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 santas list cartoon

In the very early days of the online Underground I posted an article I had published in 1983 in the print version of  The Underground Wineletter (Volume V, Number 5) and added a postscript with some new wines to add to that list. Just to show that great old wines never fade away, the original article and the postscript are shown below. At the end, there is also another note bringing the list up to date that  I sent to Santa this year. After all, we can’t lose touch with Santa!

One Winedrinker’s Opinion

Dear Santa, We’ve Got a Little List . . .

Dear Santa,

Get ready ol’ boy, the time is at hand.  Everyone has a list.  We’ve got a little list tooThe holiday spirit is in the air.  Of course, you’re very busy Santa, but so are we.  You see for the past year we’ve tasted thousands of wines (tough work but someone has to do it)!  Oh sure we’ve found some great wines but for the most part everything tends to group toward the middle.  The laws of statistical distribution you know.  And, when we do get a great bottle they tend to be few and far between.  Besides, we’re pretty picky.  Nonetheless, over the years we’ve had our share of great bottles.  And, not to be greedy but there are a few we’d like to enjoy again.  Some we have (but in small quantity and you can never have enough), others we don’t have and don’t know where to get.  So, dear Santa, forget the ties.  Forget the socks.  And, please, no more handkerchiefs.  Just give us the juice.  Now, being a charter subscriber to The Underground Wineletter, you probably know most of this anyway but just to refresh your memory, here’s a list of the bottles we’d most like to receive this year.

To start with, we really don’t need much white wine or Champagne.  We prefer these wines young, and they don’t keep too long as a general rule.  And, with the exception of some very special dessert wines (we’ll get to those a bit later), we can take of these ourselves on a current basis.  But for Champagne, you could bring a few cases of 1975 Taittinger Blanc de Blancs, and 1975 Taittinger Rosé.  And, for white wine, the 1968, 1971 and 1978 Montrachets from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

But what we’re really most interested in are older red wines.  Wines that are not just wines but everlasting memories.  At the top of our list are the great Bordeaux.  Number one has to be 1870 Latour.  Probably the single greatest bottle of red wine in the past 150 years.  And, if you disagree Santa, we challenge you to come up with something better.  After all, we’re supposed to be on the receiving end of this thing!  At any rate, in case you and the reindeer missed the 1870, it is phenomenal.  Black in color.  Incredible perfume.  A richness that defies belief.  And still developing.  Just a baby, Santa.  And, like you, may go on forever.

Then, we’d take 1865 Lafite.  Magnums from Glamis Castle will suffice if you have them.  Another of the very greatest of the pre-phylloxera clarets.  And, one of the best wines of all time.  Oh yes, don’t forget the fabulous 1868 and 1870 Lafite.

Moving on, we’d also mention the 1900 Margaux.  A very great wine, but seemingly variable.  We’ve had the wine when it’s been disappointing but when it’s right, it’s perfection.  Give this your best shot, Santa.

Next, we’d mention 1945 and 1947 Petrus.  Incredible wines.  You may remember reading about them in our article on Petrus.  And for the incredible perfume and richness, let’s not forget the same two years of Mouton , 1945 and 1947.  At their best, superb.

Our favorite Lafite of this century is a toss-up.  Regretfully, we’ve had no luck with the 1928, 1929, or 1945.  But the 1953 and 1959 are magnificent.  Although chancy we’d give an edge to the 1953 at its best.  And speaking of 1953s, add Margaux to the list.  Again chancy but can be very great.  Ditto for the 1953 Lynch-Bages.  Better bring magnums here, Santa.  Unbelievably great.  And with a bottle bouquet that overwhelms the senses with its perfume.

Of more recent Palmers, 1961 is easily the best.  One of the greatest wines of the great 1961 vintage.  By the way, add Pétrus, Latour and Mouton to the 1961s list.  Surely the most consistent and the longest lasting of all Bordeaux over the past 100 years or so is Latour.  Watch for our article on Latour next year, Santa.  For 20th century Latours, please add 1926, 1928 and 1929.  The latter now a bit chancy, so again try your best to get us a good bottle.  Maybe from one of those cold North Pole cellars!  They should be even better than the Scottish castles!!  Another Bordeaux favorite is La Mission-Haut-Brion.  Here we’d like the 1947 and 1929.  Again the latter is chancy now so maybe you could dig a little deeper in those cold cellars.  And finally, some of the wonderful 1945 Pomerols.  After Petrus, the Trotanoy is stunning.

Moving on to Burgundy we’d be most pleased with 1929, 1952 and 1961 Romanée-Conti.  And also from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1929 Gaudichots and 1949 La Tache.  Simply phenomenal Burgundies.  Of all the Dr. Barolet wines that received so much press after being “discovered” some years ago give us the 1934 Chamb0lle-Musigny.  And, of the many great bottles of Comte de Vogue Musigny, we’d like the 1945, 1947 and 1949.  Magnums if you can find them, Santa.  Also, the 1949 Chambertin Dr. Marion from Gelin is wonderful.  And, 1923 Richebourg from Faiveley.  Really remarkable wine.  Finally, the extremely rare 1945 Romanée-Conti would be a real treat, but you’ll really have to do some hunting to come up with this.

