Private Collection: Chateau Magdelaine, St. Emilion - going, going...

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With thanks to F.O.S, the former owner of these wines, who has generously contributed the following paean to one of his great favorites, as well as the accompanying tasting notes.

Chateau Magdelaine was long one of Bordeaux's best-guarded secrets. The chateau was owned by the Chatonnet family for over 200 years prior to its acquistion by JP Moueix in 1952, and the wine has long been regarded by its devoted fans for its remarkable longevity. With average annual production of around 3,000 cases for the grand vin, it has always been a relative rarity, and its small base of passionate fans guard their sources closely. Sadly, 2011 was Magdelaine's final vintage, as the vineyards were incorporated into Belair-Monange starting in 2012, leaving a finite and ever-shrinking supply.

Magdelaine's hallmark aromas and flavors are of violets, mulberries, cherries, forest floor and a most singular expression of bramble. It always demonstrates the character of its vintage, and yet also manages to avoid the amplified negatives of lesser years that plague even the first growths at times. Vintages vary and evolve, but always with Magdelaine there is a core presence - made persistent by its remarkably lively acidity - that makes every vintage worth tasting and which bestows a long life upon even the most difficult years.

1972 - 2010: all in splendid condition                                                                                                                     

 

In a time where so many wines are fashioned to be the stars of a competitive night of wine tasting, Magdelaine remains a subtle mid-weight - more at home on a dinner table harmonizing with boeuf bourguignon, or slowly sipped fireside on a cold winter evening, than at a grand wine tasting. It is a relaxing and satisfying wine. At its best it does not dazzle or astonish - rather it calms and even glows, inspiring a quiet smile.  F.O.S.

The accompanying notes are from 2019 or later.

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Magdelaine 1981 St Emilon

Youngish medium red color, lovely cuddly mulberry fruit on the nose with light bramble, strong herbal and olive notes. On the palate a beautiful mid-weight slightly sweetened with age, cherry and mulberry fruit, hints of dark plums, bramble evident on the light but remarkably fragrant and persistent finish, with time develops more savory notes, punchy cherry and a creamy mineral note, moss. F.O.S.

****, ready to drink but holding with no signs of decline.

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Magdelaine 1983 St Emilon

Double decanted about 5 hours before dinner, opened an hour before serving.Medium red color with aging rim, cuddly berry and cassis fruit, subtle but slightly sharp bramble notes with a hint of olive. On the palate lovely aged fruit with spicy cherry, mulberry and hints of leather; harmonious, relaxed, good long finish, soft bramble and a pronounced moss note. Every bit as attractive as the bottle recently tasted (from the same case) but this one seemed a bit more robust overall and with plenty of time in hand, I think the longer decant time made a bit of a difference- for the better. F.O.S.

****, ready to go and time in hand

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Magdelaine 1985 St Emilon

Medium red color with light bricking, gorgeous velvety nose, violets, mulberries, cherries, on the palate- perfection, sweet and gentle aged fruit, bramble notes and a bit of underbrush in perfect harmony and not as forceful as in some other mature vintages like the 1989 tasted a few days ago. Charming; in such a frenzied setting it is difficult to relax and find all the little subtle delights - but as did the 1989 last week in an ocean of CA Cabs, so too did the 1985 tonight quietly work its magic in an ocean of many larger and younger wines, with a hauntingly beautiful persistent note of mulberry and clove that is clear in the mind the day after as I write this note.F.O.S.

*****, ready to drink but no signs of decline

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Magdelaine 1987 St Emilon

From a case recently acquired from the stocks at Grafe Lecocq in Belgium, nice maturing medium red color with bricking starting to show throughout; harmonious classic nose of mulberries, cherry, a bit of cassis and light chalk notes, on the palate a bit green at first but with a fine tense midweight fruit and very good length. With time blueberry notes developed and a slightly hard bramble, venison, the green notes dissipated to a large extent but were noticeable; surprisingly elegant for a 1987- a vintage where I am accustomed to a bit more game and rough and tumble. The tannins are fully resolved and there is nice tertiary development; a more subdued and tranquil Magdelaine but it held its own against a very fine bottle of 1985 Lynch-Bages tonight which is no small accomplishment. Ready to drink but shows no signs of passing its best. F.O.S.

