The two bottles of 1959 Moulin Touchais Anjou and Coteaux du Layon I tasted, like me, were 54 years old. Beyond common birth year, the wines and I have very little to do with each other. I was born in Brooklyn; the bottles in Loire Valley’s western Anjou region. The wines are quite sweet; me, not so much (I’m told). England’s King Henry II was born in Anjou, and just like me, he drank a lot of Loire Valley wine. But Henry did that in the Middle Ages, nothing I can relate to. Despite the insurmountable challenge to abstract more connection between me and these two bottles, the vibe I got finding birth year wines laying around Troquet’s clearance wine sale table was akin to discovering long lost twin brothers.
What drives the intensity of birth year wine affinities? Just Google “birth year wine” to understand how much has been written on the subject. Is it a wine geek’s parlor game that’s merely fun to play, or are there deeper psychological or physiological forces at work? Could it be that we remember nothing about our own birth moments because of unformed hippocampi in our brains, and we search to reconnect with our first breaths? Or is it a matter of vain curiosity; how some other living thing, exactly as old as we are, has aged in comparison? And, could buying children’s birth year vintages just be a wino’s devilish scheme to have something yummy to drink the day they spend a couple hundred thousand dollars marrying off an aged daughter? For me it’s the idea of something laid dormant while I lived a very full and long life, and being the one to free the captive wine from its vessel. It’s like paroling an inmate from a life sentence in cold dark quarantine and then being the first person to glimpse at how things progressed after so very long. Strange, but true.
Such an experience is rare for me; plagued by the thought of eviscerating something that has lived for so long. On my 40th birthday, I was served 1959 Latour by a dear friend in Bristol, England. It blew my mind; such a great wine that I can still taste fourteen years later. On that evening, we also drank 14 other vintages of Latour back to 1907, but I remember the 1959 most vividly. I have some birth year wine in the cellar from 1959 too. I think I will probably die before I drink it. The prospect of opening even one bottle feels mildly suicidal; end the life of something as old as me? That’s why these 1959 Moulin Touchais had to find their way to my glass at Troquet. If I didn’t kill them, I knew someone else would. It was time for me to reconnect with my birth since Chris Campbell dug them out of his epic cellar and put them on sale for $75 each at his restaurant. That’s half the price you will pay for 1959 Moulin Touchais outside of a restaurant. The wine gods conspired.
We tasted the Coteaux du Layon first. You will notice in the first picture that it was the second (2) wine we tasted that night. We opened a lot of amazing bottles on this evening, including a 1951 Crimean white port wine from the famous Massandra collection, a cellar once overseen by a Russian Czar and then consolidated and reorganized by Stalin in the 1920′s. Still, the 1959s we drank as aperitifs were front and center.
If you look at the two pictures, you will see the ****1959 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon is darker, seemingly more oxidized or advanced than its sibling. My wine buddy, Brett from 90+ Cellars, rightly called a prominent beef broth aromatic. It is funny to look at the picture now and see that it is somewhat close in color to beef broth too; a deep rusty brown/orange. The mouthfeel impression was rich with great vivacity for such an old wine. Not too fat, just heavy enough to coat and cling to your palate. The aging process was at work with developed secondary mushroom aromatics mixing with something that reminded me of Good & Plenty candy; anise with candied sweetness.
The ****½ 1959 Moulin Touchais Anjou was even livelier. Both of these sweet Chenin Blancs combined for more than 100 years of age and were still dazzling in so many respects, neither suffering from over maturation. This second wine was zippier than the first, handling its dormant period with defiance and resilience. There was an obviously higher acid level in the Anjou, and a nutty flavor and aroma persisted that was not found in the Couteaux du Layon. Licorice, while more muted, was noticeable here too. The wine retains great balance and a perfect mouthfeel and weight.
Overall this second wine’s profile was brighter and more youthful, while the first wine’s advanced characteristics were even more interesting in other ways. I am not sure about the differences in fruit sources between these two wines, but they showed how twins from one family’s genetics can progress down separate paths to emerge with both common resemblance and distinctive characteristics. I guess the same holds true in life; siblings that look alike but have completely different personalities. It was good to meet these wines, my long lost twins, and to enjoy 50+ year old sweet Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley with my starter courses. These wines are definitely worth buying at auction for somewhere north of $100 a bottle, even if you were not born in 1959.