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Ch?teau Montrose 1989: A Very Special Occasion Wine

Sometimes you just need to uncork that special bottle with friends. The magical '89 Ch?teau Montrose made for a memorable dinner

My friends Brad and Vicky found themselves in a situation that will be familiar to many wine enthusiasts: In addition to wine for everyday drinking, their wine refrigerator contained a few odd bottles of special wines that they had been given or had otherwise acquired over the years, and which they were saving for that Special Occasion. The trouble being, of course, no occasion ever seemed quite special enough to open these oh-so-special bottles, so they continued to just sit there. Well, I have seen this state of affairs before and know that all too often it ends unhappily. So I persuaded them that we should have a dinner, pull a few corks, and try these venerable wines. I even offered to contribute a few bottles of my own to demonstrate that my advice was not entirely motivated by self-interest, and a date was set. As you have probably guessed, the wines were, at best, a mixed bag, but that did not prevent us from having a thoroughly convivial time. Of the three great bottles we tried that evening??h??teau Montrose 1989, Mouton Rothschild 1985, and Lynch-Bages 1987??nly one of them, the Montrose, was in peak condition. The other two, the Mouton and Lynch-Bages, were not undrinkable; they were just flat and lifeless. This often happens to great wine that has not been stored properly, and is no reflection on the quality of these great properties. The Ch??teau Montrose 1989 ($245 to $285 on, however, was at its absolute peak, and quite wonderful. Soft, mellow, and dusty, it still retained glowing dark berry fruit flavors along with a robust acidity. Then there were all those wonderful forest-floor elements you get in great old Bordeaux: wet leaves, leather, cinnamon, and cedar. But the best part of the experience was watching how the wine changed and evolved with time. Each glass, each sip even, revealed new layers of nuanced, beguiling complexity. This is the wonder of great wine for me, the combination in one glass of both sensual and intellectual pleasures. There is also a salutary lesson here. There are some wines for which no occasion seems special enough, so follow Brad and Vicky's example, not to mention that of Miles in the 2004 oenophile cult movie Sideways, and drink them now. However, like Brad and Vicky, but unlike Miles, be sure to drink them with appreciative friends and so create your own memorable occasion. When to Drink: Now Breathing/Decanting: One hour's breathing Food Pairing: Roast meats and game Grapes: Predominantly cabernet sauvignon Appellation: Saint-Est??phe Region: Medoc, Bordeaux Country: France Price: $245-$285 Availability: Very limited

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town Country, the Robb Report, the Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently Artisanal Editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes the Nick Passmore: Wine of the Week column to He is also a judge at the widely respected annual Critics' Challenge wine competition.

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