The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2013

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Page 22 of 148

STEvEn SpuRRIER'S LETTER FROM LOndOn PHOTO: DECANTER Vinexpo T he bi-annual international wine and spirits exhibition that opened its doors in 1979 celebrated its 18th five-day extravaganza to great acclaim in June. My days were spent tasting and spitting, while being invited most evenings to dinners that show Bordeaux at its best. The first of these was at Château Le Thil, recently purchased and magnificently refurbished by Daniel and Florence Cathiard of Smith Haut-Lafitte, who have built an eco-friendly winery next door exclusively for their second wine, Les Hauts de Smith, leaving them space in the original cellars to push the quality of SHL even further. Both white and red were shown at dinner from the 2005, 1995 and 1985 (before the Cathiard's purchase in 1990) vintages, showing how well these wines from the northern Graves can age. The grandest dinner is always on the Sunday, Vinexpo's opening day, held by the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés 1855 and hosted at one of the Médoc or Graves First Growths. This time it was at Mouton-Rothschild, to celebrate the new cellar, whose first vintage was the excellent 2012, the exhibition galleries for the artists' labels and the re-opening of the Museum, showing to perfection the collection begun by Philippe de Rothschild and continued by his daughter Philippine, who gave a most moving welcoming speech before dinner for her 500 guests. As an apéritif, all the Crus Classés of Sauternes and Barsac from vintages 2006 to 2009 were offered, while at dinner 2005 Crus Classés Médocs accompanied the first course, a range from 1982 to 1996 the second, Impériales of Mouton 1975 with the cheese and Coutet 1989 with the dessert. Château owners and representatives are at each table to serve their own wines, and by luck I was on a Mouton table to enjoy the robust yet velvety 2005 (2015–35) and the magnificent 1986 (2013-–30) a truly great wine. The 1975 was holding up well in its eight-bottle container but would be less good in bottles, while the Coutet (2013–25) showed a crackling richness with a dryish Barsac finish. Monday evening is reserved for Olivier and Anne Bernard's Tour de France des Appellations, in its 13th incarnation with the Mosel's Egon Müller as guest of honour. The Brut Réserve and three vintage wines from Pol Roger are offered on arrival, followed by whites from Château de Fuissé, Olivier Leflaive and Domaine Faiveley from Burgundy, Alphonse Mellot from Sancerre, Zind-Humbrecht from Alsace and La Famille Perrin from the Rhône, to continue onto reds during dinner and of course Domaine de Chevalier 2003 and 1983 á volonté. Wines are "self-service" and superb they are, ranging from 2012 Miraval Rosé, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's estate in Provence where the Perrins make the wine, through Olivier Leflaive's BâtardMontrachet and Le Montrachet 2007 in magnums to Faiveley's 2007 Latricières-Chambertin from jeroboams. French drink-driving laws at 50 ml., following a narrow escape after lunch at Cheval Blanc last Vinexpo, cut my choice considerably. Sensible people take taxis to this wonderfully relaxed evening. Tuesday evening is normally reserved for dinner in Saint-Emilion hosted by the 1ers Grands Crus Classés, but following the elevation of Angélus and Pavie to 1er GCC"A," Ausone and Cheval Blanc have left the association, which is now in disarray, so no dinner was held. I made up for this by attending lunch that day at La Fleur Pétrus in honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jean-Pierre Moueix, hosted by his sons Jean-François and Christian. A small vertical from 2005 to 2012 was presented beforehand, with the 2005 and 2010 standing out for me, and magnums of the 1970—quite, quite superb, one of the best 1970 Pomerols I have ever drunk and still full of vigour—and the also stunning 1998 were served with a superb menu prepared personally by Michel Guérard. I did not stay for La Fête de la Fleur, held this year at Lagrange in Saint-Julien with 1500 people sheltering under umbrellas in pouring rain that had plagued Vinexpo for three days right in the middle of the vineyard's late flowering, so my last evening was at Haut-Bailly, where fifteen vintages since 1998 were shown—2010, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2001, 2000 and 1998 being excellent, the rest just very good—before dinner which held the first international element of the week: Harlan Estate 2005 and Screaming Eagle 2006 from Napa, both owners being present, my preference going for the former. These two icon wines were preceded by a lovely Meursault Clos de Mon Plaisir 2009 magnum from Domaine Roulot and followed by a perfectly poised Haut-Bailly 1988 in jeroboams, to end on a lifted, spicy and honeyed Gewurztraminer SGN 2001 from Trimbach. It was a tough week, but I will be back in 2015. C M Y CM MY CY CMY K 22  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2013 TP0813_001-33.indd 22 7/24/13 9:46 PM

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