Château Bellerive Quarts de Chaume 1985
When I visited Château Bellerive in 2004 I was blown away by the quality of the wines on offer. I was already quite familiar with the estate, having tasted many wines from good vintages, such as 1988 and 1990, but the wines I tasted that day were something else. Intense, rich, concentrated, I was most taken with the luscious nature of the Quintessence, a super-cuvée from the 1997 vintage. I enjoyed them again when I tasted through them all in a Loire Extravaganza in 2005.
Yet these wines, although immensely pleasing (I certainly bought a few), are not at their apogee. Experience tells me that Quarts de Chaume - certainly in the case of Bellerive - has a lot more to offer. Mature examples also impress, but in a very different way. Like Yquem it is a wine that impresses with its elegance, balance, poise and vinosity. Twenty years, give or take a few, is enough for a good vintage to strut its stuff. I saw this in action with the 1990 which I took along to a tasting of random wines which I recently attended. Initially underwhelmed, perhaps suspecting the rush of texture that these botrytised wines can offer in their youth and which I had enjoyed at the domaine, I watched several tasters warm to the wine over an hour or so as it revealed more of its exquisite charms.
Wine is a very individual preference, and whether you prefer your wines in their obvious youth or in the quiet confidence of their old age is just one facet of understanding your own palate. I enjoy both, but gain a much deeper level of pleasure from the latter. As it was with this week's wine, the Château Bellerive Quarts de Chaume from the 1985 vintage. Its colour was a rich lemon gold, as it was with the last bottle I drank; this appearance did nothing to betray the age of the wine. On the nose it is organic, rather funky, quite complex and sweet, dusty and impressive. There is a note of richness, but wrapped up in a reserved, organic frame, with little elements of honey trying to get out. Then with the first mouthful, some signs of residual richness and texture. It is mellifluous, honeyed, but but not luscious or overly sweet; rather it has a dry structure when held on the palate. There is a lovely vinosity to it, a spiced honey, well provided with stony, peppery fruit. Complete, broad, not quite silky but certainly beautifully precise and textured. It is pent up, quite fine, but ready to open and give through the endpalate and finish; the sweetness has largely faded from the palate, but it has length and a deep complexity. Delightfully aristocratic, this is excellent. 18.5/20 (23/4/07)