine was more vigorous and full-bodied than the other two on the palate. However, despite an assertive flavour, it did not have the depth and complexity of the other two. On the plus side, it will probably be the most long-lived of the three wines.

2001 Château Cheval Blanc: The color was not dissimilar to the Margaux, and the nose was wonderful and exotic, with notes of Asian spice and soy sauce (!) to blend with the ethereal fruit. The wine was soft and caressing on the palate. Lovely structure and follow-through. Delicious. It was my immediate favorite of the evening, but changed to a tie for first place as I went back to the Margaux and paid more attention to it.

All of the above wines were in their drinking window. They showed how fine an “Atlantic” vintage can be in Bordeaux, i.e., one in which the region’s naturally humid climate produces quintessentially classic rather than rich wines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *