The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2013

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Page 22 of 162

Steven Spurrier's Letter from London The Old and the New The 650th Anniversary of the Worshipful Company of Vintners PHOTO: DECANTER Over 130 guests filled the baronial hall of the Vintners' Company earlier this summer to celebrate the award in May 1363 of the Royal Charter that made the Vintners one of the London's oldest Livery Companies. With its close links to the City of London and its origins in the import, regulation and sale of wine, the Vintners' Company continues to maintain strong links to every part of the business of wine and rightly considers itself "the spiritual home of the wine trade." The guests were from the four corners of the globe. New Zealand was represented by John Buck CNZM OBE (Te Mata) and Michael Brajkovitch MW (Kumeu River), Chile by Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle, California by Jean-Michel Valette MW, the Lebanon by Serge Hochar, while Europe was out in force: Adrian Bridge (the Fladgate Group) and Paul Symington from the Douro, Pablo Alvarez (Vega Sicilia) and Peter Sisseck from Ribera del Duero, Egon Muller from the Mosel, and France had every region present, stressing the continuation of "L'Entente Cordiale." The current Master, Michael Cox, was in the Chair, supported by no fewer than six Past Masters. The food—cured Loch Duart salmon, fillet of Longhorn beef, quail's egg Benedict and Eton mess— supported the wines, which were superb. Champagne Louis Roederer 2000 was beautifully creamy and elegant, just perfectly matured and drew admiration from Richard Geoffroy the Master of Dom Perignon; Vincent Girardin 2006 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières showed lemony flavours and earthy richness with the freshness and energy of the 2006s; two 1996 clarets followed—Cos d'Estournel and Pichon-Longueville Baron de Longueville—both quite open but with a decade or more in front of them, a slight preference by myself and my neighbours for the latter; Ch. Suduiraut 1997 was honeyed, rich and lively and Fonseca 1970, garnet ruby and still rich, provided the perfect glass for the Loyal Toast. Jancis Robinson OBE MW gave the first speech, stating that what she loved most about wine was "the people—they are a lot of quirky oddballs and many are here together tonight." Michael Cox closed the evening by declaring, on behalf of all of us, his love for "the fruits of the vine and the friendship it brings." The Worshipful Company of Vintners felt 650 years young. Jose-Manuel Ortega and the Doss Foundation Earlier this year I met up with Dany Rolland—married to influential consultant winemaker Michel and an oenologist herself with all the perception and precision of the female palate—for a 72-hour trip to the Maule Valley in Chile and Mendoza's Uco Valley in Argentina. Our mission was to select, alongside Jose-Manuel Ortega, owner of the O. Fournier wineries in these two regions and in Ribera del Duero, and his head winemaker José Spisso, very special cuvées of not more than 2,400 bottles from the best barrels to be sold under the DOSS label (D for Dany, O for O. Fournier, S for Spisso and S for Spurrier). The entire proceeds from the sale of these wines will go to the Ortega's DOSS Foundation, which helps top secondary school students to continue their education to university. Right after Vinexpo last June, the four of us met up again to make the Ribera del Duero blend. All three blends came from the 2011 vintage, and we will repeat the process with the 2012s next year. Our selection in Maule ended up with 50% Cabernet Franc, 35% Syrah and 15% Carignan with an average age of 80 years. In Mendoza it was 60% old-vine Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, while from the Ribera del Duero blend came from 85% Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo) from very low-yielding centenary vines refreshed with 15% from a much younger Merlot. As a member of the Burgos-based family that was for 200 years Spain's principal creator of playing cards, and a merchant banker before he was bitten by the wine bug, Ortega is not short of ideas. His stunning gravity-fed winery in the Uco Valley also holds art exhibitions—his aim was to be "a mini Mondavi"—and the winery restaurant run by his wife, Nadia, is consistently voted the best in the country. Not content with 120 hectares reserved for his own "Cult Grapes" labels, he has set aside a further 100 hectares on his Santa Sofía estate for members of the O. Fournier Wine Club, who may purchase 1ha of vines for $150,000 or 3ha with the right to build a villa for $510,000, all viticulture and vinification being done for them, the income from the grapes covering the maintenance and leaving a little over. Those members without villas will be able to stay, at a substantial discount, at the luxury spa hotel he is building at Santa Sofía. Visionaries like Jose-Manuel Ortega deserve to succeed. 22  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2013 TP0913_001-33.indd 22 8/22/13 9:16 PM

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