We recently marked the passage of another of my wife's birthdays by having a few friends over for some food and drink. In addition to consuming the many bottles of vintage and non-vintage champagne brought by well wishers, we raided the cellar to the tune of a 1998 Clos Mogador, a 2004 Numanthia Numanthia, a 1990 Beaucastel CDP, a 2004 Luca by Nico, a 2003 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2005 Robert Foley Claret, a 1996 Ducru Beaucaillou, and a 2006 Dominus (Dr. Jose was the baby killer here). As good as this lineup was, the highlight of the evening was a "gappy" (more holes than wines) L'Evangile vertical consisting of the 1982, 1990, and 1995 vintages.
The 35 acres that comprise L'Evangile sit on a deep gravely soil that is mixed with clay and sand and supports vines that are, on average, 35 years old. The vineyard is planted with a mix of Merlot (contributes fruit, body, and softness to the wine) and Cab Franc (for structure and finesse).
The finished L'Evangile product is approximately 78% Merlot and 22% Cab Franc. The Chateau practices late harvesting which lowers yields and results in rich, concentrated wines. The grapes are picked by hand, fermented in cement tanks for 8 - 12 days, and aged in oak barrels for 20 - 24 months. The average production of the estate (inclusive of the second wine Blaison L'Evangile) is about 5000 cases.
HlyTerroir took on the task of preparing the wines for tasting. All of the corks were cleanly extracted and the bottles decanted. The tasting was conducted from the oldest to the youngest vintage.
All three of these wines have been reviewed by Parker with the 1982 receiving a score of 98, the 1990 a score of 96, and the 1995 a score of 93. All three of the wines fall into what Parker classifies as "superb" L'Evangile vintages (the other vintages thus noted are 1985, 1975, 1950, and 1947).
I had tasted the 1982 vintage on previous occasions and felt that it was one of the best wines that I had ever had. This bottle did not disappoint. It attacked the senses with tones of graphite, iron, gunpowder, licorice, chocolate, vanilla, sandalwood, and raw meat. There was a slight vegetal streak on the nose.
The 1990 was new to all of us and, shockingly for me, stood shoulder to shoulder with the 1982. It exhibited lightly roasted coffee and was reminiscent of the 1991 Dominus in the concentration of pencil lead and graphite. It was redolent of sweet black fruit.
The 1995 was the disappointment of the three in that it was very un-Bordeaux-like. It seemed to be confused as to its heritage in manifesting as a disordered Napa meritage. It had gooey black fruit, vanilla, licorice, clove and a marked vegetality (I know. Not a word. But I want to convey the vibrancy of the vegetal-ness). Dried earth on the palate.
I did not see the movie Sideways so I was never forced to renounce my love for Merlot and, especially, Pomerol Merlot. I have not tasted all of the the great Pomerols but until I do, L'Evangile has a special place in my heart and on my table. I buy the 1982 whenever I encounter it and this tasting drilled this wine even deeper into my wine psyche. The 1990 was a stunning and pleasant surprise, not because of anything that I had seen or heard, but that I had, unwittingly, foregone the pleasure of this great wine for as long as I had. I hope that the 1995 pulls itself together with the passage of time. This is a very confused wine at this time.