I tasted something recently (courtesy of a business lunch in West Chester with local Philadelphia-based wine educator Bob Trimble) that I found intriguing enough to mention, though I am sometimes a bit timid about reviewing older wines whose storage provenance I can’t verify. In this case, however, I was comfortable enough to take it on faith that the wine in question was kept in tip-top shape since the mid-1990s.
As it turns out, the little number that Bob and I drank over lunch has a bit of a negative story of its own, and one that, in retrospect, might be undeserved.Wine Spectator gave this wine - the 1995 Château de Sales - a merely passable 87/100. Its median score with collectors (as noted by online wine database CellarTracker.com) is a bit more generous at 89/100. But even then, the tasting notes are full of phrases such as “ O.k.”, “past its time” and even “threw out”.
While this red has a somewhat reasonable but timid average score across all of its vintages of 88/100, it’s not without its praise. As Wine-Searcher.com noted in its summary page of Château de Sales:
Several important critics have rated this Pomerol wine highly: The Wine Advocate gave the 2019 vintage a score of 92.
Numerous prizes have been won by this wine: This wine has won the Guide Hachette des Vins 1 Star award for the 2012 vintage and the 1997 vintage.
This is one of the most popular wines from the region (with Wine-Searcher users).
And so it goes with Bordeaux, I suppose, which everyone seems to love to hate from time to time (guilty!). The fact that the region has seen stratospheric price increases for its top wines over the last fifteen or so years certainly hasn’t helped its standings among the wine drinking populace. But Château de Sales seems to have resisted the steep, exponential price-tag inflation that has befallen so many of its Pomerol region neighbors. So its underperformance among so many wine critics and wine lovers feel a bit of a mystery to me - particularly after tasting their 1995, which I would categorize as not over twenty years old but, as I found it, over twenty years young!
1995 Château de Sales (Pomerol)
That one could still find an older wine like this for such a reasonable price ought to set off alarm bells. And the reviews over the years certainly haven’t been kind, probably setting off alarm bells for would-be Bordeaux collectors all over the world.
But I will say this; this wine tasted as if it was, maybe, seven years old. The color of this in the glass was extraordinarily lacking in its brickish-ness, with only a slight hint of that action happening on its edges. It was still red-fruit-plummy in the mouth, and eventually opened up aromatically with notes of cedar, cloves, plums, and, eventually, that walnut shell thing that good, older Bordeaux does so well.
My experience, based on this bottle, is that the former lackluster reviews of this under-performer of the 1995 class would have steered you plenty wrong on either this wine’s tastiness, its complexity, its potential longevity, or any combination of the three.
I did find two potentially serious downsides to this wine, however, and they are worth noting in case you find yourself getting thirsty after this brief trip down red Bordeaux memory lane:
1) The finish was stupidly short for such a well-preserved Pomerol; shockingly, embarrassingly short (though it was quite nice), and,
2) It’s stupidly delicious, making it all too easy to drink down an entire half of the bottle over lunch.
You’ve been warned (on multiple accounts)!