The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2012

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STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON A Trio of Tastings 2008 Bordeaux PHOTO: DECANTER In late January every year, a group of fifteen or so tasters travel to the seaside town of Southwold in Suffolk to assess a Bordeaux vintage, this time being the 2008, courtesy of Adnams, the county's famous brewery. For over two decades this has been organised by Bordeaux merchant Bill Blatch, who retires this year after three decades heading Vintex, a company whose continuing support for Barsac and Sauternes deserves a medal. The châteaux participate, for the wines are tasted blind and Blatch sends in his report on the scores and comments which, he says, "reflect the unadulterated and spontaneous opinions " of the merchants, whose combined experience represents probably half their sales to the U.K. and beyond. The press was represented this time by Jancis Robinson, Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate and myself. Across 23 flights over two days, 276 wines were tasted, including all the First Growths, scored on the 20 point scale and ranked on the group aver- age. 2008 was a difficult vintage and châteaux had to wait late into the season to achieve full ripeness, so inevitably it was those with financial resources to do this who made the best wines. Overall, the ranking was not surprising. Here are the top five wines in each appellation. Saint-Émilion: Tertre-Roteboeuf, Angélus, Mondotte, Le Dôme, Figeac and Valandraud equal Pomerol: Le Pin, L'Evangile, Le Gay, Vieux Ch. Certan, La Fleur de Gay Médoc/Haut-Médoc: La Tour Carnet, La Lagune, Sociando-Mallet, Goulée, Branas Grand Poujeaux (Moulis) Margaux: Margaux, d'Issan, Palmer, Rauzan- Ségla, Cantenac-Brown Saint-Julien: Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville -Barton, Lagrange, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Beychevelle Pauillac: Lafite-Rothschild and Pichon- Longueville equal, Pontet-Canet, Mouton- Rothschild, Les Forts de Latour (Latour itself was corked) Saint-Estephe: Calon-Ségur, Montrose, Cos d'Estournel, Lafon-Rochet, Phélan-Segur. Pessac-Leognan red: Haut-Brion, Haut-Bailly, La Mission Haut-Brion, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion and Les Carmes Haut-Brion equal Pessac-Leognan white: Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Haut-Bergey, Pape-Clément, La Ville Haut-Brion, Larrivet Haut-Brion Barsac-Sauternes: Yquem, Guiraud, de Fargues, Rayne-Vigneau, Suduiraut 22 / the tasting panel / march 2012 2009 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Another annual event in London is the tasting given by DRC U.K. agents Corney & Barrow with the presence of Aubert de Villaine. Always one year after the en primeur Burgundy tastings—in January we were treated to a vast array of the generally exciting 2010s—these wines are only tasted months after bottling. De Villaine described 2009 as "a vintage of high lineage, at the level of the wonderful grapes we harvested," adding "like 1959 but with more depth." Despite memories of previous years, 2005 and 1999 in particular, I have never tasted more perfectly expressive wines, each in a league totally its own. I suggested to de Villaine that perhaps appellation magique contrôlée could be given to the wines under his and Henry-Frédéric Roche's supervision. Here are my brief notes on the selection: Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Cuvée Duvault- Blochet: Great purity, depth and vigour; beautifully structured. 18/20. Drink 2015–25. Corton Prince Florent de Mérode (first vintage from 0.57 ha Clos du Roi, 0.5 ha Renardes and 1.2 ha Bressandes): Warm and spicy fruit; fabulous con- centration; a truly grand Corton. 18.5/20. 2016–30. Échézeaux: Richly seductive black fruits; more intensity than in the past. 18/20. 2015–25. Grands- Échézeaux: Deeply robust, lush and spicy with terrific power and depth. 19/20. 2016–30. Richebourg: Dense brilliant colour, great depths of energy and power and perfect tannins. 19/20. 2018–40. Romanée-Saint-Vivant: Restrained compared to Richebourg, with delicacy, charm and Gothic window elegance, still tight; 19-/20, 2020–35. La Tâche: Silky yet firm, combines elegance and richness in perfect balance; 19.5/20; 2020–40. Romanée-Conti: Amazingly perfumed; totally poised; an undisputable and indescribable work of art. 20/20. 2020–50. 2003 Dom Pérignon The third great tasting recently was the brilliant Richard Geoffroy's take on the heat wave 2003 vintage. For the first time, Pinot Noir was 60% of the blend, although Geoffroy used every drop of Chardonnay he thought worthy of DP. It is a majes- tic champagne, containing all the hallmarks of florality, creaminess, minerality and tension. While other 2003s decline over the next ten years, this will continue to grow in structure and stature.

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