***+, now to 2035

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Magdelaine 1988 St Emilon

Good bright red color with moderate bricking throughout, on the nose that classic and comforting Magdelaine profile with mulberries, cassis, cherry, and a broad forest floor note with rounded bramble notes. on the palate at first cassis and earth, with the structure and bramble notes slightly more dominant, fine long firm finish. With time in glass violet notes emerged along with a bit of wild strawberry, and the wine fleshed out slightly for an improved balance. That said- like many 88s this is quite a lean wine and really must be served with food (a high compliment in my book); savory, enjoyed for two hours over lunch at which point it was still slightly improving- and so as with many 88 burgundies this wine really must have extensive decanting to show its best, if I had it to do over again, I would have let it air in the decanter for an hour the prior night before recorking it for lunch the following day. A relaxed and restrained Magdelaine, perfectly suited for hearty country French fare- ready to drink, but time in hand. F.O.S.

***+, now to 2030.

It's worth noting that after sending us 6 bottles of the 1988, F.O.S. decided he really needed to keep 2 bottles (in addition to what he still has in his cellar) - he just "loves that wine".

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Magdelaine 1989 St Emilon

Good bright red color just starting to brick, intense underbrush on the nose, sweet aged cassis and mulberry, raspberries, dark forest floor, sweet plum and blackberry tones, on the palate heavy underbrush framing a sweet and almost punchy fruit, elegant in its way despite its substantial and sweet-tinted textures, cassis, mulberries, cloves leading into a fine long finish. This was a spontaneous decision at an event crowded with big CA wines when I discovered two of my fellow attendees had never tried Magdelaine, there could be no worse setting for such a wine- and yet it dazzled us all, it gave just enough to inspire one to take a glass into the corner and really explore it- only to emerge happier for the experience; even alongside 2012 Maya- the quiet elegance and confident structure of Magdelaine gently works its magic. A great vintage of Magdelaine very much in the vein of the magnificent 1985- though where the 1985 subtly glows the 1989 has a bit more of a sweet decadence to it courtesy of the vintage, time in hand- this has decades of life ahead. F.O.S.

*****, now to 2050+

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Magdelaine 1992 St Emilon

Medium red color with some bricking, slightly medicinal nose; playful cherries on the palate. A classy light to mid-weight luncheon wine, pretty, light on its feet and well balanced with tertiary underbrush, lively chalk notes, lovely wine and ready to drink - but time in hand. F.O.S.

***, now to 2030

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Magdelaine 1994 St Emilon

Deepish purple color, menthol and bramble on the nose, dark fruits in the background; some hard forest notes on the palate, which has a certain hardness that is not as unpleasant as it is on many 94s, but is rather more like 84 in being a pure force of structure without such a presence of harsh tannins or acids. Large scale structure with light fruit, lot of forest and bramble with time, as with the 84 vintage at the higher end. I think this is a wine to bury in the cellar for a very long time to allow some settling and fading of the structure, at which point the fruit and other elements will have become nicely savory in their tertiary stage. No guarantees there - but this is the best balanced 94 I have had, and as with wines like 84 Mouton and the 94 DRCs I think it will be most useful with extensive age - served with a strong cheese course or as an after-dinner drink. F.O.S.

**, 2034+

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Magdelaine 1998 St Emilon

Deep purple red color, monolithic and massive nose, totally primary and of grand scale by Magdelaine standards; intense cloves. On the palate this is deceptively approachable like the 2008, cassis, blueberries, light pepper notes, positively electric despite being so closed - the tension is remarkable. Superb length that is generous and full throughout the lengthy fragrant aftertaste. A long way to go and in the same class as the 2008, though this will likely be on a grander scale. F.O.S.

