The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2014

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STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON Two Meals with Michael Broadbent T he July 2013 edition of Decanter magazine contained the 433rd and final column from Michael Broadbent, MW, which he has written without a single break— sending over three columns in advance when he was going into hospital for a serious operation—since February 1977. Personally, I passed my 200th column for Decanter some time ago, but will never come near the score that Michael achieved, nor will anyone else. Announcing his last column, Sarah Kemp, Publishing Director of Decanter, wrote that "the most enduring partnerships—bacon and eggs, Champagne and caviar, Michael Broadbent and Decanter—are the most natural. His enduring popularity is because for many readers he is the writer they would most like to be, or be with; he is the poster boy for wine lovers everywhere." Sarah asked for contributions for a little book that she was preparing for Michael, a copy of which was given to the guests at the lunch she held for him in late November. It contained 50 pages of quotes from colleagues, friends and readers, which included a limerick from Hugh Johnson: The great thing about Michael B Is his utter disdain for PC. How come all the girls Prick their ears for his pearls? (I wish it would happen to me.) Christian Moueix's memory caught Michael's precise tasting descriptions: "Years ago I gave a tasting in New York to an audience of more than a hundred people. Tastings on such a scale can be ponderous, but Michael was a master at holding everyone's attention, enlivening the atmosphere in an effortless manner. When describing one of my wines, he said it was a marvel and was like making love in a hammock! I almost fell off my chair and replied that it was something I had never tried. Almost 20 years later, I am afraid that it is still on my list of things to do." When I joined the wine trade in the mid 1960s, there were many erudite books on wine—André Simon, Frank Schoonmacher, Alexis Lichine—but until Michael's Wine Tasting was published by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in 1968, and later by Christie's in 1975, this subject had been ignored. This little book set out the whys and wherefores of wine tasting—everything one could possibly want to know and many things one hadn't dreamt of asking—in a very simple and clear structure. It is no exaggeration to say that without Wine Tasting there would have been no Académie du Vin in Paris and no Christie's Wine Course, which I created in London at Michael's suggestion in 1982. The message from Michael was that a serious subject could be fun, so long as it was taken seriously. Sarah Kemp's Tribute Lunch for Michael and his wife Daphne on November 21 with 13 guests showed a few of Michael's favourite wines. Pol Roger 1996 as an aperitif was described as "Churchillian"; with Loch Duart salmon came magnums of Weingut Prinz Salm 2010 Felsenneck Riesling Grosses Gewãchs from a unique vineyard of green slate soil, a wine of steely freshness with two decades in front of it; Château Lafite-Rothschild 1990 accompanied the roast English partridge to perfection; and Michael's favourite dessert wine—Michele Chiarlo's 2012 Nivole Moscato d'Asti—lifted the traditional bread and butter pudding to new heights; Graham's 1970, served from a 2.1-litre bottle known as a "tappit-hen," added richness and warmth and another reason to raise our glasses to Michael. Two weeks later, in apology for not having attended the lunch, Adam Brett-Smith of wine merchants Corney & Barrow, gave a very personal dinner at Mosimann's, a dining club still headed by the great Austrian chef Anton Mosimann. Salon 1988, 100% Chardonnay from Le Mesnil sur Oger, showed why Henri Krug chose this as his best and longest lasting vintage from the 1980s; with a carpaccio of Scottish scallops came Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1991 Montrachet, topaz in colour, powerful yet ethereal a wine of incredible beauty; a youthful, earthy yet polished Château Tertre-Roteboeuf 1985 Saint-Émilion matched the corn-fed chicken ideally, while Château Trotanoy 1982 Pomerol proved once more the greatness of this vintage, now in its fourth decade. The port was Taylor's 1970s, still wonderfully rich, and just the five of us almost managed to finish the decanter. Throughout both these meals Michael was at his playful, anecdotal best. Every wine tells a story, but Michael has an unmatchable recall for times, wines, people and places. For some years after I returned from Paris in the 1980s, I found myself in the role of his understudy, receiving telephone calls along the lines of "Steven, I've been invited to lecture in such-and-such a place next month and can't go, so I have suggested you." Acting as Michael's replacement gave me my first trip to Chile, to a wine symposium in Helsinki, to a weekend if wine dinners in Nashville TN, and even an appearance on ITV in The Sensible Show. But I never lost my place as No 2. When a smart cruise line offered both of us a free week on board in exchange for a few lectures, Michael chose the South China Seas and I ended up with Portsmouth to Bordeaux. Being No 2 to Michael Broadbent is a very good place to be, for he has done more for the understanding of wine than anyone else before or since. He is now writing his memoirs. I suppose this means that I had better write mine. 32  /  the tasting panel  /  january 2014 TP0114_001-33.indd 32 12/19/13 9:23 PM

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