Taking the Waugh Challenge
One of the most beloved of English-speaking wine writers, the British wine merchant and educator Harry Waugh, would be 100 years old today, June 9; and he came mighty close to living long enough to see it, having passed away after a long and vigorous life at the age of 97 in the autumn of 2001.
One of Harry's favorite sayings was that "it's a wine's duty to be red," and I'm certain he would have attributed his long life and good health to the regular consumption of red wine with meals.
Another Waugh joke became so identified with him that he incorporated it as a standard laugh line in the frequent talks that he presented wine groups around the world (I heard him tell it at a Les Amis du Vin tasting in Louisville in the early 1980s): Asked, "Harry, when was the last time you mistook a Bordeaux for a Burgundy," he would laughingly respond, "Not since lunch."
In respectful memory of this amiable wine figure on the 100th anniversary of his birth, I set myself an enjoyable wine challenge based on his joke: With dinner the other night, we placed a Bordeaux and a Burgundy in brown paper bags and tasted them "double blind" (no fair touching the tops of the bags to detect which had the Bordeaux "shoulders") and did our best to sort out which was which.
As it turned out, even in his most hilarious moment, neither Waugh nor any other reasonably experienced wine fancier should have had a problem with these two wines. My wife, who claims that she doesn't know much about wine, pegged them based on the Burg's lighter color alone; and the Burgundy's natural earthiness and velvety texture made it easy to pick out against the Bordeaux' classic herbal "lead pencil" aromas and drying tannins, making this match an easy call.
But it was enjoyable to sit and sip through the evening, jotting down impressions as the wines aired and evolved in the glass. It was the kind of learning-about-wine-is-fun experience that I'm confident Waugh would have approved.
You might enjoy trying it too; if you can't find these wines, substitute any Bordeaux and Burgundy of reasonably similar vintage and price; or take it to the New World by pairing a Cabernet Sauvignon or "Meritage" blend against a comparably priced Pinot Noir.
Also to commemorate Waugh on the anniversary of his birth, I'm delighted to publish today a brief, loving article, "Harry Waugh remembered," by Atlanta-based wine writer, competition director and importer Parks Redwine (yes, his name really is Redwine), now online at
Finally, here's a link to a short article I wrote about Waugh shortly after he died in 2001:
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Domaine A-F. Gros 1996 Savigny-les-Beaune Clos des Guettes Premier Cru ($29.99)
Ruby in color, a violet jewel-like glow with reddish-orange glints against the light; clear at the edge. Mature and complex aromas blend cherry compote and earth and emerging walnutty notes that show some oxidation. The wine is maturing and may not have been well stored, but there's still plenty of life in it, especially in the velvety and textured flavor, which offers sweet red fruit and snappy acidity in balance. An easy call: It's the Burgundy. U.S. importer: New Castle Imports, Myrtle Beach, S.C. (June 7, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Perfect with charcoal-grilled pork chops from a local farm producer, brought up to meet a red with a red-wine reduction sauce.
VALUE: Not cheap, but more than fairly priced for a fine, mature Premier Cru Burgundy from an excellent vintage. Perhaps marked down because of uncertain storage.
WHEN TO DRINK: Recently acquired and of uncertain provenance, this bottle was alive but fully mature and not recommended for additional cellaring. A well-stored example might be in better shape, as a quality 1996 Premier Cru Burgundy should have years to go.
WEB LINK: Anne-Françoise Gros has an enjoyable Website in French, English and German at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find vendors and check prices for A.-F. Gros wines on Wine-Searcher.com,
Château La Croix 1998 Canon Fronsac ($20.99)
Canon Fronsac is one of the most respected of the "Libourne satellites" of Bordeaux, Right Bank appellations around Pomerol and Saint-Emilion; and Chateau La Croix Canon Fronsac is one of its better producers. At the time of this vintage and through 1990, it was administered by Chateau Petrus's Christian Moueix. Although 1998 was iffy on the Left Bank, I've found it consistently satisfying on the Right, and this stylish blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception. Deep garnet in color, much darker and more purple than the Burgundy, its color alone offers the first signal in sorting out the two "blind" wines. The aromas, too, say "Bordeaux" in a clear voice: Deep blackcurrant framed with subtle herbal notes of tarragon and oregano that open up to ripe black fruit and classic Bordeaux "lead pencil" with swirling in the glass. Fresh-fruit acidity provides good balance, and drying tannins appear in the finish, suggesting substantial cellar potential. U.S. importer: Premiere Wine Merchants, NYC. (June 7, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: The red-wine reduction helps, but beef or lamb would have been a better match for this still youngish red than even the most savory pork chop.
VALUE: Pricing varies widely from Web vendors, and I've seen the 1998 for less. Still, it's a fine Bordeaux, climbing the aging curve but still cellar-worthy, and $20 is a hard price to beat for a wine of this quality.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drink now with rare red meat or hold for two years at room temperature or five or more in a good, cool cellar.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look up La Croix Canon on Wine-Searcher.com,
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Wednesday, June 9, 2004