HARRY WAUGH, one of England's most famous wine personalities, who took on the role of midwife for the Californian wine industry more than 20 years ago, was greeted with loud huzzahs last week by more than 100 Western New York wine enthusiasts. This was Waugh's third visit here since he helped to organize the Buffalo chapter of Les Amis du Vin back in 1970.
Waugh, 86, author of 10 books on wine, has received several of France's honors for his work in wine. For 25 years he has been a director of Chateau Latour, one of France's and the world's most famous wines. He has been lecturing for Les Amis since 1970, when there were only two or three chapters.
Wine lovers packed into the Buffalo Hilton to hear Waugh lead them in the tasting of five wines representative of Bordeaux's 1983 vintage. Following an aperitif of Champagne Deutz-Cuvee Lallier ($24), we assessed the 1983 Chateau Bechyvelle, St. Julien ($33), which was notable for a concentration of fruit flavor. The nose was closed, but the fruit came through in the taste. Waugh described it as a charming wine, softer than expected, with lots of fruit and light tannin.
The Ducru Beaucaillou ($57.75) which followed was light in the mouth but came up short. Waugh said this chateau was once "a somewhat dirty word" but has changed since World War II to become one of Bordeaux's leaders. He attributed the difference in various Bordeaux reds to soil and the age of the vines.
A ripe, fragrant wine came next, Chateau Lynch-Bages ($44), which won the most votes for the best buy of the evening. It was easier on the nose, being more open. You could detect the flavor difference as we moved from the St. Julien district to Pauillac. Waugh pointed out the spiciness in this wine, which still has at least 15 years or more to go.
Moving into the St. Estephe district, we sampled a Cos d'Estournel ($52.49) which had plenty of fruit, licorice and oak in the taste. Waugh found it not as elegant -- quite rich -- but coarser than the others. There were some complaints of a lack of finish, but this may be attributed to changes going on.
There were no complaints when we tasted the last two wines, a 1983 Chateau Latour ($93.50) and a 1979 Chateau Latour ($99). Waugh thought the 1983 could hold its own for that year, and he praised the 1979 as having magnificent color, a full, spicy bouquet and lots of fruit and flavor. The 1983 won the vote as best wine of the evening. The 1979 Latour was second and Lynch-Bages was third.
Chateau Latour's wines are noted for great longevity and great bouquet. In 1963, Waugh was employed by the Harvey firm, which bought the chateau from the Beaumont family, its owner for 200 years. "Sadly enough," Waugh said, "the owners had been taking out profits without putting money back into the operation. We were shocked at how run-down it had become. All of the buildings had to be rebuilt. The wooden vats were in disrepair and the collapse of one lost all the wine.
"A big decision had to be made. Should we replace the vats with oak, cement or stainless steel? I recommended stainless steel and this set off many arguments. All of the wine writers said the wine would never be the same. Now, all the chateaux have it."
The night before the Les Amis tasting, Waugh was honored at a 12-course dinner at the Hourglass Restaurant. The proprietor, Terry Bechakas, poured 15 wines during the evening. Wines enjoyed included Jacquesson & Fils 1979 Perfection Champagne, Duckhorn Vineyards 1988 Sauvignon Blanc, Rudesheimer Kirchenpfad 1983, Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg 1983, Storybook Mountain Vineyard 1985 Zinfandel Estate Reserve, Barrow Green Chardonnay 1987, Pierre Ponnalle Meursault 1984, Bouchard Pere et Fils Chassagne Montrachet 1982, Lamberti Amarone 1974, Charles Noellat Clos Vougeot 1959, Chateau Gruaud Larose 1970, a 1973 magnum of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Vignoles Late Harvest 1987 from Swedish Hill Vineyard, 1987 Eiswein from Konzelmann Vineyards and Fonseca Vintage Porto 1970.
During his short visit here, Waugh found time for his first peek at Niagara Falls and visited Inniskillin Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where he said he was impressed by its Pinot Noir.