On 6 July, my friend Linden Wilkie very generously invited me to his tasting of 16 vintages of Château Pape Clément, spanning 2006 to 1947.
I have been to Pape Clément only once but I have met its owner Bernard Magrez several times. I was seated next to him at a lunch that he hosted at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at The Dorchester a couple of years ago. There was a remarkably high turnout for that tasting and lunch by my wine writing colleagues!
Linden’s tasting showed how M Magrez has pursued a modern, extracted style of wine in recent years. The 2006, 2005 and 2003 vintages were rather oak-dry to my palate, though doubtless this style appeals to many people. The 2000 was oxidised, which is unacceptable at this level.
The ’98 was excellent, as was a La Mission Haut-Brion tasted in Hong Kong recently. These two prove how Graves vintages often follow the Right Bank in exceptional years.
I preferred the verve and flow of the 1996 over the more sullen 1995. The “decadent” 1990 was a popular choice by my fellow tasters but I found it too wayward and dirty – a very impertinent 20-year old.
The 1971 smelled like old claret from an indifferent vintage – which is to say, not particularly appealing. The 1961 was very good, though as is often the case – Haut-Bailly, for example – it captured the richness of the vintage rather than the estate’s terroir.
A magnum of the 1950 was awful, fractured and decrepit. A pity.
The 1947, however, was a lovely old wine, still articulate but so tertiary that it was unrecognisable as Pape Clément. Like the 1961, it was representative of its ripe, rich vintage. Drink up.