Comparative blind tasting of Napa Valley reds versus Crus Classés from Bordeaux always reveal surprising results. As is often the case such tastings can stump many experts and aficionados alike. This high quality comparative tasting of wines from (respectively) reputed vintages (92 & 95) @Les Conseillers du Vin sheds light on the evolution of these fine reds.
When it comes to fine reds that offer richness and elegance, both Napa and Bordeaux come to mind. Most knowledgeable Bordeaux aficionados remain convinced, the best Crus Classés from Haut-Médoc, Graves and the Libournais (St-Émilion & Pomerol) should prevail. But too often well crafted California reds, which age remarkably well, tend to not only surprise but on occasion dominate such comparative tastings. The two compared vintages are quite representative of their terroirs. Bordeaux 95’s are rather classic with good structure. While 92 California reds are typically rich but not as powerful as might be expected, they display surprising elegance. The evolution of the Bordeaux style paired with the amazing results from hard working and determined Napa Valley producers annonces a fierce competition.
@ Les Conseillers du Vin: in the usual blind tasting format, a group of 15 experienced tasters evaluated and compared four (4) high quality Napa Valley 1992 reds to four (4) 1995 Bordeaux Crus Classés.
Results: To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded for a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
Favourite wines of the tasting: Surprising results!
It was a lob sided affair! The Californians dominated, taking the first 4 spots in the scoring! In other words, all the Bordeaux Crus Classés were surpassed by the Napa Valley wines in this very revealing blind tasting! The group’s favourite wine was the Signorello Reserve Cab with 18 pts. A close second was Dunn Cabernet with 17 pts. And in third place, also just one point back (16 points), was the Newton Cabernet. To complete the sweep, the Merlot Bancroft Ranch from Beringer took the fourth spot with 13 points. The top Bordeaux was Château Tertre Roteboeuf with 11 points. I found the Château Pontet-Canet to be quite enjoyable. Unfortunately for some tasters, it seemed a bit off, hence the lower score (only 5 pts). Most of the participants were very surprised with the results and the amazing showing from the 92 Napa Valley reds.
My three favourite wines were: 1- Newton Cabernet 1992, 2-Dunn Howell Mountain 1992, 3- Château Pontet-Canet 1995
The wines : Order of blind tasting with my tasting notes
1- Château Branaire Ducru 1995 Saint-Julien (Group score: 5 pts)
Medium colour. Evolved nose displaying, floral, leather with some remaining fruit undertones. Medium bodied, high acid content, slightly off balance but still enjoyable! Ready to drink, might have been better a few years ago. My rating: 89?/100
2- Château Kirwan 1995 Margaux (Group score: 5 pts)
Some remaining fruit on the nose. Good extract and mouthfeel for a 26+ years old Bordeaux. Very enjoyable now, some leftover tannins guarantee a few more years of aging: 1 to 3 years. My rating: 91/100
3-Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 Newton Vineyards (Group score: 16 pts)
Deep colour, slight fading rim. The superb nose exudes lots ripe fruit with mineral/graphite scents. Rich, round and flavourful. Quite charming with good length. My favourite wine of the tasting. Still some potential: 2 to 4 years. My rating: 93+/100
4-Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1992 Signorello (Group score: 18 pts)
Colour is fading, orange rim. Evolved vegetal nose: forest floor and tomato leaf. Surprising high acid content (acidification?). A bit on the light side for a Reserve California Cab. Remains elegant with average length. Drink up! My rating: 88/100
5- Château Pontet Canet 1995 Pauillac (Group score: 5 pts)
Some participants detected a slight cork taint, preventing this charming wine from a much better score. The nose displayed some floral and earthy tones with graphite and bell pepper. Good structure and body with some remaining fruit. Ready to drink! My rating: 92/100
6-Merlot Bancroft Ranch 1992 Howell Mountain, Beringer (Group score: 13 pts)
The only wine that showed slight oxidation on the nose. Sweet ripe fruit flavours, medium bodied with some leftover tannins. Finishes a bit short. Drink up! My rating: 89/100
7-Château Tertre Roteboeuf 1995 Saint-Émilion (Group Score: 11 pts)
Beautifully evolved nose: mineral, floral and earthy tones. Quite easy drinking, medium weight, at its peak. Drink up! Lovely elegant wine! My rating: 90/100
8- Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 1992 Dunn (Group score: 17 pts)
This wine seems frozen in time! Deeply coloured barely evolved. Charming floral, earthy/mineral nose. Quite full with surprising acidity and firm tannins. Lots of remaining potential (4 to 6 years). My rating: 93/100