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Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1980

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1980Having spent the weekend and one or two days before that in Bruges, this bottle doesn't reflect my weekend drinking, which largely consisted of strong Belgian beer, although there were a few wines. My days in Belgium were certainly work rather than pleasure, and the wines that were poured were fairly generic bottles offered at large receptions or dinners. A couple were really quite appealing though, particularly a 2006 Bordeaux Blanc from Barton & Guestier, and no doubt the vintage helped here. But there was also a decent Viura from Navarra, and a palatable Brut Crémant d'Alsace from Joseph Cattin. On the other hand, a very flowery, lychee-infused, fat and blowsy Argentinean Torrontés and a heavily wood-chipped Californian Cabernet were less enticing than these former offerings.

No, this wine was a bottle from slightly earlier in the week, and it is a mature example of what is capable in the Coteaux du Layon cru Quarts de Chaume. The name of this appellation, which was legally defined in 1954, harks back to the era of share-cropping; at one time the owners of the slopes rented the land to the monks of Ronceray, the payment being one quarter of the harvest, hence Quarts de Chaume. The slopes are closely related to the Layon, and the local mists that result cling to the vineyards and encourage botrytis, and it is in the heavily botrytis-influenced vintages that the appellation reaches its apogee. There are about 41 hectares of vineyards planted up out of a possible 48, and the best wines come from names such as Claude Papin, Florent Baumard, Jo Pithon and a few others.

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 1980The wine in question, Baumard's Quarts de Chaume from the 1980 vintage, has a fairly pale hue for the appellation, being just tinged with a lemon-green hue. The nose is complex, fascinating, but very difficult to describe. There is some sweetness here, a little like light Demerara sugar, but there are very organic overtones too. It has great depth, and intertwined here there are notes of straw and a dried, honey richness; it is a wine of character, but not necessarily great sweetness. Some aspects are quite bright - there is a layer perhaps best described as lime rubbed on metal, but overall it has great substance. The palate is broad and very complete, very nicely integrated, with richness but only gentle sweetness. Straw, funk and more play a role here, and yet the palate is restrained and forceful. There is a great lime-tinted texture on the finish and a broad, lingering length. This is excellent, especially as I was uncertain as to how well this wine would have held up - it has been in bottle from nearly three decades (for an opinion on a much younger version, see when the Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2004 was wine of the week). I think this will drink well for some years yet, although it is unlikely to improve much further. having said that this is a robust wine still, as I finished this bottle 24 hours after opening, and it was then still holding up very well, showing great purity, definition, and delineation. This is a truly excellent wine. 19/20 (9/6/08)

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