The Rule of Five at Château d’Issan, 2021
One of my earliest visits to Château d’Issan was back in 2009 during the primeurs week when, after tasting the grand vin and second wines in the 2008 vintage, I sat down with proprietor Emmanuel Cruse (pictured below, albeit on a more recent visit) for a bite to eat and a couple of older bottles. We ate a tartare of tomatoes followed by roast pork, before finishing up with tarte tatin. Alongside we drank the 1995 and 1989 vintages, at the time respectively fourteen and twenty years of age. By 2009 my own stocks of Bordeaux from the 1980s was dwindling fast (although even now I still have a handful of bottles remaining, I must check in on them sometime) so it was good to revisit this particular 1989. It is a vintage I have long had a soft spot for, being a touch more classically styled than the more roasted 1990 vintage, and I always thought it a little under-rated.
Memories of that visit came flooding back in early 2021 (although, in the interest of transparency, I must confess my account of what we ate and drank had more to do with my tendency to take copious notes than my memory skills). Once again I sat down with Emmanuel Cruse, and once more I was faced with a small selection of older vintages to taste. Very little else, however, felt familiar. I was not sitting in the first-floor combined drawing and dining room at Château d’Issan, nor had I ascended the magnificent staircase, with its army of mounted stag’s heads, to arrive there. Nor was there a magnificent three-course home-cooked dinner on offer. Instead I was sitting in my somewhat less palatial office, surrounded by a battalion of empty bottles, fuelled only by my morning Earl Grey tea and buttered toast.