(*****), 2030++

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Magdelaine 1999 St Emilon

Medium deep red color with bricking starting to show at the rim, pepper and mulberries on the nose, darkest cherry notes, secondary bramble notes that remain somewhat hard. On the palate a very pretty cassis and mulberry fruit with forest notes, mid-weight with slightly hard edges; with time it develops intense spice notes. This has a great vivacity akin to the 2001 and 2011, but with that liveliness more driven by the pepper notes, bright acids. Despite the secondary development this still has a good bit of youthful tannin - a very pretty if slightly hard Magdelaine that is drinking well now but I suspect may go out of balance to some degree in 15-20 years-time, worth holding a couple long term to see what happens, but also the youngest Magdelaine vintage out there which I think is currently fully ready to enjoy now and showing all it has to offer. F.O.S.

***, now to 2035.

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Magdelaine 2006 St Emilon

Good deepish red young color. Like the 2008- this is another vintage I have had several times since release; this bottle had a little funk on the nose, but also tight notes of cherry and bramble. On the palate this seems to still be growing in scale- it was a mid-weight at release but now is becoming a rather powerful vintage, with dark plums. It was starting to get secondary at last tasting and continues to do so, but also seems more closed than I remember. Bright red cherry notes with time, excellent length, more impressive with each visit and at this point I would put it ahead of both the 2009 and 2010 for future potential. F.O.S.

(****)+, 2030+

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Magdelaine 2007 St Emilon

Medium bright red color, lovely nose of fruits from the black and red sides of the spectrum, forest floor notes already showing, bramble; on the palate a light to mid-weight fruit with a generous sweet side, already showing beautifully but it has the potential to develop further into a lacey and beautiful luncheon wine, lovely fragrant finish, a more vibrant version of the 1992. F.O.S.

**(**), 2025+

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Magdelaine 2008 St Emilon

I have now had this 4 times since its release, and to at last try it alongside a number of its siblings spanning 3 decades I am firmly convinced that this is not only the last great vintage for Chateau Magdelaine but will prove in time to be among the finest of its generation.Deepish purple red color, magnificently meaty and lively nose, cherries, cassis, on the palate as generous a showing as I have ever seen though the wine remains very primary and undeveloped. A great breadth of primary fruit richly layered with bramble and white stones expressed with breathtaking precision, with a long and intense finish of dark fruits woven into a delicate lace of bracing acids. Deceptively approachable for its generous fruit and display of character- but there is a great deal yet to come and this will need a good bit of time to get there.  F.O.S.

(*****), 2032++

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Magdelaine 2009 St Emilon

Bright deep red color, a very ripe nose, cherries, aggressive array of red spectrum fruits, kirsch. On the palate a hint of warmth throughout at first, where the 2010 has a small streak of it; ripe and sleek fruit, cherry liqueur, hints of bramble and violets. Fine long finish; with time the wine came together nicely and the notes of warmth were largely absorbed into the overall structure; this will be a very ripe vintage for Magdelaine but the presence of floral and forest notes suggest there is not the same risk as with the 2010 of ideal long term development. F.O.S.

(****), 2030+

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Magdelaine 2010 St Emilon

Darkest purple red color, brooding and muted nose of dark fruits, intense chalk and clove; on the palate a bit of heat, very primary and showing nothing but a mass of sleek ripe fruit, firm tannins well covered by the fruit core. A very large scaled Magdelaine that will need a great deal of time - and yet it must be noted it has some scary similarities to its younger cousins, oak in proper proportion, fine length and good balance; time will tell if at maturity it reveals the full degree of subtle detail that is the mark of a great Magdelaine. F.O.S.

(****)?, 2035+

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Magdelaine 2011 St Emilon

Deep red-purple color; tight nose, stern cassis, ripe yet with a firm and lean bramble. On the palate a brief glimpse of ripe berry and cassis fruit before a firm tannic structure takes over; violet notes with time, a certain ripeness on the tail end that is not overly so. In contrast to the superb 2008, with time it becomes more approachable - due in part to having been served with a wonderfully rich beef stew - but, unlike the 2006 and 2008, this is somewhat difficult to approach right now. Great length with painful precision to match the ripeness of the fruit and bring it all together (or at least a sense of the balance that will come). The end of the road for one of my favorite Bordeaux, and appropriately this majestic history ends with a glorious wine that refuses to to be easy to understand young but is full of great promise for the years ahead. A magnificent Magdelaine, and a reminder to not overlook what 2011 has to offer in St. Emilion. F.O.S.

(****)+, 2030-2045.

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