Wednesday, October 15, 2014


What do you get the Wineau who has everything? That's easy: more wine!

For my birthday this year, that axiom equated to attending a Château Talbot dinner at Le Perigord in New York City. It was an amazing opportunity to sample eleven different vintages of the respected Quatrième Cru, located in St.-Julien.  (The continued quality of which, some think, is cause enough to re-examine the 1885 Classification of Bordeaux, but that's a debate for another time.) My dear friend and fellow Wineau Carol came along to celebrate with me.

Talbot dinner menu
The engaging and witty proprietor of Ch. Talbot, Jean-Paul Bignon, was on hand to chat with us through the tasting and dinner. His enthusiastic pronouncements and evident love of and respect for his wine made for a fantastic presentation. The food was quite good too, if massively portioned!

(All of the wines were excellent, but to mark the ones that stood out for me: √ = very good, * = outstanding.)

We began with the 2011 Ch. Talbot Caillou Blanc, a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. Nose of candied melon and very ripe tropical fruit. Nice weight, good acidity, bright, lengthy finish, notes of grapefruit and ripe pineapple. This is from probably the oldest white vineyard in the Médoc. (While reds dominate in Bordeaux, more people are planting and making white wines, also outside of typical vineyard areas.) ~$38

On to the reds! The typical blend of these wines is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, although that can vary under different vintage circumstances.

2010 Ch. Talbot: deep red and black fruits on the nose, earthy, meaty, brick dust. Very full-bodied, strong tannins and acidity (still a baby!) Deep red fruits, earth and wood. Might want to get some of this for later! ~$70

2008 Ch. Talbot: cedar, woodsy, savory nose. Very full-bodied. Elegant black fruits but somewhat one-dimensional and muted. (I possibly had some soap in my glass, affecting the wine's expression; Carol's was brighter, with much more red fruit character.) ~$70

* 2006 Ch. Talbot: bright violet nose! Excellent notes of licorice, wet earth, blue fruits, with silky tannins... really lovely. ~$70

Using an Anglo-Saxon name for a Chateau is unusual in France. The eponymous Monsieur Talbot was an English general who came through the Bordeaux area in 1450 and stayed, until he was killed in battle. I think the battle was about wine—the English weren't getting the good French juice, so Talbot headed down to fix that—but since I was actually consuming all of the wine at this event, my notes are a little uneven (not surprising!)

2005 Ch. Talbot: a powerful vintage. Loads of cedar and spice box on the nose! Herbs, dense cassis and blackberry liqueur. However, my first glass was corked, and my second glass seemed flat, while Carol's had bright red fruits… oh well, must simply try this one again. ~$80

* 2001 Ch. Talbot: From a less-successful vintage, this was a pleasant surprise! Very interesting, subtle, intriguing nose. Bramble fruit, herbs, white pepper, elegant. Lots of red fruit in the mouth. Asian spices. Drinking very well now—just so yummy! (My notes say, "get some!!" If I can find some; many of those tricky vintages get consumed right away.) ~$70

√ 2000 Ch. Talbot: herby, cedar nose. Big red fruit at first, transitions into black fruits through the finish. Herby elements, dusty tannins. Excellent. Still can age for a long time. ~$110

M. Bignon is the mayor of his small town. In response to a teasing question, he replied, "Elected! There is no bribery!" However, he went on to say that Chateau Talbot is drunk at all of the village's holiday celebrations. So I'm clearly not the only one who would vote him back into office...

1998 Ch. Talbot: "The kind of vintage that's good to drink now," says M. Bignon. Light rose petal and (you guessed it,) cedar. Florals, subtle, pretty lovely. ~$85

1989 Ch. Talbot: M. Bignon: "A subtle vintage, again. You must be attentive; you have to taste very carefully, and if you do, you will love it." Very merde-y barnyard, herby, earthy terroir. Subtle tannins, florals, very nice. ~$100

* 1986 Ch. Talbot: wet leaves, perfume, cocoa powder, mushroom. My notes say, literally, "Oh mah gawd! Amazing!" Just lovely. Elegant development of secondary aromas. M. Bignon: "I hope you will be flabbergasted by it." My notes: "I am flabbergasted." ~$180

After another sumptuous course and knockout wine, I made a note of someone saying, "It's not a dinner… it's an orgy." But I have no idea who the speaker was! Carol? M. Bignon? Me?

* 1982 Ch. Talbot: Very merde-y! Red fruits, herbs, pungent. Lots of bright acidity still, anise, tarragon. Shows age well, but the fruit is still bright. ~$260

√ 1978 Ch. Talbot: wet earth, barnyard. Carol: "damp hay." Dried flowers, wet leaves, herbs. Super elegant. So lovely. Peppery, charcoal, tobacco. ~$85

A quick-and-dirty poll of our table's favorites had the majority (five) choosing the 1986. Two favored the 1982, with one each for the 2005, 1989, and 2001 (that was me; I obviously had many favorites, but the '01 was the one I wanted another bottle of immediately.)

Ch. Talbot doesn't make a dessert wine, but at the dinner they poured us a lovely 1986 Ch. Suduiraut Sauternes to pair with the dessert course. It was a medium-plus gold color, with florals, paraffin, and honeycomb on the nose. Violets, green apple, honey, marzipan. Carol, "ripe banana, vanilla pudding, cream puff." Light and bright for the vintage, good acidity, shortbread, baking spices, whiff of petrol, no obvious botrytis. ~$95

Carol and I absolutely rolled out of Le Perigord that evening, stuffed to the gills and sated by some truly amazing wines. Alas, somewhere on the cab ride home my cell phone went bye-bye, and with it, all of my painstakingly composed photos from the evening, including one of me and M. Bignon toasting my birthday. Thankfully, Carol had taken a few as well, which appear here—thanks, Carol!

If you are a lover of quality Bordeaux (and especially one at a relatively affordable price,) you can not go wrong with Chateau Talbot. It is also widely carried at the Total Wine & More chain stores, so is fairly readily available, even some of the slightly less-current vintages. But for the older vintages, you will have to seek out specialty wine stores or auctions to track one down. And believe me, it will be worth it.


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