A Plurality of Pétrus (May 25, 2001)
There are certain tastings that happen once in a lifetime. A
nine-bottle vertical tasting of Château Pétrus, for
example. But not just any years - eight from the decade of the
1970s and the legendary 1982. They all came from a private Toronto
cellar and were donated as a fund-raiser for the Toronto-based
charitable foundation, Grapes For Humanity.
Pétrus is the worlds most sought-after, and hence
most expensive, red wine. Much has to do with the size of its
production. At its best Pétrus produces 5,000 cases a year.
Compared to the First Growth clarets across the river, this is
boutique size: Haut-Brion 16,000 cases, Lafite 21,000 cases, Mouton-Rothschild
27,000 cases, Latour 31,700 cases and Margaux 33,000 cases.
Coming from Pomerol, the smallest of Bordeauxs regions
(with a production roughly equal to that of the Médoc commune
of St. Julien), Pétrus is unique in its grape mix. In many
years it is 100 per cent Merlot; in vintages when the Cabernet
Franc locally known as Bouchet - ripens 5 per cent will
go into the blend. What gives the wine its complexity is the soil
structure of the 11.5 hectare vineyard. There is a large outcrop
of blue clay over a layer of hard iron sandstone. The vines average
40 to 45 years old with some as old as 80 years. Crops are kept
very low to ensure concentration.
The wine is fermented in concrete vats with 18 to 25 days of
maceration on the skins, depending on the vintage, and the resulting
wine is aged for two years or more in barrique before bottling.
The tasting was set up from youngest to oldest.
1970: ruby colour, showing maturity at the rim but still
dark. Sweet plum and cedar on the nose with a hint of cocoa. Lean
on the palate, majestic with that elegant old claret taste; great
balance. Still showing some tannin on the finish. (93)
1971: denser colour than the '70 with a sweet, funky,
soy sauce, spice and vanilla nose, sweet, fat, seductive on the
palate, with a fatness in the middle fruit, almost chunky. (92)
1973: typical Pomerol - cedar, spicy red currant nose;
lighter in colour, style and texture than the earlier two vintages,
elegant with great balance. Finishes with a floral grace note.
1974: a poor vintage generally: shy nose with elements
of mint, cedar, white pepper, black cherry; lean on the palate
with a mature note of soy sauce; beginning to dry out and still
1975: generally a very tannic year: deeply coloured holding
to the rim; intense sweet, mint and herbs with a plummy note.
Concentrated dark plum flavours with bold tannins but enough fruit
to hold. A wine that could live 50 years. (92)
1976: dense purple colour with a browning rim; cedar,
tar, egg white, mint and vanilla on the nose. Firm, full-bodied
with a port-like flavour. High alcohol with a tannic finish.(89)
1978: mature ruby colour; truffled vanilla nose; elegant
raisiny flavour, full-bodied, round and fleshy with great balance.
Ready for drinking. (91)
1979: dense purple colour; vanilla, chocolate, spice,
smoke on the nose; elegant, firm, black fruit flavours, lovely
acidity and cashmere tannins. A complete and wonderful wine. (94)
1982: dense purple colour; cooked red and black berries,
mint on the nose; soft and plummy. Lots of concentrated fruit
but showing maturity. Rich blackberry taste with lively acidity
and great length. (92)