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Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 1982
At a charity dinner in Charleston, SC, the 1982 Ducru Beaucaillou from my cellar was the only corked bottle out of twenty-two. A subsequent tasting revealed one of the all-time great Ducrus, probably matched or eclipsed by several recent vintages (i.e., 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2008). The 1982 is still 5-8 years away from full maturity, but it exhibits a dense ruby/plum/garnet color to the rim as well as a sweet perfume of forest floor, spice box, cedar, and copious quantities of black fruits. Medium to full-bodied and beautifully pure with sweet tannins, this wine has aged more slowly than I initially expected. It is the finest Ducru Beaucaillou produced after the 1961 and before the 2003. With respect to the 1990, I do not own any of this wine, but it was the last of a series of vintages between 1986 and 1990 that were affected by the TCA-like contamination in the estate’s chai, which was completely destroyed and then rebuilt, eliminating the source of these smells. Not every bottle is affected by this, but I do not have any source for this vintage.
This Ducru '82 has always been a beauty. Dark ruby in color, with a slight amber edge. Very fresh and floral, with loads of berry and rose character. Medium-bodied, with a good balance of soft tannins and a caressing finish.--1982 Bordeaux horizontal. Drink now.
Perched on an exceptional site with incomparable views over the Gironde estuary, in the center of a hundred-year-old park, Ducru-Beaucaillou is a majestic, Victorian-style castle, which has, over time, become one of the great symbols of the Médoc. Unusual for Bordeaux, it is built directly above the barrel cellars, enveloping its owners, who have lived here for over sixty years.
Today, the estate is managed by the company Jean Eugène Borie SA, which is owned by Mrs Borie, her daughter Sabine Coiffe and her son Bruno-Eugène, CEO since 2003, the third generation of the Borie family to head the estate. There are very close links between this estate and the five families who have been its successive owners.
Historically and presently the most important wine-producing region of Australia, the Barossa Valley is set in South Australia, where more than half of the country’s wine is made. Because the climate is very hot and dry, vineyard managers must be careful so that grapes do not become overripe. Some of the oldest vines in Australia can be found here—in the cooler, wetter Eden Valley sub-region, the Hill of Grace vineyard is home to 140+ year old Shiraz vines.
The intense heat is ideal for plush, bold reds, particularly Rhône blends featuring Shiraz, Grenache, and Mataro (Mourvèdre). White grapes can produce crisp, fresh wines from Riesling, Chardonnay, and Semillon if they are planted at higher altitudes where they may benefit from cool breezes, particularly in the Eden Valley.
Marked by unmistakable aromatics, a savory palate, and an elegant texture, Syrah is capable of producing fascinatingly complex and long-lived wines with a stunning purple hue. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah’s best examples are found in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. It is also an important component of the GSM blends of the Southern Rhône and beyond, alongside Grenache and Mourvèdre. Both varietal Syrah and GSM blends are common in Australia and California and are gaining popularity in Washington State. In Australia, Syrah is known by the synonym Shiraz, which tends to indicate a bolder, fruit-driven style of wine, and is occasionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure.
In the Glass
At its best, Syrah shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper, smoke, and even bacon fat. Many examples from California aim to recreate this savory style, while others focus more on concentrated fruit flavors. In Australia, under the name Shiraz, it shines as that country’s unofficial signature red grape, producing deep, dark, intense, and often jammy reds.
Cool-climate Syrah, with its peppery spices, is a natural match with flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb dishes, where the spice is more about flavor than heat. With Australian Shiraz, grown in warmer regions, heavy meat dishes with abundant protein and fat are a necessity to match the intensity of the wine.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” this synonym for Syrah has been adopted by winemakers throughout the world. If the label says “Shiraz,” you can typically expect a plush, fruity, and potent wine made in the Australian style. New World "Syrah" will generally more closely resemble the French style.