austere, lean, and unyielding

I have family in Bordeaux, France. Cousins of my mother, I think. To the best of my knowledge we never met and how, exactly, we are related I don’t completely know. They visited Montreal during Expo 67 and brought wine for everyone. By then I was gone.


Three years later I went home to see my folks. “There’s a bottle of wine for you.” Since giving up, due to imminent poisoning, my favourite wine (St Georges – $4.50 a gallon) I was not much of a wine drinker. This one, especially, I figured was probably an excellent wine so instead of just opening and drinking the stuff I thought I’d save it for a special occasion.

I went home and forgot the wine. Same thing happened the next couple of visits. By the time I got it back home to Vancouver it was five or six years old. I put it away for a special occasion. Since every moment of my life is filled to overflowing with wonder and excitement, special occasions are hard to come by. I basically forgot about the bottle and still have it. It’s exactly forty years old.

I remember reading about a bottle of Château Lafite auctioned for ten grand. It was almost a hundred years old and no one knew if it was, by then, great wine or lousy vinegar. More recently, a double magnum of 1865 Château Lafite sold for $111,625 at Sotheby’s.

My Bordeaux is a 1966 Château Balanger. I thought I might sell it. Every attempt I’ve made to learn anything at all about this wine has turned up nothing, and that includes engaging my favourite sommelier and bartender, Liis Todd, in detective work. Nothing. It’s obviously much rarer than that Lafite so, therefore, worth more, right?

Robert M. Parker, Jr. is the foremost authority in the universe on wine. Among his books is the revered, 1,000 page classic, Bordeaux, which, by the way, despite being the ultimate, comprehensive, and exhaustive work on the subject, contains no reference whatsoever to my Château Balanger.

I wrote Parker a letter.

Today, this reply arrived:

Dear Brian,

In reply to your e-mail of August 18th, I’m sorry, but Mr. Parker has no knowledge of the 1966 Chateau Balanger. All we can tell you is that 1966 was considered to be a very good vintage overall in Bordeaux, but Mr. Parker does not feel the wines have aged as well as initially anticipated. Some notable 1966s do still exist, but many wines have lost their fruit and are now austere, lean, and unyielding. I guess you’ll only know how your bottle has aged by opening it and trying it. Good luck.


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One Response to “austere, lean, and unyielding”

  1. bumppo

    Great story! I will consult with my wino friends.

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