Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Beau Tour Down Sensory Lane

As I have spent most of my adult life buying inexpensive but well-balanced wines to cellar, I am always amused when another expert cautions that this or that red wine that has just been released must be consumed within the next five or 10 years or it will deteriorate quickly and go to live with the angels and baby Jesus.

Nevertheless, I do have some bottles that are getting a little long in the cork, so my wife Ella and I decided that every Monday evening when we are at home, we will have one of the oldest ordinary reds from down below, where they lurk under a thin veneer of dust. Plus, it's a good way to ensure that a good steak or appropriate cheeses are on the menu. (On Fridays when we aren't traveling or being entertained, we have an everyday Cava or other cheap sparkler to go along with homemade pizza and whatever happens to have come in from Netflix. A friend refers to the practice as Porn, Pizza, and Perignon.)

So we kicked off this new program last Monday with a 35-year-old bottle of 1973 Beaulieu Vineyard "Beau Tour" Cabernet Sauvignon, which I bought in 1975, to go along with a New York strip steak, medium rare, and some potatoes and a green salad on the side. The cork was tight, but slid out intact. I took a sip and decided all that was needed was a quick decant just before the last flip of the steak on the grill.

For those who aren't familiar with Beau Tour, for years it was what those of us who couldn't afford BV's Georges de Latour Private Reserve were forced to buy instead. These were the years when Latour was probably the best red wine made in America, always under the steady hand of Andre Tchelistcheff. Tchelistcheff's last year at BV as winemaker was 1973, so I have no idea whether he had any hand in the harvest or selection of the grapes that made the wine Ella and I were about to drink.

There was almost no sediment on decanting -- it was probably filtered -- and the color was excellent with only the lightest edge of a brown but no orange. The aromas were of mature fruit, but certainly bore no maderization. And it tasted marvelous -- well-rounded black cherry and dried cherry flavors with the enhanced minerality that older wines seem to gradually acquire.

While the Beau Tours of that era -- I think the brand has now been completely retired -- were certainly very good wines and very good values, they were not alone. I have finished off the last of the lovely Louis Martini cabs from 1968 and 1969 I had in my cellar, and those from Sebastiani from the same time have proved to be better than I gave the credit for back them.

While a well-balanced red wine may not be a joy forever, in most cases it can still give thrills for a good 20 or 30 years.

Until the next time.....

Roger Morris

No comments: