From La Réserve to La Réserve

Thursday, 1 August 2013 by Stephen Browett

I started my career in the wine trade as the van driver for a small wine shop in London called La Réserve in 1980. 33 years on, I have just enjoyed a fabulous holiday at a luxurious hotel near Saint Tropez which is also called La Réserve. This La Réserve is owned by Michel Reybier, who is also the proprietor of Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux. If there’s one thing better than a holiday on the Côte d’Azur it’s a holiday on the Côte d’Azur drinking a different vintage of Cos every day! Here are my tasting notes of a range of vintages of Cos, all of which came to the hotel directly from the cellars of the Château. They were tasted on consecutive nights in late July 2013.

La Reserve Ramatuelle

1982

This is Mahogany brown at the rim. There is an opulent, rich nose with a tiny hint of nutty Madeira. On the palate this wine is incredibly sweet and exotic (you'd never guess it blind to be a St Estephe). Superb richness with notes of leather, barbecued meat, soy sauce, black olive tapenade, dark chocolate and mocha. An opulent and decadent wine with glycerine richness. Not the structure of a classic Bordeaux vintage but incredibly sexy and moreish. No tannic grip to notice, plush and exotic. It is maybe on the turn now so drink up over the next few years. 18.5

1985

This has a similar colour to the 1982, with brown fade at the rim. A fabulous cigar box nose. The palate has mature cassis fruit but is balanced by a firm backbone and a dry edge. Ripe but not sweet. Complex, structured, classic claret at its peak. Really classy and "proper" great Bordeaux. Sleek, lean but intense and persistent. This wine has the sexy richness of the 1982 but with less intensity and a little more structure. 17.5

Château Cos d'Estournel

1986

Brick red rim. Deep and dark at the centre. Iron, blood and leather on the nose. The palate is drier than the nose suggests. Less richness on the mid palate than the 1982 and 1985, dry with some earthy, forest floor notes. Complexity, maturity and dried spices. The iron fist without the velvet glove. "Englishman's claret". Very impressive for a 1986, still has good life ahead of it. Very fine. 17+

1989

Mature colour, sweetness on the nose, hints of caramel and toffee on the palate. Very sexy, soft, succulent and loose-knit. Ripe, voluptuous and easy. A decadent mature wine with little structure but great to drink now. Could do with a bit more stuffing. Lovely, but fades a little at the brown sugar finish. Charming and easy but not very challenging. 17

1990

This has a mature colour and lots of ripe roasted fruit on the nose. Like the 1989 this is lovely and sweet without any obvious backbone. However it is quite a big step up in density and decadence. There is a more richness of fruit, more weight and more complexity. A touch medicinal (in a good way) with some forest floor and spice. Some balancing tannins at the finish but this is a voluptuous and exotic wine. As the night goes on it seems to get richer and more powerful. Gorgeous wine. 18.5

2000

Cos 1982

This is raspberry red at the rim but still solid at the centre. Spicy on the nose with red cherry notes. On the palate this is quite forward and certainly there is less intensity than you would expect from 2000. Sweetish, with some toasty oak but rather weak on the mid palate with a short finish. A bit lacking in character and complexity too. Somewhat one dimensional. For a great vintage from a great Chateau this is a disappointment. Nice to drink now but not a great success. It was from a magnum too. 15.5

2002

Still very dark at the centre with a little light fade at the rim. This has a really classic claret nose - cassis, brioche, smoke and spice. The palate has excellent depth and concentration for the vintage. Tarry, chunky and peppery with lots of dark, intense black fruit. Powerful and really long. Still some tannins at the finish which keep the opulent, velvety fruit in check. In magnum this is only just ready to drink and certainly one of the best wines that I've ever tasted from 2002. First Growth quality and far more serious than the 2000. 17.5

2003

Dark colour with just a little fade. Ripe black fruit on the nose - plums, cherries and prunes with vanilla and exotic spice. On the palate there is a real cacophony of flavours with eucalyptus, black pepper, leather, cigar box, liquorice and mint. There are ripe tannins and some grip at the finish. Atypically for the vintage, it will continue to develop. Reminds me of a top 1989 or 1990. Undoubtedly one of the finest wines of Bordeaux in 2003. Incredibly drinkable and moreish. The four of us finished a bottle in just a few minutes! 19

An impressive array of vintages

2005

A deep red colour with little fade. This has a big "masculine" nose of classic Medocaine Cabernet Sauvignon. Hints of toasted brioche, nutmeg and star anise on the nose. The palate is densely stacked with layers of brooding cassis fruit. Solid with a firm backbone and a tight grip. This is a serious claret that is still a few years away from being ready. It will mature at a snail's pace for many years and probably hit its peak aged 30. Opulent and rich yet sleek and focussed. Top class and a long term classic of epic proportions. 19

For more details about La Reserve Ramatuelle please click here.



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