It's dad's birthday again, and for the second year in a row, we are back at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. For his 70th last year, I scrounged up the only bottle of 1940 I had left at the time, which really didn't measure up in terms of quality. This year, however, I managed to secure a little box of treasure for him...
As I sat through the painfully slow Château Latour auction at Christie's in May, I was lucky enough to pick up a case of 3 bottles of ex-château stock for dad. I cracked open the wooden case last month, and brought one of the pristine bottles back to Taipei to rest. This bottle had never left the château's cellars since being bottled in the early 40's, until they were shipped to Hong Kong in April this year. Tonight I would see what perfect provenance tastes like.
This was not my first experience with the 1940 Latour. Back in 2000 I had managed to secure a bottle of this wine from a London broker, and arranged to fly it from London to Taipei in time for dad's 60th. After spending some 7 hours on the day of dad's birthday - going through the steps of applying for a one-off wine import licence with the help of dad's secretary, and going to the cargo terminal at the airport to pick up the goods from Fedex - I finally held the box of wines in my arms.
On the way back from the cargo terminal, some 3 hours before dinner, I discovered to my absolute horror that the wines inside the box were not mine. After all the trials and tribulations I had just gone through, the box I picked up belonged to some guy in Tokyo. Apparently the London broker had screwed up the labeling on two boxes, and dad's wine had been sent to Tokyo by mistake. It was obvious that we wouldn't be drinking the 1940 for dad's 60th birthday...
It was a special occasion and I had booked Paris 1930 for the first time. Fortunately the restaurant had a fantastic wine list, and I ended up buying a bottle of 1961 Lynch-Bages off the restaurant list to celebrate.
The actual bottle of 1940 Latour had to wait for the following year, and was opened on dad's 61st birthday. I had zero expectations for the wine - coming from a terrible WWII vintage - and the label was in tatters. It was actually drinkable and hadn't turned to vinegar. I was happy.
The wine was perfect. I don't mean that it would merit a perfect score on any wine critic's scale, but it drank beautifully and I couldn't have asked for a better bottle. From the moment I took the first whiff, I could tell this was a much, much better bottle compared to the one 10 years ago. A beautiful nose of smoke and lead pencil came up from the glass to greet me. The acidity was still a little high and the body still a little thin at the beginning. But I was already very happy.
With time and further aeration, sweet and grassy notes came out as the wine started to unwind and was no longer tightly closed. After an hour, the nose was much more open, the sweet fruit a lot more apparent, and even showed a little black pepper. Benoit was right to gave us all really big pours and let the glasses act as decanters.
When we were done with the first pour, we got fresh glasses and Benoit carefully poured out the remaining wine - with a little bit of sediment - into them. The bulk of the sediment was left in the bottle. This last pour, too, was very enjoyable as it had even more body.
At this point I shall stop waxing lyrical about this bottle, and get down to the food. Once again I decided not to partake in a "menu" and ordered à la carte instead.