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Château Poujeaux 1997

Not that long ago an old school friend got in touch, by email, and then through him I ended up in touch with another. We were once a trio of comrades who spent some formative years together, in particular those few frenzied years of the sixth form, the final moments of school before we all went our separate ways at different universities across the UK. It was good to hear that they were doing well and enjoying life, having had many adventures during the long period of no contact. One of them had even taken a year off work to travel the world; a benefit of his very successful legal practice, I guess!

Ultimately though, this virtual reunion was disappointing, simply because of the distances involved. To return to the town of my birth and my youth, where both of my old friends now live having returned there after university, involves a trip by air or by sea. It's not undertaken lightly. And when I am there, as was the case just two weekends ago, I spend all my time with my increasingly elderly parents both of whom have different but very pressing health problems. The idea of nipping out to meet old friends just doesn't spring to mind.

Chateau Poujeaux 1997

I once thought that the 1997 from Château Poujeaux was another old friend that I had long seen the last of. I've never really got along with the 1997 Bordeaux vintage as a whole, but there were certainly successes to be found; Poujeaux was one such wine, a real gem in what I found to be (although I know others who have taken a lot more pleasure from the year than I have) a disappointing vintage. In fact it was delicious, both in its youth when it was rich in notes of blackcurrant fruit and smoke, and then once it had emerged from a sullen phase at six to seven years of age it showed a lovely meaty, cedary maturity. And that was my last bottle; it waved goodbye as it departed in a recycling bin, just as one of my friends waved goodbye after giving me a lift home - in his Citroen Diane with its vinyl roof and wacky gear lever - after our last ever A-level examination was completed. I was convinced at the time I would never see my friend again, and I thought the same of the 1997 Poujeaux when I drunk it up in 2005.

In both cases I was wrong. I continued to meet up with my friends that summer, throughout my university years and during my time as a junior doctor, until the time that elapsed between moments of contact became so long that we - perhaps inevitably - lost touch. But then came that moment of rediscovery, through this site and through email. And as for Poujeaux, a merchant's list recently provided an opportunity to pick up a couple of bottles at a very fair price. How could I resist? And with the bottles in my possession, the only right thing to do seemed to me to be to open one, to see just how this old friend had developed. It hasn't been on a round the world trip (or at least I hope not), but I knew it would probably be a very different creature to the one I knew six years ago.

The 1997 Château Poujeaux still has a great colour, despite those six years having passed. In fact it is richer, deeper, and less advanced on inspection in terms of maturity than I expected. There is still a rich concentration of fruit on the nose, showing a firm density and surprisingly still with a blackcurranty streak. It is also cedary, a familiar note, with a floral and perfumed edge. The palate is dense and solid rather as the nose suggests, showing an admirable layer of extract which I didn't quite expect, with plenty of brightness to it as well, and a very firm acidity which sits well with the body of the wine. Admittedly it does disappoint a little - it doesn't seem to have developed any great complexity, but all the same it does have a great substance, with a slightly meaty and expansive finish. And it is quite long too. Overall a good wine, exceptional for the vintage in question, although it lacks the ethereal brightness of my last taste six years ago. 16.5/20 (7/3/11)

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