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Lamé Delisle Boucard Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige 1976

Lamé Delisle Boucard Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige 1976

Perhaps the most typecast actor in movie history, apart maybe from the eternal cowboy John Wayne, was Peter Lorre (1904 – 1964). Although hardly a household name, Lorre chalked up a number of appearances in some iconic films. Born László Löwenstein in what is now part of Slovakia, Lorre’s first real break was as the child-killer Hans Beckert in the Fritz Lang masterpiece M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder in 1931. Having fled the Nazis in 1933 he landed in Hollywood, and not even anglicising his name could wipe away his already well-established reputation for playing murderous villains.

Over the next two decades Peter Lorre played different versions of the same malevolent malefactor in everything from The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942) to Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) and even a live television adaptation of Casino Royale (1954), in which he played Le Chiffre against Barry Nelson as the first ever Bond (there’s one in the eye for the Connery fans). Peter Lorre died in 1964, four years after his star was cemented in place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Fittingly, Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.

Bourgueil also has its own famous typecast actor. Jean Carmet (1920 – 1994), a much-loved figure in French cinema, played the comedic sidekick for many years. He was also a great ambassador for the wines of his home town, extolling their virtues wherever he went. It is not just actors or indeed people that can be typecast though. The wines of Bourgueil itself, and indeed the entire Loire Valley, seem to me to be forever typecast, not as a creepy villain, but as light and easy-going wines solely for summer drinking.

Lamé Delisle Boucard Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige 1976

Wine writers like to dip their toes into the waters of the Loire now and again, especially once picnic season has arrived, usually to extol the virtues of ‘grassy’ Sancerre and ‘herbaceous, put-a-chill-on-it’ Bourgueil. Undoubtedly such wines exist, but there is so much more to the Loire Valley than early-picked industrial Sauvignon Blanc and slightly unripe Cabernet Franc, both rich in the grassy, herby scents of methoxypyrazine. But when you’re typecast, it’s hard to break free from the roles you are given. My Weekend Wines hopefully provide an alternative view of the wines of the Loire Valley, one in which this region is afforded all the leading roles usually reserved for Bordeaux and Burgundy. Recent bottles such as the 1990 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre La Bourgeoise, the 1988 François Pinon Vouvray Sec, the 2005 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Rouge Génération XIX and the 1993 Serge et Bruno Sourdais Chinon all demonstrate this region’s ability to produce wines which will develop and evolve in the cellar, if given the chance. You will note, by the way, that I didn’t include any sweet wines in this my list; that would have been just too easy.

So here is another to add to the line up. Lamé Delisle Boucard is a long-established domaine in Bourgueil, renowned for its remarkable cellars and also for its considerable stocks of older vintages, stretching back through the 20th century. The Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige is their top effort, one that is definitely not for picnics nor for chilling, especially in a vintage such as 1976 which, while not generally spoken of in the same breath as 1989 and 1921, was one of the region’s best. In the glass this has a colour that is, quite simply, nothing short of amazing. It appears dark, fresh and very youthful, surprising for a wine of this maturity. There is a slightly dusty rim to it, but nothing else to betray its forty years. The nose is quite charming, with a smoky start, quickly followed by notes of tobacco, along with scents of cranberry and cherry skins. There is a little bay leaf and green peppercorn complexity, adding an interesting nuance rather than dominating, and with time they fade while the tobacco builds, and midway through the evening the aromas are all rose petal and moist pipe tobacco, with a touch of ashy fire embers. It has a delightful texture at the start, showing a savoury and vinous style, sappy and acid-fresh, with notes of cranberry, cherry skin and juniper berry. It is the composure and energy that really impresses though, the midpalate possessing a deep, rich and savoury texture wrapped in tannin which lingers confidently in the finish. 17/20 • 94/100

Far from being on its last legs, this is a wine of genuine potential which can be left in the cellar for many years yet. Or should I say many decades? Surely I should, even if it risks repeating myself, because I know this is not the first time I have argued for giving the wines of the Loire Valley the time and respect they deserve. I guess if I am typecast as a Loire geek, it will be my own doing. (21/8/17)

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