From California the wine history is much shorter.  But the best bottles we’ve ever had include 1949 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, as good or better than any 1949 Bordeaux, 1947 Hallcrest Cabernet Sauvignon, an unbelievably great and rare bottle, and 1951 BV Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  You may not be too familiar with any of these wines, Santa, but if you locate them, please remember us.  And in the not too far distant future, look for articles on the old Inglenook, Hallcrest, and BV Cabernets right here in your favorite wine publication.  Oh yes, if you come across the 1946 BV Pinot Noir, it’s also at the top of our list.  You may remember that a bottle of this wine graced the cover of our very first issue some 4 ½ years ago.

And, finally, a few dessert wines which we probably would use to start a great meal rather than to finish.  We think they’re most appreciated this way and the ones on our list are really special.  From Sauternes, Yquem is Yquem is Yquem.  In order, the 1861, 1921, 1928, 1937, 1945 and 1947.  We’ll have a major review of the great wines of Yquem in an issue next year.  And of the many great German Trockenbeerenauslese wines, we’ll settle for just one.  The 1953 Forster Jesuitengarten from Basserman-Jordan.  Simply perfection.  Oh yes, Santa just so we have something to finish up with, how about a great vintage Port.  At the very top of our list 1931 Quinta do Noval, an incredible wine and probably the best vintage Port of this century.

So that’s it, Santa.  We know you’ve got your work cut out for you.  And there’s not much time left before you have to load up and head out.  So do what you can.  If the sled’s too full we’d be content to settle for a little this year and a little next.  After all, we don’t want to appear greedy.  But remember, we’ve been very, very good and this list is very selective.  Considering the hundreds of thousands of wines one could ask for we’d just settle for just these 50 or so.  Besides, if you’ll bring us some of the really good juice we’d even be happy to share it with you, Rudolph, and the boys.  Merry Christmas, Santa, and to all a good night.

John Tilson


Sadly, Santa didn’t come up with any of the bottles we mentioned.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that we were able to cellar most of the wines mentioned and have drunk most of them over the years with some still remaining in the cellar.

As for a new list, there is nothing on this first list that I would eliminate.  But, just for the record, my taste for older Champagnes has grown over the years, so I would add vintages of Dom Perignon, the 1973 being a personal favorite.  And, old Salon vintages such as 1973 and 1976.  Salon is produced on average only a few times per decade and for this wine to be great it needs a lot of age.  Finally, to round out our Champagne list, older vintages of Krug such as 1982, 1979, 1973 and 1969 would do just fine.  Lastly, we would add some old green Chartreuse to our list.  Something from the late 1800s to 1930s era would make a great stocking stuffer!


santa [1]

Dear Santa,

Sorry to be out of touch for so long, but we know you are really busy. So after all this time, we are sending our list again this year. And, we know this list will be really challenging after all these years.  But, we’ve been waiting a very long time and we’ve been really good so please bring some of these goodies down the chimney this Christmas. Our taste has grown over the years to include old Champagne so great old bottles of Champagne can be added to our list. It’s your choice as there are a lot from which you can choose, although Krug and Salon are particular favorites. And, if you can come up with any old small grower Champagnes that would be wonderful. I have a good supply of old Rene Collard Champagnes and they are great. Sadly Rene Collard passed away and this domaine does not exist any more, so if you have some please give those to others who appreciate old Champagne. I know you have everything, but if, per chance, you love old Champagne and do not have access to Rene Collard, please let me know and I will leave a bottle for you. I also know that these old Champagnes from small growers are rare, but there others such as Franck Bonville. I had a 1961 from him a number of years ago that was off the charts. So please dig deep Santa and see what else you can find. The realm of old small grower Champagne is one that deserves your attention. Also, maybe some more old White Burgundies such as DRC Montrachet, Domaine Ramonet and Domaine Leflaive from the 60s, 70s, and 1980s and old vintages of Coche-Dury. We have enjoyed many of these over the years and our stock of some of these wines is now quite low. And, sadly, many of the new White Burgundies are not aging well which leaves us with a lot fewer choices for the future. However, there is one very important caveat: please make sure not to load any fake wines on your sleigh. Your elves have to make sure that they have a certificate of authenticity for any wines that do not come from your personal cellar where you have had them stored for all these years. Sadly, there are just too many crooks around today to take any chances. And, by the way, if you come across any of these unscrupulous types on your trip from the North Pole, please feel free to cover them with snow and throw in a few lumps of coal!

Merry Christmas!  We’ll be looking for some of these goodies under the tree come Christmas morning!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson