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Château Léoville-Poyferré 1986

The 1986 vintage for Bordeaux isn't one I will be revisiting much in the future, and in fact this is true of this vintage regardless of the region of origin. I have so few bottles left I could count them on the fingers of one hand; a couple of mature wines from Trimbach and Hugel, one a vendange tardive and the other a sélection de grains nobles (the reason Alsace ended up so handsomely represented was pure serendipity) and another bottle of Sociando-Mallet already featured on Winedoctor here (including a brief but I hope informative review of the vintage). I suppose, with 25 years behind them, I could have brought them all together for a mini-horizontal, but four wines is pushing the definition of 'horizontal' somewhat.

As it is this bottle came out to play alongside a venison casserole, the perfect meal for a Sunday evening when the weather outside has turned cold and frosty (although happily last weekend's snow melted away as quickly as it came) and the boiler is on the blink. I don't write much about food and wine matching on Winedoctor, which is strange really as I think it very important. By 'important' I don't mean 'difficult'; the basics of matching the right wine to your meal are pretty simple I think. It is more that, with little more than a minute's thought, the result of picking the right wine elevates the entire meal to a new level. And, conversely, the wrong wine seems, well, wrong. Despite what I have already written on matching food and wine (penned a long time ago now - but I have a policy of not deleting older pages even if faintly embarrassing to look at) in which I write about matching wines to people (a nod to the philosophies of Hugh Johnson, if I recall correctly), for my own pleasure I'm certainly a believer in matching the food to the wine.

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre 1986

Reporting on a wine together with the food I served it with is looking at a wine in its context, and to do so here seems entirely appropriate, as this week sees the return of my annual Wine in Context Awards (see the 2010 awards for a more details). So, while you are getting your thinking caps on to come up with your best wine-related moments of 2011 (remember - not just the best bottles - it's wine in a context that I am looking for), here's my 'context' for this wine; I started on Saturday with half a kilogram of venison, and let it marinate for 24 hours in red wine (a rather decent Montepulciano I happened to have to hand, as it happens), garlic, thyme, sage and rosemary, together with a splash of Port that I also happened to have open. Thereafter the dish is quite simple; on Sunday evening I fried off a little good quality pancetta, leek and onion, and once soft I removed it from the pan and replaced it with the drained meat. In went a little flour and then the marinade, the garlic (once chopped) and the herbs (once assembled into a bouquet garni) and then the vegetables were returned to the pan. A little vegetable stock was added, then into the oven until the fat rendered from the meat - long enough to throw together some pommes dauphinoise. Sorry, there are no photographs - I can't compete with the high quality images found on most food blogs!

The cork of the 1986 Château Léoville-Poyferré was pulled a couple of hours before dinner, and was in very good condition, long and clean. It came out in one piece, which is more can be said for the Delaforce Vintage Port that came later in the evening, the cork here yielding about 300 pieces. The colour of the Léoville-Poyferré in the decanter is really quite vibrant, showing a deeper hue with no great maturity to its tones. Yes, there is a slight hint of oxblood to it at the rim, but overall it has plenty of deep and dark pigment suggesting freshness and depth. Aromatically there are plenty of positive notes, a real blast of liquorice and high-toned black fruits at first, as it settles in the decanter and the glass revealing more interest, although not in an entirely desirable manner. There is a mature, savoury, suggestion of sweetly braised beef on the nose, with a gamey touch which I like. There are also fleeting touches of green though, nuances of green olive, eucalyptus and sharp fruit; happily it is not domineering, and there is plenty of red-black fruit substance here as well. A good freshness on the palate, full and rich, with a really grippy structure through the middle. The vintage has a reputation for being tannic and hard, but the tannins here give a really appealing frame for the rest of the palate, and there is certainly good weight and fresh, bright acidity too. This comes through in the finish, which has a semi-sour bite and fine acids. The greener notes found on the nose do not really come through on the palate. The fruit has a bright raspberry and blackcurrant tone even after all these years. It has a really appealing supple weight through the middle, with a soft and cleanly fading finish. Overall an appealing wine with a vigorous finish. What it lacks is finesse and the multi-faceted complexity ageing wines can bring. There are some notes of black tea leaves, but little else, There is time ahead for this wine, admittedly, but I'm not convinced it will suddenly blossom. To describe it as foursquare would be a bit mean, but it is certainly a bold and substantial rather than multifaceted wine. Good with venison, though! 17/20 (19/12/11)

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